Not All Waterproofing Methods Are Equal

Coming home after work or waking up in the early morning to hear the sound of water sloshing around in your basement is a homeowner's worst nightmare. Nothing can be quite as damaging as standing water. In fact, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as little as one inch of standing water can cause up to $10,000 in damage to your home.

After bailing or pumping out your basement for the first time, homeowners are left with a choice: roll the dice and hope that this flooding was a one-time occurrence, or take steps to protect your home from future water damage with a proper repair. With your home and belongings hanging in the balance, what type of repair is best?

There are literally dozens of types of repairs when it comes to protecting your home against water damage, but not all repair options are created equal. If you're experiencing water intrusion issues in your home, take the time to read the options below as we examine the pros and cons of some of the most common types of home waterproofing options.

Exterior Waterproofing
One of the most common ways that homeowners try to protect against water damage is by applying an exterior waterproofing system. Exterior systems sound just like what they are - systems placed on the outside of your home in the hopes of diverting groundwater, rain and snowmelt around and away from your foundation. While great in theory, exterior systems definitely have their flaws.

More often than not, exterior waterproofing systems consist of a couple of elements that work in tandem. One of those elements is a coating of some type of waterproofing paint or tar on the exposed exterior of the foundation. The next is generally a weeping tile or exterior french drain-style system designed to channel or pump water away that is repelled by the waterproof paint or tar.

The appeal of these types of systems comes from the little if any affect they have on the finished spaces of your home's basement. All the work is done outside the home and interruptions of your day-to-day activities inside are minimal.

The most obvious problem with these types of solutions is that they require the outside of your home's foundation to be accessible. This means bringing in heavy equipment to excavate space all around the affected area so that crews can access your foundation. The foundation is then coated with waterproof paint or tar, and drainage tubing is placed against the base of the foundation to channel water away. Both the foundation and the drainage tubing are then covered again with fill dirt.

A long term issue with this type of fix is rooted in the drainage tubing. Eventually, mud and other debris will work its way into the tubing and create a clog. When the tubing clogs, you're back to square one as the groundwater, snowmelt and rain has nowhere to go. Repairing the clogged tubing means digging up your yard again and replacing the system entirely. Additionally, according to This Old House, the standard bituminous coating rolled or painted onto the foundation itself only has a lifespan of about 10 years.

Interior Waterproofing
Much like exterior waterproofing, interior waterproofing is exactly what it sounds like - a french drain and sump pump system placed on the inside of your home to channel water up and out before it has a chance to accumulate.

Sometimes called a french drain, these systems are installed below your basement's concrete slab floor around the perimeter of the home. These drains rest against the inside of the foundation wall, collect any water that seeps in, and direct it to a sump pump pit where the water is then pumped up, out and away from your home.

A major advantage to an interior system is that it doesn't require massive excavation for installation. To install an interior system, small channels are chiseled out of the basement slab, the drains and sump pit are laid in, and new concrete is poured over the drain. While this does require you to provide access to perimeter of your basement - which may mean replacing drywall or other finishing - most installations can be completed in one to two days.

Because quality french drain systems include cleaning ports, the risk of clogs from accumulating soil and debris is minimal. If a clog does occur, simply flushing the system from one of the access ports will generally solve the problem. Most interior systems also come with significant warranties because maintenance and/or repair is much easier to complete from inside the home.

Sump Pumps
Much like there are varying levels of quality between brands of cars and trucks, sump pumps can vary in quality and reliability from brand to brand as well.

Bargain priced sump pumps are most often made from plastic parts. If your home sees significant amounts of water that require your sump pump to run frequently, plastic components are likely to overheat due to prolonged use. Overheating leads to malfunctions or freezes, and malfunctions or freezes quickly lead to an overflowing sump pit and standing water in your basement.

Cheaper pumps also tend to skip over helpful features - like screens over the pump inlet - that can prevent clogging and/or damage from debris that collects in the bottom of the sump pit. The float that is used to toggle the pump on or off is also often hollow in lower quality pumps. Hollow floats can fill with water, which renders them ineffective as they will no longer float and trigger the motor that pumps water out and away from your home.

Higher quality sump pumps use more durable components made from materials like cast iron. Cast iron casings help diffuse the heat that's generated when pumps run for extended periods of time. Because the pump is made of iron and is submerged in cool or cold groundwater that's collected from the drainage system, that heat generated by the motor is transferred from the motor to the cast iron casing which is then cooled by the surrounding water. The prevents damage or malfunction due to overheating that is common in cheaper, plastic pumps.

Better quality pumps also include screens or filters that prevent debris or soil from being pulled into the pump itself, and solid floats or buoys to trigger the pump's motor. Solid floats prevent the accidental taking on of water that can render cheaper, hollow floats ineffective.

Battery Backups
Thunderstorms and flooding are some of the most obvious sources of excess groundwater and rain runoff. High winds, lightning and power outages are also common during thunderstorms. Having the greatest waterproofing system in the world doesn't matter if the electricity is out and your pump doesn't turn on.

Battery backup pumps aren't standard with some of your basic sump pump setups. While battery backups aren't a necessity in every region of the country, they're a great bit of insurance when compared to the cost of replacing carpet, drywall, furniture or electronics should your sump system fail in a power outage.

Flooding From Appliances or Plumbing
We talk a lot about how groundwater and weather events can lead to basement flooding, but some of the most common sources of basement flooding have nothing to do with the weather. These items may not be part of what homeowners typically think of when it comes to waterproofing, but each item can be a lifesaver.

Water heaters hold anywhere from 20 to more than 50 gallons of water at any given time. If a seal or valve fails, all that water will come rushing out into your basement. And because your water heater is designed to stay filled to a certain level, water will continue to flow from the inlet until the shutoff valve is closed. Installing a flood ring around the base of your water heater can channel any water toward a floor drain or sump pit to be collected and pumped out. Inexpensive and durable, these flood rings can even include a small alarm that sounds in the presence of water.

Your home's plumbing is also a major source of basement flooding. When filled, copper piping is pressurized at around 45 pounds per square inch. A burst pipe can send hundreds of gallons of water into your basement in very short order. While standard floor drains will help, an interior drainage system and sump pump are great protection against a plumbing monsoon.

As you can see from the above paragraphs, selecting the home waterproofing system for your home isn't as simple as grabbing one off the shelf at your local hardware store. While you may not need to choose the top-of-the-line option for every component of the entire system, it can take the trained eye and institutional knowledge that comes from decades of experience to help design the right system for your home's unique setup.

Need help in Nebraska, Kansas or Western Iowa?
If you're interested in learning more about what type of waterproofing system might be best for your home, give us a call at 800.827.0702 to schedule a free consultation and same-day quote with one of our basement waterproofing experts.

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