Article No: 218
Landscaping: Its role in waterproofing your home
By: Christopher Brooks
Blue Max elastomeric liquid rubber coating for waterproofing concrete surfaces, such as foundations, basements, insulated concrete forms, and stucco, may be rolled, brushed, or sprayed onto the surface. The product’s adhesive qualities in glue surfaces together and strengthen wall construction. Photograph courtesy of Ames Research Laboratories, Inc.
Homebuyers and builders need to consider the all-important issue of waterproofing the home—particularly the basement. Any basement that will be finished needs to be effectively and permanently waterproofed. What many don’t realize is that one not only needs to consider an effective waterproofing system, but also external components that will support the efforts of such a system.
The matter of landscaping is something that should be considered in the initial design stage of a new home. No house is safe from the potential of a leaky basement unless specific steps are taken.
You can have a house atop a hill, but the basement might leak. Creating an effective plan for a home’s waterproofing system is a threefold process: first, choosing effective materials for below-grade exterior waterproofing; second, installing an effective interior drainage system; and third, implementing a landscape design program that will allow water and moisture to flow away from the house and basement walls rather than against it. From gutters and downspouts to lined ditches and curbs, various systems can be installed to keep your basement dry. However, to a large extent, the success of your home’s waterproofing depends on how the surrounding land has been landscaped and prepared.
“Water seepage is a familiar problem in too many basements, and there is nothing more dangerous or destructive to your foundation than leaks,” says Pete Cary, product services manager at Ames Research Laboratories, Inc., in Salem, Oregon. Ames manufactures basement waterproofing, deck paint, roof coating, and varied paint products. “This is especially true if you live in wet climates. Your basement is at risk unless you take the proper preventative waterproofing measures. Seepage happens because water collects in small pockets in the soil next to the foundation and begins to form hydrostatic pressure. The pressure increases until the moisture is literally pressed through the wall.”
Cary says proper landscaping is a key step in the right direction. “Since there is only one way for water to get into your home, first you should examine the outside of your house to see if water is being diverted properly. Look at how the soil and the foundation meet. Is the ground sloping away or toward the foundation? This is the primary reason why water enters the home. It has nowhere to go but in. The ground outside by the foundation needs to slope away from the house so the water flows away from the foundation instead of right to it. Make certain planters and flowerbeds are properly installed a safe distance away from foundation and don’t add to moisture at the foundation.
“It’s vital to apply a non-permeable waterproof membrane to the exterior below-grade wall,” Cary advises. Ames’ Blue Max is a special blend of adhesive, high-strength elastomeric liquid rubber that is useful for such projects. It is high in solids and dries to a tough 800 percent elastic membrane that resists cracking and peeling. The product is impervious to water when applied in a uniform and seamless fashion with adequate millage.
Cary explains, “Blue Max flows into cracks and crevices as a liquid and sets up as a durable rubber to seal leaks wherever they occur. This coating is water-based and contains no petroleum. It is non-toxic, VOC-free, low odor, and environmentally friendly. It can be used as a potable water coating. The product is easy to apply. Simply roll, brush, or spray it on and clean up with water.”
Displacement of water
Many homeowners often neglect or overlook the importance of gutters and secondary drainage routes from gutters. “Ensure proper displacement of water from gutter systems,” Cary adds. “Are your gutters clean? Or do they leak over the edge, down the walls, to the foundation? Even if water is being properly drained, is it being taken far enough away? If your drainage system allows water to flow back towards your home, then you will need some downspout extensions to ensure that the water is draining properly. Follow these guidelines and your basement should be safe from water damage. Protecting your basement before any damage can be done is the best way to protect your investment.”
Drainage and grading are essential
First and foremost, drainage and grading are important matters to consider. Your home site must be properly graded and a drainage system in place to route water away from the home and, specifically, the below-grade basement perimeter. “Whether you’re talking about drainage in terms of water flowing over land or seepage into the soil, poor drainage is one of the worst elements that can damage a home’s foundation,” says Dave Polk, president of Epro Waterproofing Services in Derby, Kansas, manufacturers of waterproofing systems. “When buying or building a new home, you definitely want to be assured that positive landscaping elements exist. Poor drainage can result in a leaky basement. The builder and architect need to consider this during the structure’s early design stages.”
“Sometimes it’s necessary to reshape the land. Often, totally new grading of an area is necessary, but worth the effort,” says Polk. “Such grading will aid immeasurably in preventing water from flooding basements, damaging below-grade structural components and pooling around foundations.”
In waterproofing below-grade basement walls, Polk recommends first installing a protective barrier that also serves as a root barrier. ECOSHIELD-E, manufactured by Epro Waterproofing Services, is such a product, specifically designed to provide cost-effective and high-performance protection for the waterproofing membrane on vertical below-grade waterproofing applications. This also prevents tree roots from penetrating the foundation and causing damage.
In addition, this product also acts as a slip-sheet for backfill and as a secondary independent waterproofing membrane. ECODRAIN-E is then installed over the ECOSHIELD-E and is designed to meet the drainage and protection requirements for below-grade waterproofing. It eliminates hydrostatic pressure against below-grade structures and aids in de-watering saturated soil by collecting and conveying groundwater to a drain pipe for discharge while protecting the waterproofing membrane.
There are many effective waterproofing materials for below-grade and other aspects of residential waterproofing. Do some research on manufacturers’ products to determine what would work best for your next project. And remember, it’s imperative to have a good landscaping design in effect. This will save time and expense and allow the homeowner to have a permanently dry basement.
Based in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Contributing Writer Christopher Brooks writes about the home—inside and out—for consumer and trade magazines.
Ames Research Laboratories, Inc.
Epro Waterproofing Services