Fixing a Leaky Basement the Right Way

With the abundant rain in the Pacific Northwest, it is not surprising how often homeowners complain about leaky, wet basements. We recently worked with a client in Southeast Portland who was having issues with water leaks in the basement of his home.

The house was originally built in the 1920s, and the basement had been added about 40 years later. Back then, homes weren’t build as waterproof as they are today, so for the past 20-25 years water has seeped into the basement. The homeowner has taken care of the problem on the inside, but it didn’t stop the seepage from the exterior. So we’re going to address the problem from the outside to stop the water from penetrating the basement wall. By opening up the outside of the house and addressing the issue from the outside, we’ll make sure this leaky basement is taken care of the right way and that the homeowner will never see this problem again.


Examining the problems

leaky basement mold and mildew

The basement wall had been leaking for some time and was covered in mold and mildew.

Inside the basement, water intrusion along the entire concrete wall has left stains and a perfect environment for mold and mildew. You can see the water seepage especially in the corners where you see the cold joint, a joint that occurs as result of pouring a foundation at two separate times. This happened at this house when the basement was added years after the original house was built. Water proofing on the outside of the house will eliminate the water seepage at the cold joint.

When we inspected the outside of the house, we noticed that the window frame had rotted from constant exposure to water. The wood frame of the window abutted the concrete and had dry rot.

In this basement, the concrete has absorbed a lot of the water and much of it wicked up into the window frame causing dry rot. So we replaced the frame with pressure treated wood, replaced the window, and placed a block outside to keep the water from running down to the window.

Digging the hole

Outside, we dug a deep, narrow hole, about six or seven feet deep to access the wall. As with any project where you dig, it is important to call the utilities and have the area pipes marked. In our work zone, a gas pipe runs right through the area. We used machinery driven by professionals to dig the bulk of the hole and then dug out the area around the gas pipe by hand for maximum safety. Then we could begin addressing the water issue.

Keeping water out of the basement

basement waterproofing

A drain, drain rock, waterproof board, and a tar-like waterproofing sealant on the wall all contribute to making this one basement that should be leak free for years. See the video for how we got to this point.

The easiest way to resolve the issue of the wet basement is to keep the water away from the house in the first place. A downspout situated near the window and basement was feeding the problem. First we directed that water away from the house. Second, we installed a vapor barrier on the outside of the basement wall. In this case we used a tar-based material to keep the water from coming through. Next we added a drain board to deflect the water away from the wall. When water does hit it, the water will drain down where we want it to go.

Finally, we added drain rock, a drain pipe, and pump to remove the water from the house. Any water that comes down into the area will run down the wall and be pumped away from the house.

What you can expect to pay to fix a leaky basement

When you consider tackling a basement waterproofing project, expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 for waterproofing, excavation, and materials. It may seem like a lot of money for a repair that you really won’t see on a day-to-day basis. However, the cost to not resolve an issue with a leaky basement could be much greater. If water keeps entering the basement, it will lead to foundation repair that will cost substantially more to repair. Breathing in the mold and mildew that has built up on the walls inside your home can lead to health consequences.

It is best to try to get leaky basement projects done in the dry season, but if necessary you can accomplish the waterproofing you need in the rainy season. With the cooperation of Mother Nature, the team at Fazzolari Custom Homes and Renovations was able to complete this project in about two and a half days. Check out the video for more details and start-to-finish photos.

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