Waterproofing Common Problems

Water is relentless, and it is not uncommon that as homes and buildings age, the erosive nature of water will eventually deteriorate man-made materials, and you suddenly find yourself with problems you didn’t expect. The most common problems occur at or below the grade of your home.

Damp Basement

Perhaps there is nothing like an obvious leak, but you can tell that the humidity in the basement is higher than upstairs. Water can be leaking in behind interior walls, insulation, or rising through the basement floor through the hydrostatic pressure of groundwater.


MildewA sure sign of a water infiltration problem is mildew, which contributes to a noticeable, stuffy smell in the basement that eventually may rise through the floor into your main living area. Mildew is a fungus and flourishes in wet, dark areas.


Mold is also a type of fungus, and grows on wet, woody material, like basement joists and support beams. It also will contribute to an unpleasant smell in an enclosed basement.


LeaksOutright leaks stem from cracks, crevices, and deterioration of the foundation of your building. Particularly during very wet events, such as a warm day when there is a lot of snow on the ground, the ground will become saturated, and the pressure will force water through whatever entryway is available. Once the water has penetrated your concrete foundation wall, it is very difficult to stop, even if you attempt to seal it with waterproof caulking or a concrete patch.

Buckling floors

If your building sits on an area that has significant hydrostatic groundwater pressure, the pressure can literally press against the underside of your basement floor and cause it to shift and buckle. This condition would need to be addressed by a subsurface drainage system installed around the interior of your basement floor.

Ceiling tile stains

If your basement ceiling is at or below grade, surface cracks and seeps can occur and result in a ceiling tile or drywall stains. If extreme, the ceiling tiles will be permanently ruined, or the drywall may be so compromised that it fails.

Wet Wiring

Wet WiringIf you have a ceiling or wall leak, and it gets into the electrical wiring, the most benign problem may just be an electrical short. However, electrical shorts are nothing to dismiss lightly. They can lead to further problems, including failure of the basement electrical system and, possibly, fire.

Stains and Wet Carpet

Water stains on unfinished basement floors indicate to prospective homebuyers that there is an existing problem that needs to be addressed. Even more disturbing is floored with carpeting that gets wet and smells of mildew if left unaddressed. Wet carpet can be saved, with a substantial amount of effort and cost, if it is discovered and addressed within 48 hours. However, after 48 hours, it probably cannot be saved – it has to be replaced. Of course, the fundamental source of the wetness also needs to be addressed. Early attention to waterproofing allows many homeowners to skip the step of having to replace the carpet.

Leaking window wells

Leaking window wells are particularly common when silt or dirt has built up over the years and compromised the original drainage below the open area of the well. Water has no way to drain, so it will find small cracks or deteriorated seals in order to invade your basement.


If you start to develop cracks in your interior walls, it is likely that your foundation is settling. In all likelihood, water has undermined the foundation, possibly deteriorated the concrete, and one part of your foundation is settling (or settling faster than other parts). This situation calls for a new drainage system around the area (or, more likely, the entire building) to arrest this settlement problem.