The Best Methods to Repair Basement Leaks
No one likes finding a leak in their basement. It’s a universally unpleasant discovery. In fact, there’s only one thing that makes it worse: you find the leak by stepping in it while wearing socks. There’s just something gross and unsettling about wet fabric stuck to your toes.
Once you’ve removed those soggy socks and taken a good look at your wet basement, you think to yourself, “now what?!”
The first thing you need to do is identify the source of the water. If it’s coming from a pipe, a shut-off valve, or connection to an appliance, you’re going to need a plumber. However, if the water is coming from the basement walls or floor? You’ll want to hire someone who specializes in foundation repair and/or basement waterproofing.
Acculevel is a family-owned and operated company that has been repairing foundations and waterproofing basements since we opened our doors in 1996. During our decades of service, we’ve helped more than 35,000 homeowners repair and restore their homes to full health and stability. We focus on providing whole-home solutions, addressing both the symptoms and the cause of the damage.
In this blog, we’re going to discuss the types of basement leaks, what causes them, and the best methods to repair and address basement leaks.
Is Your Basement Leak Caused By Foundation Cracks?
Tracing the source of the leak can be easy, if the basement is unfinished and there’s a visible crack. But it can be more difficult if the foundation walls are covered.
If the leak is occurring in a finished part of your basement, you’ll need to pull back the carpet, lift the tile, or cut open the drywall. This is not advice we give lightly; we know it’s a massive inconvenience to expose the foundation like this.
But you have to consider two things when you’re working with a finished basement. First, if there is water intruding, it is destroying your carpet, drywall, etc. Once these surfaces get wet, they’re almost guaranteed to grow mold or mildew. Second, we have to have clear and direct access to the crack before it can be repaired. In either case? You will eventually have to remove and replace that section as it decays.
How Do You Repair Small Basement Leaks And Cracks?
If the crack is thin, and only allowing a small amount of water to intrude, epoxy fill is the ideal solution. We recommend this repair method because it has consistently provided the best results for us and our customers.
Unlike other sealants and injection methods, the epoxy we use has a certain amount of flexibility to it. This means that when your foundation expands and contracts with the seasons, the epoxy can also shift to accommodate these changes.
Acculevel warranties crack repairs for 5 years, and epoxy fill has been the most effective and long-lasting repair option. While it is a strong color, the epoxy fill can also be painted over, if you would like to make the repairs to your basement walls less noticeable.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel team member after crack repairs were completed.
How Do You Repair Larger Basement Leaks?
You might expect that a larger crack will allow more water to intrude into your basement. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, large cracks develop without letting in any water at all. It depends on where these cracks form and when. However, even when dry, a large crack in your basement can be a major threat to your home’s overall health.
We’re not talking about thin wandering cracks, in this instance. These larger cracks are in specific shapes. If your basement wall has developed a long horizontal crack, even if it’s not leaking, you need this assessed promptly. The same risk level is true for stair-step or zig-zag cracks.
Poured concrete foundation walls only develop the long horizontal cracks. This is because stair-step cracks usually follow the mortar joints between concrete blocks.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during a free estimate. The foundation wall has both types of cracks: horizontal and zig-zag.
Regardless of foundation material, larger cracks should be treated with urgency. This foundation damage is a sign that your basement wall is beginning to bow or lean inward. Bowing walls need a far more structural type of repair method than a straightforward epoxy fill.
If one or more of your basement walls are bowing or leaning inward less than 2 inches, carbon fiber straps are the best option for you and your home. These repairs can also be painted over to minimize their appearance, once thoroughly cured and dry. When installed by a qualified foundation contractor, carbon fiber straps should be a permanent solution. At Acculevel, we warranty this repair type for the life of your home’s structure.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel team member after carbon fiber straps, crack repairs, and waterproofing were installed.
What Creates Wall Cracks And A Wet Basement?
This answer feels like stating the obvious: water is often what causes these kinds of foundation damage. But it’s not as simple as a heavy rain going through the soil surrounding your house, because the soil around your home can absorb water.
Water can always cause erosion, of course, but it can also become a significant problem when there is more water in the ground than the soil can absorb. If you put a sponge in a bucket of water, the sponge will soak up some of the water. But what happens to the excess? It doesn’t magically vanish- it’s left in the bucket to freely slosh around.
This is true of the excess rainwater in your yard- nothing stops it from moving, except your home’s foundation. When water finds an obstacle that blocks its movement, it begins to pool up and this creates pressure. In our industry, this is called hydrostatic pressure, and it’s what ultimately forces water into your home’s foundation. This happens because your foundation is designed to hold up your house, not to hold back water like a dam.
If you have expansive soil (clay-based) or a high water table, you’re more likely to have problems with hydrostatic pressure. This is because the soil is naturally damp from nearby bodies of water. Heavy rains or seasonal flooding add to this, creating more pressure than your foundation can endure.
There are some ways you can help reduce hydrostatic pressure. This article provides tips on how to reduce water around your house with projects like downspout extensions, proper grading, and other preventative measures.
What If You Have a Leaking Foundation But No Cracks?
It is entirely possible for you to have a wet basement without any clear source of the leak. This is because your foundation is built out of porous material. It doesn’t matter if your foundation is built out of poured concrete, concrete block, or brick and mortar. All of these construction materials allow water to pass through your walls or basement floor.
The same hydrostatic pressure that can crack your foundation, can also create a wet basement. Some cracks form in foundation walls after months or years of a slow water leak. As the Grand Canyon proves, water can wear down anything with enough time. Water also takes the path of least resistance. Once it’s found a weakness (a path through your foundation), it keeps using the same route.
This frequent water leak gradually washes out bits of porous concrete, brick or mortar. This is how most gaps and cracks in your foundation are created. (Erosion can also cause settling cracks to form, but those don’t usually let in water.)
But another possible route for water intrusion is through the cove joint. This is a construction term for where the walls and floor connect. In the picture below, you can see water is oozing onto the concrete floor.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during a free in-home assessment.
How Do You Repair A Leaky Basement?
The best way to address a leaking basement is to install interior waterproofing. We strongly recommend interior drainage over exterior waterproofing; there is a dramatic difference in both cost and property damage. (We compare interior versus exterior drainage systems in this blog.)
Interior basement waterproofing requires two components: a drainage system and a sump pump. The original poured concrete floor is removed around the perimeter of your basement, and the drainage tile is placed on top of (or next to) your foundation’s footing. Once the tile is installed, new concrete can be poured over the top of it to restore your basement floor.
The drain tile collects water as it comes through the foundation and directs it to the “pit” where the sump pump is installed. This sump pump then empties the water out of your basement through a discharge line. This line releases the water a safe distance away from the foundation.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel team member after installing water drainage under the basement floor and directing it to the sump pump pit.
Please note: basement waterproofing doesn’t guarantee a completely dry space. The purpose of drainage systems is to alleviate hydrostatic pressure, collect the water, and remove it from your home. If you want to finish your basement, or be confident in a truly dry space, you will also need encapsulation.
Encapsulation Enhances Basement Waterproofing
To encapsulate a basement, you need to install a liner along the walls. This liner should be inorganic, so that it doesn’t support mold growth. It also needs to be waterproof and securely attached to the top of the walls.
However, it should not be applied with adhesive; you want a slight gap between the liner and the foundation wall. This gap allows water to get through the foundation, but the liner stops it from going into your basement. Because the liner is a slick material, the water will then run down into the installed water drainage. Basement encapsulation requires waterproofing to be effective.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel team member. Water drainage and encapsulation have been installed.
Encapsulation is ideal for any home with a brick or stone foundation, since the mortar joints in these walls are highly susceptible to water infiltration. We also recommend it for any homeowner who wants to finish their basement. Encapsulation will protect the insulation, drywall, wooden joists, and other furnishings from moisture damage.
You will also need to install a dehumidifier to control the moisture level inside the basement.
Encapsulation will stop water or moisture from coming into your basement. It does not inhibit or prevent condensation from forming inside your home. Condensation is caused by the temperature difference between the inside and outside of your home.
It may seem like condensation is a minor problem, but even this small amount of excess moisture can feed biological growth, which can have a significant negative impact on your home’s air quality. A dehumidifier is an excellent way to prevent harmful microbes and particles from developing and creating health risks for you and your family.
Want to Learn More About Basement Waterproofing?
Please use our homeowner’s guide to basement waterproofing. This free resource includes common signs of water damage, the value of downspout extensions, the difference between drainage tile and a french drain, the costs for waterproofing and encapsulation, and many other frequently asked questions.
Do you need more information about the types of cracks you may see in your foundation? This article explains the three major types of foundation cracks, how urgently they need repaired, and more resources for each one.
Would You Like a Professional Assessment of Your Basement?
It’s important that you work with a reputable foundation and waterproofing contractor who is properly insured and accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Not sure how to determine if a business is the right fit for you? Use our checklist of questions to ask a contractor, which provides both the right questions to ask and when you should be cautious of a certain type of response.
If you live in Indiana or the surrounding areas, call Acculevel. We have an A+ rating with the BBB, treat every home as if it were our own, and focus on providing whole-home solutions for our customers. We believe that a proper solution addresses both the symptoms you’ve noticed, as well as condition(s) that are creating symptoms.
If it’s after business hours, or you would prefer written communication, complete our online form instead! We’ll schedule an appointment for you with one of our knowledgeable and experienced project advisors. They will meet with you to discuss your concerns, evaluate your home, and then carefully review the best options and repair methods to meet your goals and needs.