The majority of basement waterproofing today is being done by system companies that claim to offer different methods but always steer you to their preferred method (usually an interior water control system). This one-size-fits-all approach benefits the waterproofing company more often than you, the customer. It’s better practice to use a problem solving approach rather than a system approach.
To solve wet basement issues there are really only two available options: interior or exterior. Interior work uses drainage inside your basement to control the water that is entering, and directs the water to a sump pump. This approach should never be called waterproofing because it’s really called water control. Water control systems allow water in, in order to pump it back out. True basement waterproofing can be done only by exterior excavation to the bottom of the foundation, installing proper drainage and treating the walls to stop more water from entering. In short, the main difference between water control and waterproofing is that one method lets water in and pumps it out (water control), and one keeps water out altogether (waterproofing).
Which method is the best choice for your foundation? There is an overwhelming consensus among professionals outside of the industry (structural engineers, local building department officials, etc.) that waterproofing is always the best choice. You may be wondering why so many companies in this industry propose water control approaches – the simple answer is that it’s all these companies do. Water control systems are fairly easy to install, and involve very little equipment, material, time, and require minimal labour skills. There is a time and a place for water control systems, but if damp spots, cracking, mold, or shifting walls are some of your concerns, water control systems can make your problem(s) worse.
While assessing your home needs, a real professional will take the problem solving approach and will examine your basement (or crawl space) to determine the source of your problem in order to customize a solution specific to your needs (rather than the system approach, where the solution is the same for everyone).
Something else you should be aware of, is that a growing number of water control companies are starting to recommend outside work, like shallow outside drainage systems or exploration trenches – this benefits you very little, and allows the system company to increase their prices. Remember that excavation outside is only effective if you dig to the bottom of the foundation.
A good idea is to investigate a company’s Better Business Bureau Report, and while you’re at it, keep in mind that a company’s size has absolutely no relation to how reliable, experienced or competent it is. Like in all renovation projects, seek the advice of an expert.
Do you have a wet basement story you’d like to share? What would you do if your basement had a leak? Have you had your basement leak repaired, only to find out it still leaked? I look forward to an active discussion on this topic.