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.










Comparing interior and exterior basement waterproofing

Last month (who else can’t believe we’re already almost halfway through August?) I shared some of the water leaks we’ve had in the basement. Starting today, I’m going to go into a bit more detail about the waterproofing process.

Up first, I’m going to talk about the different waterproofing options we considered and what we ended up choosing.

Option 1: Exterior Waterproofing

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the outside

I don’t have any experience with waterproofing, but exterior waterproofing is what I was at least passingly familiar with.

In this approach, the foundation is dug out from the outside. You dig down the full depth of the wall all the way to the footing. Then weeping tile (that black corrugated flexible pipe) is laid in the trench along the base of the foundation. The idea is that water flows into the the weeping tile and is funneled around the foundation and into a sump pit.

The foundation wall is coated with sealant and/or membrane. And then the dirt is backfilled.

Option 2: Interior Waterproofing

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

Due to my inexperience with waterproofing, the first time a contractor suggested an interior approach my reaction was, “But don’t I want the water to stay outside?”

It turns out, you can’t always keep the water out. But you can manage it once it gets in.

The method for interior waterproofing is somewhat similar to exterior, except for the digging. In interior waterproofing, the concrete floor is cut along the perimeter of the wall. The concrete is removed and then the dirt is excavated down to the footing. Weeping tile is laid along the footing and is funneled around the wall and into a sump pit.

The trench is filled with gravel and the floor is repaired with new concrete.

Option 3: Interior Waterproofing 2.0

As we went through the meetings with various waterproofing contractors, we came across one that had a slightly different approach. They worked from the inside like the other contractor had recommended, but the materials that they used were a bit different. The conduit that they laid along the footing were guaranteed never to become clogged with silt. They had membranes for the walls that funneled any seepage or humidity into the pipe. They had all kinds of informational videos and patents on a lot of their materials.

Their sales pitch was that they had invented a better mousetrap waterproofing technique. And they would guarantee it for forever.

Basement waterproofing cartoon

Our decision

The first time a contractor mentioned interior waterproofing to me, I admit that my reaction was something along the lines of, “Uh. No way, Jose. Do you see this finished basement? Do you know how much work we put into this? I’m not ripping it up to waterproof from the inside.”

After I calmed down, here were some of the other considerations we weighed in making our decision.

  1. Given the damage we’d had to the drywall, studs and baseboard, I was going to have to do some repairs inside. Waterproofing from the interior would allow us to have one disaster zone inside, rather than two, inside and out.
  2. The two contractors that recommended the interior approach also recommended focusing just on where we had problems, not on the whole foundation. Again, my reaction was a bit skeptical, as I wanted to waterproof only once and make sure we never have a problem anywhere ever. However, no one could guarantee that except for company #3.
  3. Over time regular weeping tile, whether inside or out, can get clogged with dirt. It may take a couple of decades, but when that happens water may once again seep into the basement (see no guarantee above).
  4. In exterior waterproofing, after backfilling the dirt will eventually settle. So a year or two after waterproofing we might have to do more work in terms of adding dirt and regrading.
  5. If we worked from the outside, the whole perimeter of our house would be dug up. I didn’t love the idea of sacrificing all of our flowerbeds after I’ve spent so much effort establishing them (although it did give me an excuse to skip weeding this spring). On the flip side, I liked that the disruption would be confined to the exterior, rather than our finished basement.
  6. All of the methods were within roughly the same price range. Money was not going to be the determining factor.
  7. Company #3 offered a lifetime guarantee that we would have no leaks in the areas that they waterproofed. Options #1 and #2 would only give us a 20 year warranty, but I wasn’t sure that was quite enough for me.

We decided to go with Option #3, Omni Basement Systems.

Omni basement systems truck

Coming up, I’ll talk about the waterproofing process and then share the results.

I’d love to hear your input. Have you ever gone through a waterproofing project? What option did you choose? If you haven’t gone through waterproofing, what solution would you select?




Our new summer project

Last week I mentioned that we’ve added a new summer project to our to-do list. Unfortunately this project is driven by a problem. You got a bit of a glimpse of the problem in this photo that I shared on Friday.

What is this?

This is the drywall in the long room in the basement. And in case there’s any confusion, it’s not supposed to look like this.

We’ve had water issues off and on ever since we finished the basement. This spring was the worst.

In the unfinished space just beside the long room, this was the scene. Water seeping in at the joint where the foundation wall met the concrete slab.

Basement foundation leak

We surmise that this happened along the whole wall, including in the finished area. The baseboard swelled and stained. The carpet was damp. And behind the baseboard mold grew.

Water damaged baseboard

We had some water-proofing contractors come in a few weeks ago and give us quotes to fix the problem. Work starts today. So our formerly finished long room now looks like this. And it’s about to get worse.

Spray foam insulation

With the drywall removed the studs don’t look too bad. Yes there’s mold, but it doesn’t go too high on the wall, and the wood isn’t rotted at all. Even so, I’m not sure much of this will be salvaged, as our contractors are doing the waterproofing from the inside.

Water damage

The other area of focus outside of the long room is the cold cellar. The cold cellar is an addition, and when it was added, the concrete floor was poured just up to the old footings. In the spring or even on rainy days, the whole perimeter of the cold cellar leaks.

Water leaks around a basement footing

This area isn’t as worrisome, as it’s unfinished, but nonetheless we’d rather not have water in the house at all.

Our contractor is also going to redo our sump pump pit and put in a two new pumps–one on a battery back-up. During a power outage in one big storm this spring, Matt bailed the sump pit for four hours. We’d prefer not to repeat this situation… or worry about the power going out if we’re not home.

Waterproofing is one of those projects that I’m not super excited about. Cutting into our drywall was a bit heartbreaking after all of the work we put into finishing the basement in the first place. Plus it’s a lot of money just to get us back to where we were when we first finished the basement.

However, it’s a very important project. Knowing that this is our forever home, we want this problem solved.

Have you ever waterproofed your basement? Do you have any water leaks?





If you can’t stand the heat

Normally, the second half of that phrase above goes: “get out of the kitchen.” However, in this case, it’s “call a plumber.”

I mentioned awhile ago that we were having some issues with the cold water tap in my bathroom. As in it didn’t like to turn. As in hope you like scalding showers.

Old taps in the tub

A consult in the Home Depot plumbing aisle suggested that the cartridge on the tap might be worn. We needed to figure out the brand of tap so that we could buy the right replacement cartridge. As there was no logo or maker’s mark anywhere on our taps, we turned off the water (to the whole house), took the tap apart, removed the cartridge and went back to HD to find a new cartridge that matched the old.

We found what we thought was the right one, but upon our return home, Matt and I could not get the cartridge properly installed. We screwed it in–repeatedly, cautiously turned on the water, and then quickly shut off the water as it sprayed and dribbled from all of the wrong places.

Eventually, we gave up and reinstalled the old cartridge.

Old tap cartridge

Over time, the tap got stiffer and stiffer. Turning it hurt my hand. I resorted to covering the tap with facecloths and towels to cushion my grip. I started to worry that one day I wouldn’t be able to turn the water off.

Plus the tap would only turn so far, and showers were approaching boiled alive territory. I like a hot shower, but there’s a fine line between hot and cooked.

We called the plumber.

In less than a half an hour, he installed the new cartridge–the very one that we had bought–with absolutely no problem.

Old tap cartridge

My next shower was like something out of the 20th century. Warm water at the turn of a knob. Temperature adjustments as needed. Wondrous.

Except it’s getting a little hot again. Turn the knob. Oh isn’t that wonderful how easily it turns.


Okay that’s still a little hot. Adjust again.


Getting hot again. What’s going on?

About every 30 seconds, I had to adjust the temperature. Thanks to our new cartridge, I could adjust the temperature fairly easily, but constantly playing with the faucet wasn’t what I had in mind.

I tried turning on just the cold water. It ran for a little while, but gradually the flow decreased to a trickle. Turn it on a little bit more, and the same thing happened.

Old taps in the tub

We called the plumber again, and he thought that the cartridge might be a bit too lubricated and might be slipping. So before we were too tight and now we’re too loose. It’s like the Goldilocks of bathroom faucets.

We’re leaving it alone and the faucet does seem to be tightening up on its own. However, this bathroom reno can’t come soon enough–in case you can’t tell from the cracked mildewy tile you’ve seen all through this post.

Have you ever replaced a tap cartridge? Any tips in case we ever have to do this again? Why do you think the cold tap is turning itself off? What’s the worst idiosyncrasy in your bathroom?

Done and done – Fall to-do list final report

The date on the calendar says Dec. 21–also known as the first day of winter.

And the photo below says that Matt and I have crossed off the last item on my fall to-do list–replacing the filters in our water system.

Reverse osmosis system filters

Our first year at the farm, we had our water contractor do the annual service for us. We’ve since learned that this is a job we can easily tackle ourselves.

As we were changing the filters, we talked about adding a task to the get-it-done-before-winter to-do list: putting the snowblower on the tractor.

Temperatures are still super mild here, so we could avoid freezing our fingers as we connect the blower. But temperatures are still super mild. Will we even need the snowblower? (Ha-ha. I think that’s a bit optimistic for winter in southern Ontario).

Final determination? We’re going to risk it and stay blower-less for now.

Matt has plans to clear some of the deadfall in the back forest before the end of the year, so being able to put the trailer on the back of the tractor would be very helpful.

It may be winter, the fall to-do list may be done, but work at the farm continues.

How did you do getting ready for winter? Do you have a job that you learned isn’t as difficult as you thought at first? What’s still on your to-do list between now and the end of the year?

Getting my act together

A month ago, I said it was time to get my act together, and I posted my fall to-do list.

I’m most productive when I post regular updates to hold myself accountable, so today is about sharing where I’m at in getting ready for winter.

And I am pleased to report that I’m getting my act together.

The vegetable garden

  • Hang the gate
  • Edge the garden
  • Put in raised beds
  • Spread manure

Okay. Perhaps this isn’t the best way to start. Beyond the harvest and clearing out the dead plants, I haven’t spent much time in the garden. My plan is to make the garden my focus for November.

Harvest 2015

The bird feeder

  • Reattach feeder bracket – My cousin who made the birdfeeder post for us originally very kindly bolted the top bracket back into place.
  • Install a sleeve for the post – I put a section of pipe in the ground so that the post can just slide into place, no hammering required.

I restocked our seed supply last week, and we have a steady stream of blue jays, chickadees, juncos and a whole bunch of other birds I can’t identify visiting the feeder every day.

Chickadee in the birdfeeder


  • Tidy up the trees – Matt and his Dad went to town.
  • Put up another row of firewood – As Matt and his Dad cut, I split and stacked, and we are set.

More details about our latest lumberjacking episode will be coming in a future post, but for now gaze upon our woodpiles.

Firewood piles

Get Wiley ready for winter

  • Change the oil – My handy cousin (he of the birdfeeder) changed the oil for us.
  • Check the battery contacts – My handy cousin also made us a little sleeve to tighten up the battery clasp, and Wiley’s starting so smoothly now.
  • Remove the mower deck – Done. There will be no more grass cutting this year.

How to detach a Kioti SM2410 mower

The house

  • Take off the screens
  • Clean the heat pump filter — Done
  • Clean out the gutters — Matt’s done this twice in October, and he’ll probably have to do it at least once more.
  • Turn off the outdoor water
  • Annual service and filter replacement on indoor water system — A new to-do

The house is another area where we’ve not done a whole lot. What does that say about me that I’m putting less time into the roof over my head as opposed to the property around my house? Thankfully, Matt’s on it.

Matt cleaning the gutters

Anyways, three categories out of five are completely done. That’s pretty good. Now to keep the productivity coming before winter comes.

How are you doing on your pre-winter to-do list so far?

The trouble with our trails

I completely love that we have a property where we can go for a hike. However, I have two issues with our trails.

1. Our trails are slightly extremely overgrown. Because we’re not riding horses over them, because we don’t have a mower that we can take on them, because in the spring the trails are mostly underwater, because the mosquitoes were so bad this year that we haven’t been on them in months, hiking requires a fair bit of bushwhacking.

2. Our trails do not loop. They are all out-and-backs. Despite knowing this, I persist in trying to find a way around. The result is predictable: I end up either in water that is higher than the tops of my boots, or I end up in impassable brush. Sometimes both.

This was the situation Baxter and I found ourselves in recently. Deep in a marsh, tangled in grass so thick that at one point we actually lost each other, and we were right beside each other.

Completely true. I had a panic attack that I’d lost the dog, looked to my left and saw him sitting there staring at me.

Baxter’s reaction was, “I don’t know where we are, but it smells delicious.” Helpful, dude. Very helpful.

Baxter sniffing in the marsh

The bright side was that since it’s fall, the marsh had dried up a bit, so the water didn’t quite reach the top of my boots.

Here is a completely accurate fully to scale rough map of our trails. (For context, the trails go through the forest that covers roughly the back half of the property. This post has a full overview of the entire property in case you want to see how it all fits together).

Map of the trails on our property

The west trails are our best ones, but they’re also our wettest ones. We could probably get Wiley in the first 10 feet or so, but then things get squishy. And see that blue line above? There’s a creek that never completely dries up. I don’t think Wiley can swim. And I have no idea how we’d get him out if he ever got stuck.

The east trail is on higher ground and has much less grass, so it really doesn’t need mowing. It does however need a battalion of forest rangers with chainsaws. There is so much deadfall that this is less of a trail and more of an obstacle course. The dotted lines show how you can make this trail loop–if you’re willing to risk being poked in the eye with a stick (also completely true–I thought I’d done serious damage).

My looooooong term goal (seriously, this is so far in the future I have no idea when it might happen) is to one day have nice clear looping trails and boardwalks through the marsh. I’ve been saving any skids that we come across in the hopes that they might work as boardwalks. Now just to find my battalion of forest rangers to move them into place…

Do you like to hike? What’s your favourite trail like? Has anyone else gotten lost recently?

Dealing with my hang ups

Hang up #1: Plumbing makes me nervous.

Hang up #2: The hose by the driveshed lies on the ground and is super awkward to use. It drives me crazy.

Hang up #3: Less emotional. More physical. As in galvanized. As in the solution for hang ups #1 and #2.

Galvanized hose hanger

Allow me to back up for a moment.

When we had our whole water system fixed during our first summer on the farm, my Dad had our contractor trench across the driveway and add an exterior hose at the corner of the driveshed. Since then the hose has been laying on the ground–a very inconvenient configuration.

Every time we mowed the grass, we had to move it. Turning the hose on and off and coiling it up were a pain.

Hose coiled on the ground

It was on my to-do list last May to fix this situation, but I didn’t get it done. I was distracted by other projects, and honestly I was a little nervous about tackling even this simple plumbing job on my own.

Now that we have the vegetable garden, we’re using this hose all the time. My frustration finally motivated me to pull up my big girl pants and deal with my hang ups (all three of them).

The first step was shortening the waterline. I turned off the water, pulled out the hack saw and sliced the pipe. I yanked the tap out of the original waterline and jammed it back onto the shortened pipe (hint: some boiling water softened the black pipe enough to slide the tap into place). I tightened the clamps to hold it in place.

A 2×4 mounted on the side of the driveshed holds the tap far enough off the wall so that I can turn it easily, and some metal brackets hold the waterline to the 2×4.

Hose attached to the side of the barn

Then comes hang up #3. The galvanized hose hanger holds our three hoses. Yes, three. We need every single inch of hose to reach the vegetable garden.

Hose hanging on the side of the driveshed

I’ll admit that lugging three hoses out to the garden is still not super convenient. However, having the tap attached to the wall and the hose hanging on the wall are an improvement.

Some day, I’d like to split the waterline and add another tap out at the garden. Despite confronting my hang ups, that’s more plumbing (and trenching) than I want to tackle on my own at this point.

However, this simple update boosted my confidence about tackling a simple plumbing job on my own.

What hang ups do you have at your house? How do you handle plumbing? How do you handle irrigation?

Back up power for an electric sump pump

Since the first rainfall two weeks ago, we’ve now had rain steadily for nearly two weeks. Often, it’s not gentle rain. Deluges and thunder storms have been the name of the game.

Our sump pump kicks in often, especially with a heavy rain.

Sump pump pit

The big worry is that thunder storms bring both rain and power outages. Without power, our sump pump doesn’t run. We’ve not lost power yet, but it’s Matt’s biggest worry.

Does anyone know if there’s a battery back up system you can add to a sump pump?

There are benefits to having a generator, and we may go that route someday. For now, I’d love to hear if anyone knows about sump pump solutions.

It never rains but it pours

For the past few years, it seems we’ve gone from winter to summer. Just skipped over spring completely. This year, we’ve seesawed back into winter a couple of times (brrr). But we’ve definitely missed spring–and its spring showers.

The grass seed that I sprinkled has sprouted–thanks to diligent daily waterings.

Grass seed sprouts

Our fields are going green and our soybeans are growing, but my hose doesn’t help them, and I wasn’t sure how long they’d hang on without rain.

Soybean field

Soybean sprouts

Saturday morning, we watched clouds building to the north of us, wondering if rain was finally going to fall. (If you look closely, you might be able to see the bright green watering can halfway down the driveway, next to a newly planted tree).

Rain clouds at the end of a country driveway

A few hours later, we had our answer. Yes, it was finally raining, but it was pouring. More water than the dry, dry ground could possibly absorb.

It doesn’t seem like we just have rain anymore. It’s either a deluge or nothing. Maybe the gentle rain is hanging out wherever spring has gone.

Pouring rain over a country driveway

Poor Baxter did not appreciate the cooling moisture as much as the plants did. Apparently, melting from the heat is preferable to melting from rain.

Baxter hiding from the rain

The torrential downpour did eventually ease. By the end of the weekend, we had a full day and a half of rain.

So I won’t have to do any watering for a little while.

What season is it where you are? What season should it be? Have you had too much, too little or just enough rain? Are seeds sprouting where you are? Does your dog like the rain?