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basement walls bowing in

Fix for Basement Leak Near Chimney

I have an old chimney that use to vent the furnace.  It has now developed a leak at the lower junction of the chimney and the basement floor.  Do I seal i from the inside or to I have to dig down from the outside to seal the leak area?

Our Answer

Whenever we find a leak in a home, be it from a basement or roof, its natural to suspect the cause to be directly related to the area in which the leak is found. This however, is not always the case.

In your case, the basement leak could be caused by rain water saturating the chimney structure, falling to the bottom of the chimney and then dispersing across the basement floor. Any masonry structure like a wall or chimney is hydroscopic -- meaning it soaks up a LOT of water, somethings masking the true source of the leak.

My suggestions would be to approach this by looking for the most obvious and common causes first, and those are defects in the gutter system or in the grading of soil outside the area of the leak.  Failures of roof and surface drainage are responsible for over 90% of all basement leaks and need to be eliminated first.  The details are covered in this post about the causes and cures for a wet basement.  Be sure to apply this advice to your entire home perimeter as I have frequently seen an issue like a leaking downspout cause a basement leak 20 or 30 feet away!

If that doesn't stop the leak, I'd look at the chimney. Check for cracks in the chimney crown which is the mortar between the edge of the brick and the chimney clue.  If found, they need to be caulked (use silicone for that).  Also check the chimney flashing for leaks.  As a last resort, you can also apply a masonry sealer to the exterior of the brick chimney but make SURE is is "vapor permeable" meaning it will allow moisture in the brick to evaporate out.  If not, the moisture trapped in the brick can freeze, expand and deteriorate the chimney eventually leaking to a significant repair cost.

Hope this helps fix the basement leak. For more info, call your question in to our national radio show at 888-MONEY-PIT.  We take calls 24/7 and will call you back the next time we're in the studio.


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How Durable is Deck Paint?

What do these deck painting companies use to redo wood decks, that they claim it will stain and protect the wood deck to the apocalypse?  Can't I get this product and just do it myself?

Our Answer

Paint that will last until the apocalypse?  Now THAT we have to see!

It sounds like you are referring to a category of products known as "high build" elastomeric coatings.  High-build is tech talk for thick paint, and elastomeric is a type of product that will expand and contract with the substrate, which is this  case is your wood deck.

Some history here - about 20 years ago we began hearing about companies who would make similar durability claims for a product called "liquid vinyl siding."  Similarly, hard-selling contractors would claim that they could apply this paint to your wood-sided home and it would last and perform like vinyl siding.  It did just that, except for months, not decades as promised.  After that it began to peel of in sheets and/or allowed water to get behind and rot to set it.  Those claims also extended to the products claimed ability to insulate as well -- which is about when the Federal Trade Commission stepped in and put the kibosh on a lot of that.

Today we don't hear much about liquid vinyl, but there are finishes designed to protect and restore decks and docks that sound a lot like that original product. The difference is, these are made by major manufacturers who thoroughly test and warranty their products.

Products such as Sherwin Williams' SuperDeck Exterior Deck & Dock Coating or RUST-OLEUM'S Deck & Concrete Restore® 10X tout that they can fill gaps as large as a quarter-inch, adhere to deteriorate surfaces and can take the foot traffic.  I'm more tempted to believe claims with a major manufacturer behind them but unfortunately, I've not seen enough independent reviews from purchasers to run out and buy any high-build products.  The other deterrent we should mention is cost.  The average good-quality gallon of paint covers about 400 square feet of surface area and costs around $25 a gallon.  These products run around $50 a gallon, and offer coverage of just 75 square feet, so they are not inexpensive.

My best advice, pickup a gallon and do a small section of a deck, like maybe the stairs.  Follow the prep instructions to the letter as this will ensure maximum adhesion, and see what happens. If it works as performed, then go all in the following season.


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rain, storm, flood, wet basement

Wet Basement “Expert” says Grading Won’t Stop Floods

Our basement is pretty humid and has moisture coming up through the concrete floors. The basement has a history of mold and flooding. From listening to The Money Pit, I know proper grading and gutter maintenance outside the home should prevent this. We had a basement expert come by and he said grading was not enough - a total overhaul was necessary and he wanted to install drain systems, a new sump pump, etc to address the moisture (our ultimate goal is to finish the basement). Is he right or is he just trying to sell his services?

Our Answer

It's no surprise that a so called wet basement "expert" would proclaim that improvements to roof and surface drainage won't fix you damp, leaky basement.  They have very strong economic reasons to do so.  Basement waterproofing companies pretty much sell a single type of repair, and it's really not a water "proofing" solution at all.  If anything its a water pumping system that allows the water ot get to and through the foundation, where its collected in a sump and then pumped out to start the cycle all over again.

The reason most basements flood is because of issues with poor surface and roof drainage.  To stop this from happening, you must:

  1.  Clean gutters & downspouts;
  2.  Make sure there are enough downspouts for the roof size. Each spout should drain no more than 600-800 sq feet of roof surface
  3.  Extend spouts to discharge at least 6 feet from house;
  4.  Improve the angle of soil at the foundation perimeter to slope away from the house.

In RARE circumstances, flooding is caused by a rising water table and in that case, a pump system is needed.  However, we're talking VERY RARE circumstances.

Here's how to tell.  If your basement dampness and flooding worsens consistent with rainfall, or snow melt - its always caused by drainage that's easily fixed.

Finally, one of the most popular posts on our site is about basement waterproofing.  Read it, and THEN read all the comments.  You'll see three groups of comenters.  Wet basement "experts" desperate to save their money-making scams, home inspectors and other independent experts calling out the waterproofing profiteers and confirming the advice we've provided, and homeowners who have tried it and saved tens of thousands of dollars.

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