How we waterproofed our basement from the inside

So far in recapping our basement waterproofing saga, I’ve shared a glimpse of the problems and the options we considered to fix them.

As I said in my last post, we decided to go with Omni Basement Systems, a company that would fix the leaks from the inside (for the most part… more on this below) and would guarantee the leaks would never come back (and never is a pretty long time).

Full disclosure, the basement waterproofing project was not sponsored. We paid for the work ourselves and didn’t receive any discounts or compensation.

We had three things we were looking to fix:

  1. Leaks along the south wall of the house and around the perimeter of the cold cellar that seemed to be coming from where the poured foundation wall met the slab of the concrete floor.
  2. Leaks in the laundry room where the bottom half of a former doorway had been bricked in to become a window (at the complete opposite end of the house from the other leaks).
  3. New sump pit and pumps (plural) including a battery back-up system for when the power goes out.

Numbers 1 and 3 were going to be tackled from the inside, while number 2 was going to be tackled from the outside.

The laundry room window/door was located very tight to a corner. There wasn’t space to access the seam of the old doorway from inside the basement.

Working from the outside entailed digging down to the base of the foundation, a tough job at the best of times, but particularly unpleasant in the intense heat and humidity that has been this summer. This job was made doubly tough as the crew uncovered the original concrete retaining walls that had bordered the exterior stairwell and the slab at the base. Because of all the concrete, water had nowhere to drain and was seeping through the foundation into the house. The crew had to break up the extremely hard concrete as well as waterproof the foundation.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the outside

Waterproofing involved filling the joint with special polyurethane polymer sealant. The sealant will never dry out or recrack even if the foundation wall shifts over time. A membrane called Blueskin was laid over the wall and then all of that was covered in “dimple sheet” and then the top edge was sealed with a thick line of tar. After that, the crew backfilled the hole. You can read more about the process on the Omni website.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the outside

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the outside

For the interior waterproofing, the first step was to access the foundation wall. In the long room (where our pingpong table lives), that meant removing the drywall. Matt and I did that ourselves, and I admit my heart broke a little bit after how long it took us to drywall the basement in the first place.

The crew then peeled back the carpet, scraped the sprayfoam insulation off the bottom of the wall going up about 16 inches, removed the bottom plate and cut about 16 inches off the studs.

With a clear shot to the cement floor, they started the jackhammer. The object of the game was to remove the concrete floor about 8-10 inches along the base of the wall and expose the footing.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

Breaking up concrete is dusty work. To contain the mess as much as possible, the crew went the extra mile, laying plastic over the carpets, pingpong table, piano, up the stairs and cordoning off the area where they were working.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

All of the concrete, dirt and gravel that was excavated had to be loaded into five gallon pails and hauled up the stairs out of the basement. Outside, it was dumped into larger garbage pails that were then loaded onto the truck at the end of the day. Such heavy, heavy work.

Brute garbage pails for a basement waterproofing project

The cold cellar is unfinished, so less prep work was needed and the crew could begin jackhammering right away. However, extra jackhammering was required as the cold cellar is the location of our sump pit. The old pit was described as a “farm-special.” We’ve encountered a few “specials” around the farm. They work, but they’re not always necessarily quite the right way to do things. The pit was thick, solid concrete, so it took a lot of work to get rid of the old pit.

Below you can see the pit and our new liner ready to be installed. Note the holes in the sides of the liner. These allow ground water to flow into the pit, whereas before with our solid concrete pit, water had nowhere to go and ended up seeping in through the joint between the foundation wall and the concrete floor.

Replacing a sump pump pit

As part of installing the new sump pump, the crew replaced our old discharge line and extended it far out into the yard. Previously, the pipe had just dead-ended underground, and it was only about 10 feet from the house.

Old sump pump discharge line

The new line extends nearly 50 feet, and the end is capped with a sturdy grill–a “LawnScape outlet”–that sits at ground level. Obviously, ground level is not below the frost line. The whole pipe is just under the grass. We weren’t able to lower the discharge line at all. We didn’t have any issues with our old discharge line freezing, and we’re hoping we don’t with the new one. The sump pump won’t kick in until temperatures warm up in the spring, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

(“You really want a picture of me, don’t you? I’m much cuter than some pipe.”)

New sump pump discharge line

Back inside, once the footings were exposed, the crew dug a small trench around the perimeter and started to lay new weeping tile around the foundation. All of the weeping tile flow to the new sump.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

Part of what led us to choose Omni Basement Systems to handle our waterproofing was that they used some different types of materials  and systems than other companies.

One of these was the WaterGuard Perimeter Drainage Channel. This channel sits on top of the footing, so it’s away from the dirt and there’s no risk of the line becoming clogged over time. However, it turned out that the WaterGuard didn’t work with our footings, so the crew went with traditional weeping tile instead. I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get the assurance of a channel that will never clog, but the warranty still applies.

Once the weeping tile was laid the crew added some membranes over the concrete wall (the white panel and black strip in the photo below). These membranes form a barrier between the concrete–and any moisture that may be running through or down the wall–and the studs and drywall. The membranes curl over the weeping tile, funneling water into the pipe, and then concrete is poured on top.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

The concrete is smoothed and leveled so that it lines up with the original floor.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

And after two and a half days of work, that’s where the job ended. Next, it was over to Matt and me to finish the rest of the basement by repairing the studs, insulation and drywall.

But that will be for the final post. Stay tuned for the wrap-up where I share the finally finished basement, the results of the waterproofing and our experience working with Omni Basement Systems.

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4 thoughts on “How we waterproofed our basement from the inside

  1. I had never seen all of the steps that are used to waterproof a basement. Those are the types of projects I hate: so expensive, time consuming, and when you are all done you have nothing to show for it. (except piece of mind)

    • Yup. I feel pretty much the same way. When we’re finished, the basement will look exactly the same as it did before we started. I have to remind myself that it’s not all about looks, and knowing that we won’t have any leaks is a pretty big deal.

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