Waterproofing, Water Control & Damproofing – What’s The Difference?

Waterproofing is a term that is commonly thrown around by contractors referring to all types of different products, systems and methods designed to stop, prevent or impede water infiltration through a structure, and in our case, a foundation.  In residential applications, especially in repair and restoration situations, the term waterproofing is often misused to describe damproofing, water control and drainage.

Waterproofing, Water Control 7 Damproofing

PERMA-DRY Leaky Basement Sources Illustration

Most contractors interchange these terms and throw them around like they mean the same thing even though it couldn’t be further from the truth.  And what’s more is that many don’t understand the difference.  While all three approaches may result in a dry basement, the processes, application and effectiveness are very different.

When determining what your needs are and which way is the best way for you to go, you first must understand what the terminology means.

Waterproofing is a compound word from the words water and proofing.  Merriam-Webster defines waterproofing as:

wat·er·proof·ing

  1. 1.       a:  the act or process of making something waterproof

b: the condition of being made waterproof

  1. 2.       something (as a coating) capable of imparting waterproofness

And goes on to define waterproof as:

impervious to water; especially: covered or treated with a material (as a solution of rubber) to prevent permeation by water

Dictionary.com defines damproofing as:

damp·proof

adjective

  1. 1.       resistant to dampness or the effects of dampness.

 verb (used with object)

         2.       to make dampproof.

Although a dictionary definition for Water Control could not be found, it’s commonly referred to as the act of controlling water and water flow, most often through drainage.

By its definition, waterproofing is a process that makes a foundation impervious to water.  Most waterproofing contractors only get half the equation; they waterproof the foundation’s walls, but not the floor.  Instead of waterproofing the floor (which is very difficult to do once a home is built), they rely on drainage (a draintile placed beside the foundation’s footing) to prevent hydrostatic pressure and keep water from coming through the floor/wall joint and cracks in the floor.

This kind of approach is actually a hybrid of waterproofing and water control and is a cost-effective, practical solution not to mention a pretty successful way to keep water out of your basement, but it’s not waterproofing; it’s elements of waterproofing combined with water control.

WATERPROOFING

Concrete is pourous which means that it will allow water and moisture to pass through it, so in order to make your foundation “waterproof”, some sort of coating has to be applied to the concrete.  This is normally done by the application of an elastomeric (e•lasto•meric) waterproofing membrane or a crystalline waterproofing material.  To truly waterproof a foundation, the floor must also be water proofed.

The elastomeric membrane approach is a good one, but is extremely difficult to do once the house is built which usually makes it cost prohibitive.  But, if you’re building a home, especially in a wet, swampy area, waterproofing your foundation during construction can be an excellent choice to ensure a dry basement.  The process completely encapsulates the entire below grade portion of the foundation in a flexible, rubber envelope that prevents water and moisture from ever coming in contact with the concrete.

Crystalline waterproofing technology was invented by the Dutch in Holland decades ago, but has only been available in the North American market for about the last twenty years.  It works by closing off the capillaries inside the concrete, making it more dense and thus, impervious to moisture and water.    The crystalline growth re-starts every time it is exposed to moisture.  So, if the foundation settles or moves otherwise and a crack forms, as soon as water comes in contact with the material, crystalline growth starts happening immediately to shut off the leak.  Crystalline waterproofing materials can be added to the concrete mix in the truck before the concrete is placed, can be added as a shake-on power and trowelled into a wet concrete mix or it can be applied over cured concrete.

WATER CONTROL

Water Control methods simply keep water out of your basement or control it when it does enter.  They all work on the basic premise of collecting water from area where you don’t want it and divert it to another area.  If your home was built after 1976, it was built with a weeping system installed at the bottom of your foundation wall and is supposed to be beside the footing, although often it is not.  The weeping tile collects surface water making its way down through the soil to the water table and water from a rising water table.  It is water control.

Lot grading, French drain systems, weeping tile systems, sub-floor drainage systems and sump pumps, air-gap (dimpled) membranes are all methods of water control.

Sub-floor drainage systems are not only very effective, but often the most cost effective way to keep your basement dry.  They also last much longer than tradition exterior drainage systems, are more environmentally friendly, and less disruptive to your life.

DAMPROOFING is the term commonly referring to asphalt (bitumen) based coating that is applied to the outside surface of a concrete wall to prevent moisture from the soil from passing through the concrete into your basement.  It can be applied by roller, brush or spray.  It is typically a very thin coating and is not capable of bridging cracks.  See, the soil around your foundation is at or near 100% humidity and moisture travels from areas of high humidity to areas of lower humidity.  And, since concrete is porous, a bare concrete wall in direct contact with damp soil allows moisture to migrate into your living space, significantly increasing the relative humidity in your basement and severely reducing the livability and enjoyment of your basement too.  There is one other concern as well; efflorescence.  Efflorescence is a white powdery to chalky substance that appears to “grow” on your foundation wall and is often mistake as mould.  Efflorescence is simply the naturally occurring “salts” in the concrete migrating to the inside surface of the foundation with the moisture as it passes through.  Damproofing your foundation walls prevent moisture migration and efflorescence.

The National Building Code only requires that a damproofing material be applied to the foundation walls below ground level and a drain tile be installed beside the foundation’s footing.  Damproofing is only intended to eliminate moisture migration through the concrete wall and does not resist hydrostatic pressure nor does it bridge cracks in the foundation walls.  The drain tile is to collect surface and ground water and drain it away from the foundation; water control.

Injection is a great solution to stop water infiltration through foundation wall cracks and can be considered a variant of waterproofing.  Many don’t understand the theory behind injection and therefore get it wrong, but when done properly, injections are affordable (they normally cost only a matter of hundreds of dollars) and flexible, permanent repairs.

Now that you know that difference between waterproofing, water control and damproofing, you can make an educated decision on which approach is best for you!

PERMA-DRY®

PERMA-DRY®’s newest Strategic-Partner Evan Dickie

We’re happy to introduce Evan Dickie as PERMA-DRY®’s newest Strategic-Partner!  He is taking over from Leon Isenor the central and northern areas of Nova Scotia including the counties of Guysbrough, Antigonish, Pictou, Colchester, Cumberland and East Hants.

Evan is committed to providing our customers a great customer experience taking a

stressful situation and giving customers peace of mind.  He’s also committed to living PERMA-DRY®’s mission to create and keep VERY satisfied customers.

Leon Isenor has been a PERMACRETE®/PERMA-DRY® franchisee for 22 years!  He will be taking some time off to enjoy the summer and his cottage before deciding what to do next.

Buying or Selling A House With A Wet Basement?

Buying or Selling A House With A Wet Basement?Are you considering buying or selling a home this summer but are afraid to because of a wet basement?  It’s a legitimate concern given that a wet basement decreases property value by 10-25% (Yahoo Voices).  Not to mention the fact that a home with a wet basement typically sits on the market longer.

The average Canadian house price in April 2012 was $375,810 (Canadian Real Estate Association).  That could mean up to a $93,952 loss in equity in your home due to a wet basement!  Typically, an entire basement can waterproofed for less than 2% of the average Canadian house price.  That could mean a gain of 8-23% ($30,000 – $86,000)!  Something simple like a foundation wall crack can typically be repaired for a matter of a few hundred dollars meaning even more savings!

If you’re a seller, why wouldn’t you want to unlock the maximum value on your home by fixing a wet basement?  According to Builder Magazine, 19% of home buyers won’t even consider a fixer-upper.  That will significantly reduce the market for your home.  If you’re a buyer, a home with a wet basement can be a great opportunity to score a deal.

Dealing with a wet basement can seem daunting.  With questions like what will it cost?  How do I find out what’s wrong?  Who do I call?  How do I know if what they’re saying is right?   The first thing you will want to do is contact a waterproofing professional to come into your home to conduct a detailed investigation into the source of the water leak.  Once they find the source, the professional will explain to you the causes of the leak and will make repair recommendations.  If the professional you choose also happens to be a contractor, they may provide you with cost estimates for the various options, if there are options.  Secondly you want to get estimates from at least three different waterproofing contractors.

Do your research.  Google the causes of your wet basement and the proposed solutions to make sure that what is being proposed is what’s best for you.  Get at least three references from each contractor you are considering.  Find out how long they’ve been in business and search court records for legal action.  Check out their social media outlets, their web site and of course, review sites like Google Reviews.  Through this research, you will get to know the company, their personality, trustworthiness and so on.  And finally, ask to see their warranty in writing before awarding them the job. If they won’t let you review their warranty, don’t hire them!

As you consider buying or selling a home, don’t let a wet basement stop you from the home of your dreams.

Basement Drainage & Basement Flooding

If you live in an area with a municipal sewer system and your home’s basement drainage system is tied into that system, you could be in trouble when a big storm hits!  Most municipal sewer systems in Canada are only designed to handle storm water from storms that happen once every five years (20% chance) with older systems only capable of draining water from storms that happen once every two years (50% chance)!

Basement Drainage Flooded Basement

Sewer Back-Up in Finished Basement

When these kinds of storms hit, sewer systems get overloaded which prevents yourbasement drainage system from draining causing your basement to flood.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get a swimming pool in your basement that you didn’t bargain for, and if you’re not, you’ll have a sewage treatment plant in your basement!

Waste water, whether it’s sanitary or storm, get to their respective sewer main under the street via a sewer lateral that runs from your home to the sewer main.  Laterals often collapse over time, especially with poor quality pipes that were used in the 60’s and earlier.  Tree root infiltration into residential laterals in another common problem, especially in homes with older sewer laterals reducing the capacity of the lateral and trap solid waste.

There Are Three Common Types of Municipal Sewer Systems:

Sanitary Sewer:  is for collecting household plumbing waste from sinks, toilets, showers and typically does not carry any surface water.  Unlike in the past, municipalities now treat waste water from the sanitary sewer system before it is discharged. Almost every municipality prohibits clean groundwater and surface water from being introduced into the sanitary sewer system due not only to the cost of treating clean water, but the reduction in the system’s capacity that adding clean water causes.

Storm Sewer:  collects surface water during rain, snow melt and storms.  Water from storm sewer systems are not always treated and often run directly into lakes, rivers, etc.

Combined Sewer: are typically found in older cities and sections of older cities.  They collect the household sanitary waste and storm water as well.  Back in the day this waste water was not treated and was dumped directly into harbours, lakes, rivers and so on.  Most municipalities with combined sewer systems have embarked on massive public infrastructure projects to separate combined sewer systems into two separate systems; Sanitary and Storm.  In areas where this hasn’t been done, many municipalities have passed by-laws prohibiting household surface water from foundation drains, sump pumps and downspouts from being discharged into the combined sewer system.

Municipal Requirements

Older homes often have their basement drainage system tied into the sanitary sewer system or a combined sewer system.  Most municipalities prohibit clean groundwater and surface water from being introduced into these systems.  Existing homes with the original basement drainage system tied-in are often grandfathered in; however, a lot of municipalities give incentives to homeowners to disconnect from these systems.  Replacement of the basement drainage system is often not grandfathered and therefore illegal to tie a replacement basement drainage system into either a sanitary or combined sewer system.

If you have to replace your existing basement drainage system, consult with your municipality to find out what you can do and what you can’t.  In many cases, a sump pump is required to mechanically lift groundwater from the basement to the surface on the outside.  If you have a contractor that doesn’t know your municipally requirements, don’t hire him!  Even worse, if they do know the requirements and choose to cut corners and disobey the law, run!  What does that tell you about their character and integrity?  About the likelihood of them honoring your warranty if they even provide one?

So What Can You Do To Protect Your Home From Flood Damage?

  1. Have a licensed plumber install a back flow preventer (backwater valve) on your sanitary sewer line if you don’t already have one.
  2. Disconnect your downspouts from your perimeter drain and sewer system.
  3. Disconnect your basement drainage system from the sewer system.
  4. Install either a new basement drain that discharges to a low area or
  5. Install a sump pump to mechanically lift water from your basement to the surface.  A battery powered back-up pump is highly recommended to be installed any time a sump pump is installed.  A battery powered back-up will protect you from not only power outages, but mechanical failure too.
  6. Ensure proper lot grading and drainage around your home.
  7. Hire a Foundation Waterproofing & Drainage professional to conduct a thorough investigation of your basement drainage system.
  8. Hire a licensed plumber to do a thorough investigation of your home’s plumbing system and especially your sewer lateral.

 Conclusion

Basement flooding is a serious problem, having surpassed fire damage as the #1 cause of loss in Canadian homes.  In order to have a dry and flood-free basement, your home requires a well-designed, properly functioning drainage system to drain ground and surface water from around your home.

Have your basement drainage system inspected by a professional, and have your basement drainage disconnected from the sewer system and either install a new drain that uses gravity to drain to a low area or install a sump pump to lift the water out of your basement.  And don’t forget the back-up pump!

WATERPROOFING BASEMENT FLOOR – IT’s MORE COMPLICATED THAN YOU THINK!

Water infiltration into your basement through the floor can be a serious problem causing significant damage to your home. Waterproofing basement floor is the best way to prevent problems. Ideally, this would be done during construction, but often is not. If you need to waterproof basement floor after the home is built, first, you must understand how and why water gets past your basement floor into your basement. Water can enter your basement by coming through:

• Cracks in the floor due to hydrostatic pressure
• Floor/Wall joint due to hydrostatic pressure
• Capillary action
• Vapour transmission due to differential
• Condensation due to a cold floor and warm, humid air in the loving space.

Waterproofing Basment Floor

Water Flooding Basement through the basement floor

HYDROSTATIC PRESSURE
Hydrostatic pressure is a technical term for water pressure. Simply put, the force of gravity exerted on a liquid at equilibrium; the weight of water bearing on an object. This happens when you have a high water table and insufficient drainage around the bottom of your foundation. The water table on the outside of the foundation will rise higher than the basement floor level causing the water trapped beneath the floor to come under pressure. As pressure builds, water will force its way into your basement through cracks in the floor and the floor/wall joint.

CAPILLARY ACTION
Capillary action is when water is “drawn” upward, against the pull of gravity through narrow tubes in porous materials called “capillaries”. Your concrete basement floor is porous and if the water table rises to come into contact with the underside of the slab, water will migrate through the floor slab due to capillary action causing a wet floor.

VAPOUR TRANSMISSION
Vapour Transmission occurs when moisture migrates from areas of high humidity to areas of lower humidity. The soil beneath and around your foundation is at 100% humidity and as we learned above, the concrete in your home is porous and when you combine that with basement humidity between 50-65%, moisture will naturally move from the soil through the concrete into the living space without a vapour barrier.

CONDENSATION
Condensation often occurs in the summer in un-insulated basement floors. At a soil depth of 2.45m (8ft), the soil is 10˚C (53˚F) even in the summer! This cold soil keeps an un-insulated concrete floor cold. You’ve probably noticed this walking around on our bare feet. When hot, humid summer air comes into contact with the cold floor, it condenses leaving water behind like water on the outside of a glass of ice water on a hot summer day.

There are numerous ways to correct these problems and prevent them in the first place. Over the past 40+/- years an asphalt based coating has typically been applied to the outside of foundation walls as a damp proofing material to prevent vapour transmission through the walls. Spray applied damp proofing is not practical to use on a basement floor so instead, polyethylene sheeting is often installed on the sub-soils beneath the basement floor has been used over the past 30 + years as a vapour barrier to eliminate vapour transmission through the floor and minimize capillary action. Perimeter drains or footing drains as they’re sometimes called drain water away from the bottom of your foundation, lowering the water table minimizing capillary action. Over the past 25-30 years, new homes have had to have air exchangers installed which remove heavy, moist air from the basement and exhaust it to the outdoors helping to reduce condensation on the floor. To further help reduce condensation, extruded polystyrene (Styrofoam) insulation is installed beneath the concrete floor to act as a thermal break in order to help keep the floor temperature closer to room temperature, further reducing condensation.

Waterproofing basement floor is an important to the livability and enjoyment of your home. If you are considering waterproofing your basement floor, you should contact a professional to come to your home to provide a consultation and come up with a plan that’s specific to your home.