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Foundation Waterproofing: Problems, Fixes, & Benefits

Interior drain installed to keep basement dry.

Protecting your home from water damage requires more than just reactions to leaks and cracks. If you really want to maintain your home’s overall value and quality, you’ll need to have preventive measures in place.  

Your foundation upholds your entire home. When it starts to crack or leak, you can start to see damage not only in your basement or crawl space but also upstairs in your living areas.

Luckily, you can invest in home waterproofing measures to keep the forces that would damage your foundation at bay. Learn what that looks like here.

Common Signs of A Leaking Foundation 

Before you invest in foundation waterproofing measures, make sure you understand the common signs of a problematic foundation.

Some of the most common signs of foundation damage can include:  

Even something as simple as an unpleasant smell may indicate that your foundation is now suffering from damage.

That said, you don’t always have to leap straight to the “foundation damage” conclusion if you see any of these signs in your home.

Instead, you may be able to attribute these problems to more contained cracks or leaks.

Our trained professionals can help you distinguish between foundation damage and basement or crawl space damage, all while providing you with the repair advice and means to bring your home back up to snuff. 

Top 6 Waterproofing Options

Possibly the most important element of managing your foundation is waterproofing it.

The waterproofing process will help you avoid all the problems that you may see from a leaky foundation.

Some of the most effective can include: 

1. Interior Drainage System  

It’s still possible for water to seep inside your home, especially if it is contending with hydrostatic pressure. An interior drainage system will help you cover more ground. An interior drainage system is made up of a series of pipes that run around the perimeter of your basement. Once in place just underneath your basement floor, these pipes can physically arrest unwanted water. But where does that water go? It needs somewhere else to go other than onto your basement floor. 

That’s why it is important to pair your interior drainage system with a sump pump, so the collected water can be properly removed from your home. These two waterproofing measures stack well with each other, allowing you to benefit from both concentrated and widespread protection, even if you haven’t seen water in your home.  

2. Sump Pumps  

Sump pumps are necessary if you have seen any kind of water intrusion in your home. You need a way to get rid of this water, and a quality sump pump system does just that.  

Sump pumps help you keep unwanted moisture out of your home by using an electrical charge to pump said flooding from your space. Unfortunately, if the power goes out during a storm, you’ll have a more difficult time preventing that unwanted water from slipping inside. However, you can easily fit a sump pump with a battery backup so as to continue pumping water from your home.   

3. Vapor Barrier 

Vapor barrier being installed on walls.

If you’re interested in preventing moisture discharge into your home in general, it’s crucial that you talk to an expert about a basement vapor barrier. A basement vapor barrier can be a helpful way to keep water out of the basement, as the barrier covers all walls and is thick enough to keep even water vapor away. 

Installing a vapor barrier is a tricky process, and it’s important that you get an expert to help with it. If you’re having any issues with water in your basement, it might be a good idea to invest in a vapor barrier. Talk to an expert to see whether a vapor barrier could be a good investment in your home’s basement. 

4. Dehumidifiers  

Basement dehumidifier

Finally, if it’s unwanted moisture that you’re contending with, you have a less invasive waterproofing measure on hand that can help you protect your foundation. Dehumidifiers pull unwanted moisture out of your air. Courtesy of a system of pipes and coolant, that water will transform from a gas into a liquid. Typical home dehumidifiers store this water in a reservoir that you’ll have to empty, but a self-draining unit automatically drains this collected moisture into your interior drainage system or sump pump.  

While a dehumidifier might not prove the most effective waterproofing measure if you’re faced with flooding on a regular basis, it can help you get ahead of potential foundation damage while also lowering your risk of leaking pipes, not to mention your electric bill.  

5. FreezeGuard 

The FreezeGuard™ system is a useful way to maintain your discharge lines, even if the discharge line ends up freezing. Temperatures throughout Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and eastern Montana can significantly drop in the winter, especially during the night. If your discharge line freezes, you run the risk of having discharge water seep back into your foundation. 

Instead of taking this risk, you can install the FreezeGuard™ system. It’s an anti-freeze fitting that automatically takes over if the discharge line freezes, but only if the discharge line freezes. If your discharge line is working as it should, it works normally. If it freezes over, the FreezeGuard™ system ensures that it keeps working until the freeze clears.

6. Exterior Drainage: Gutters, Downspouts, and Grading  

The first thing you need to do in an effort to keep damaging water away from your foundation is to make sure your exterior drainage systems are in good working condition. This includes the gutters attached to the eaves of your roof and the downspouts that connect to the bottom of the gutters. Both gutters and downspouts need to be clog and damage-free in order to catch rain and snow runoff and keep it away from the perimeter of your foundation. The downspout extensions also should be angled down and away from your walls.  

While Innovative Basement Authority does not provide these services, outside contractors can implement these solutions and pair them with our YardWell™ downspout extensions. Additionally, FreezeGuard™ can help you avoid problems with clogged and frozen discharge lines, and Innovative Basement Authority can help you determine whether this is a good option for your home. 

In a similar vein, the soil around your home needs to be properly graded to slope away from the foundation walls and not towards them. Otherwise, rain or draining water can collect near the walls and seep inside your basement or crawl space. 

The Biggest Reasons to Waterproof Your Foundation  

If you haven’t had problems with your foundation in the past, you may find yourself wondering: What’s the point of waterproofing your foundation? When you take the steps to get ahead of foundation damage, you can not only protect your home from minor flooding, but you can preserve its market value while also protecting the health of your family.  

  • Water Damage and Your Home’s Market Value  

As water damage makes its way into your home, it can rapidly destabilize your foundation and cause your floors to sag, your walls to bow, and other forms of damage to take root. As the structural supports throughout your home begin to show signs of wear, your home will actively become less safe to live in. Not only will this put your family in danger, but it will also make future homebuyers less likely to purchase your home.  

Realtors, too, will not be able to list your home for as much as it was originally worth. If you let water damage spread over an extended period of time, you risk losing up to 30 percent of your home’s market value, especially if you don’t invest in repairs.

  • Water Damage and Your Family’s Health  

Uncontrolled water damage spreading throughout your foundation also puts your family’s health at risk. Your home’s unwanted moisture can aggravate some parties’ pre-existing conditions, eliciting allergic reactions or respiratory issues. Even residents without pre-existing conditions can start to develop allergies or related conditions if exposed to high levels of humidity for an extended period of time.  

Note that those same increased levels of humidity can also cause mold to appear in your home. If mold has the opportunity to take root, it can cause health problems ranging from a persistent cough to long-term lung damage. 

  • Water Damage and Avoiding Future Bills 

This last element is fairly simple. If water damage isn’t mitigated now,  it’s easy for issues with the water to crop up in the future. Those water damage issues will be much worse, often causing you to have to make more significant purchases to fix them. The solution of foundation waterproofing is always going to be a better option than waiting until later.  This can prevent you from playing catch-up to try and safeguard your home. Instead, it’s best to take a proactive approach and stop the water damage before it even happens. 

If you’re concerned about how much money potential basement waterproofing and repairs may cost you, you may be reluctant to reach out to a professional for guidance. After all, DIY can be a great solution for many other home problems—why not try and take on a challenge like this on your own? Unfortunately, there’s more than one reason you may want to leave the basement waterproofing and repair work to the professionals, including:   

  • The Expense of DIY  

These specific DIY projects are often far more expensive than you anticipate they’re going to be. Attempting to waterproof your foundation without help from professionals can rapidly blow your home repair budget out of the water. This process requires you to purchase not only unique materials but special tools as well. Comparatively, professional teams already have the tools they need to install your waterproofing measures on hand. They can also often procure any necessary materials for less than market cost courtesy of partnerships with industry-trusted manufacturers.  

Trying to waterproof your foundation on your own is also going to cost you time. Not only might you have to take days off from work to see this sort of project through to the end, but you’ll lose weeks—or even months—to the mere process of attempting to repair your home.  

  • Mistakes and Risks to Your Health   

There is always a chance that  mistakes get made while attempting to DIY waterproofing your foundation. The home excavation process, for example, can take months to get through without professional guidance. During that time, the weather can have a detrimental impact on your foundation’s overall structural integrity, and it’s also possible to dig into the footings or other supports that hold your home upright.  

Comparatively, professionals can bring their whole team out to your property and see a waterproofing installation in a matter of days, rain or shine. If youwork with a team of professionals, you can keep your repair costs low. 

Not all foundation waterproofing issues are caused by outside circumstances. Here are other factors that can put your foundation at risk. 

  • Leaking Pipes  

Freezes and leaks tend to form when hydrostatic pressure exerts its influence outside of your home. That pressure, unfortunately, can have an equally devastating impact on your home’s structural integrity when it starts inside your basement or crawl space. The pipes that direct water through your home are not as watertight on the outside as they are on the inside. The more humidity they are exposed to over time, the more likely it is that they’ll develop stress fractures.  

If your pipes break open, they can flood your basement or crawl space or even, on a less severe note, lend to the moisture already plaguing your home. In doing so, they can exacerbate any damage you might already be contending with. Your HVAC system can have a similar impact on the humidity levels in your home. If you let your pipes and your HVAC system go unchecked for an extended period of time, you may find yourself contending not only with greater levels of hydrostatic pressure but with more severe structural damage.  

  • Tree Roots 

You may also have to worry about the influence tree roots can have on your foundation’s overall structural integrity. Tree roots that make their way too close to your home will destabilize the packed soil there. In doing so, they work like burrows. Your foundation can sink into these caverns and buckle or otherwise begin to show signs of structural failure.  

There are ways to get ahead of this kind of damage. Foundation waterproofing measures can help you eliminate any moisture that might move along with these tree roots. However, you may need to invest in root trimming services, tree removal, or even tree relocation services to prevent tree roots from making a mess of your foundation. Ideally, you’ll want to do this kind of work before a tree can start to destabilize your home. If you can’t, however, you can work with landscapers or professionals in similar fields to tend to any wayward tree roots.  

The elements aren’t always kind to your foundation. Here are natural effects that can impact the way your foundation stays dry. 

  • Hydrostatic Pressure  

Hydrostatic pressure serves as the driving force behind most of the foundation damage your home may take on. This force starts to build up outside of your foundation when moisture, either in the form of rain, snow, or groundwater, comes into contact with the materials making up the exterior of your basement. As water presses up against those materials, it can cause them to change temperature and size.  Additionally, the “Clay Bowl Effect” can cause more damaging hydrostatic pressure all throughout the basement. This occurs due to the fact that to build the basement, the initial crew needs to dig out a space around the basement, build it, then replace the soil. That replaced soil can be much looser than the untouched soil, allowing water to proliferate throughout the replaced soil.  

A foundation that ends up overexposed to hydrostatic pressure can see not only cracks throughout its slab but also damage to its walls and other structural supports. The longer this damage continues, the more severe the side effects of its work are going to be.   

  • Freezing Concerns 

It isn’t just rain or standing water that can cause structural problems for your foundation. As temperatures start to drop in your area, your basement’s supporting materials can start to suffer from the effects of external freezes. In many ways, freezes work against your home in much the same way standard hydrostatic pressure does. However, as the moisture in your soil starts to freeze, it can expand in size by up to nine percent. That kind of expansion puts a significant amount of pressure on the concrete making up your foundation. This means your foundation may develop cracks or leaks even faster than it would during the warmer months of the year.  

Not only that, but frozen water and similar freezes can also cause your foundation to settle prematurely. Some parts of your home will find themselves lifted higher than others. You may have, for example, cracks in one half of your basement and bowing walls in another, even without active flooding or other signs of seepage in place.  

Explore Your Foundation Waterproofing Options with Local Professionals  

Waterproofing your foundation doesn’t have to be a costly or tiring endeavor. With some help from Innovative Basement Authority professionals, you can look over a free services quote and let our experts determine the appropriate home waterproofing measures that can better protect your foundation.   

Leah Leitow

Leah Leitow

Content Writer

Leah is a Content Writer for Groundworks with nearly ten years of experience working in the foundation repair industry. Her experience ranges from working with homeowners to find the right solution to training inspectors and staff. In her background as a Michigan journalist, she gained invaluable insight into people's lives throughout our state. Leah lives in metro Detroit with her husband and two sons.


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