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Basement with a wet floor

Basement Waterproofing Rip-offs: Beware of Waterproofing Contractors and Their Expensive Solutions

My question is about basement waterproofers. I have a problem with my basement flooding, and a waterproofing company charged me $14,219 to correct it. Two of that firm's inspectors insisted that underground water was being forced up into the cellar via hydrostatic pressure and only a French drain would correct it. So the basement waterproofers installed a long, deep ditch running alongside the interior of the home's foundation walls. In turn, that graded ditch was supposed to gravity-feed rising water into two underground electric pumps (at opposite ends of the basement) and eventually pump incoming water into the city sewer system.

On the other hand, I felt the water was coming from the surrounding earth through a rather thin foundation wall, and slowly running down into the cellar doorway. Now it seems that I was correct. The basement waterproofing company is stalling, wanting to take photos and "brainstorm" their next move. Do you have any suggestions about how to deal with these basement waterproofers?

Our Answer

This scam is common to so-called basement waterproofers, and unfortunately, it sounds like you've been taken in. These snake-oil salesmen use high-pressure sales tactics and scary words like hydrostatic pressure to push consumers into hiring them for expensive and almost always unnecessary repairs.

Let's examine the claim that forms the basis for the frightening prospect these basement waterproofers pose, which is that your home will collapse from the pressure of the water against its basement walls. In order for any water on the outside of your foundation to get to the drains they carve into your basement floor, the water has to run against the foundation walls and then leak either through the walls or under the footing below the walls. Hence, your foundation walls are subjected to the very same hydrostatic pressure either with or without the basement waterproofers' fourteen-thousand-dollar solution.

Had these basement waterproofers been more honest and impartial with the diagnosis of your basement leakage problem, they would have examined your exterior drainage conditions. As you correctly point out, basement waterproofing has more to do with the condition of the surrounding soil and, more importantly, the functionality of the gutter system on your roof  than any subsurface drainage system does. The type of system they installed is needed only when the problem can be traced to a rising underground water table. This is rarely the case and is easy to spot. If your basement leaks are consistent with rainfall or snow melt, the problem is not a water table but a drainage issue that can easily be corrected without spending a pile of cash.

My advice is to speak to an attorney.  You may be able to sue the waterproofing contractor for not correcting the problem and for fraud, which makes you eligible for treble damages. Only through actions like these will mostly disreputable basement waterproofers stop taking advantage of countless victims like yourself.

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Mold in Basement Walls

Hello, I live in Canada and we had mold in the basement. We had the exterior of the house graded away from the house, and had a spray foam insulation company come by and spray foamed our basement walls. I have since finished the basement to use as a rental property.

Last year, due to the gutters not being properly attached, we had some water fill up a window well during a heavy rain fall and come in through the basement window to the finished basement. This occurred in August -- our tenants have stated that they smell mold in that room now (they didn't smell anything before).

Upon inspection, there is no mold on the finished drywall and I personally don't smell anything. I'm just wondering if it is possible that there could be mold behind the walls that they're smelling -- and if so, wouldn't the mold make it's way to the interior walls by now?

Any help would be appreciated. I know that the tenants never open the windows/blinds and kept the door closed for that specific room for awhile - so there was limited circulation.

Our Answer

John, the answer to your question is yes -- mold could be growing behind the drywall but I'm not hearing anything that tells me a major destructive investigation is warranted.  You could pull off some outlet covers, or registers or anywhere else you can get a peak behind but I would not recommend a major mold witch hunt.  First, a one-off leak like you've described doesn't usually cause a major mold problem.  Sure, it can happen but if you have a leak, fix it and then move on, you often dont have the sustained moisture necessary for a major mold infestation.  Also, I'm always suspicious when people say the "smell" mold.  Its not like mold has a distinctive odor.  They could just as likely be sensing the dampness since they dont ever ventilate the space. 

I will point out however, that drywall wasn't the best choice for basement walls.  There's a product called DensArmor which is a wall board with a fiberglass face, instead of paper.  Since the fiberglass is not organic, it can't grow mold.

Before you go any further, I'd suggest that you install a good quality dehumidifier in that area to really dry things out. Check out those from Santa Fe. Products.  I have one on my basement and it makes a bug difference, even though we also have all the exterior drainage set up correctly.  I'm attaching the video I did with them recently.  Hope this helps!

Tom Kraeutler

The article says you should have 1 downspout for every 600-800 sf of roof. What determines the proper size of the gutters & downspouts? Won't a four inch carry at least 25% more water away than the three inch? Should I use a 5"?

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How to Solve Basement Flooding

About a month ago, we had a hurricane sweep though area and the basement apartment in our home has now developed a massive leak. The water coming into the basement apartment is on 1 side of a wall and we have put in new gutters with downspouts extended 3ft away from foundation. Water, however, is still coming into the basement apartment. We have been advised by 2 contractors to have the basement waterproofed but I can't completely trust their opinions because they want the job. Estimates for waterproofing are over $6000 and I have been unemployed for over a year. We do NOT have this kind of money to spend to dig into the ground around the basement to search for a foundation crack that may not even be there, but need the basement apartment as income or we will lose our home. We can afford for $1000 to have the soil slope away from the foundation but I know also if we take the easy way out we can have a more expensive problem later.  The water that seeps in is NOT muddy so I don't think we have a foundation crack. Is there a way to know for sure that there is a foundation crack without going through the expense of digging around the foundation to search for a foundation crack? Can the problem be fixed by just having the soil slope away from the foundation?

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Wet Basement

hello,

we have had a wet corner in our basement since we built the house over 5 years ago (a simple fix).   we totally flooded twice over the past year which we think is a seperate problem.  Our house was built to low and we cannot slope the dirt away from the house on most sides because of cement.  On the one side that we can.  how do we tell if we are 6in. over 4 ft. of fall?  On the sides that we cant...what can we do?  we had a water intrusion specialist come out and do dye tests.  water pours in from our driveway side from holes that were drilled into the basement block, (part of slab in corner removed)  to relieve the water builing up in the wall.  The water specialist says we need to remove and then replace and compact the dirt around the house.  The builder wants to use hydraulic cement in the spaces between the driveway and garage  seal it all up and let it go into the sump pump.  There is question as to whether that wall is waterproofed.  You can feel air coming in through the drilled holes.  the builder is telling us that this and water coming in, or building up is normal on a garage side.  he did replace the 2 downspouts to accept more water.  I guess my question is will compacting the dirt help us.  what else could we do?

thanks for any help.

lisa