basement waterproofing

Exterior waterproofing Toronto

Exterior or Interior waterproofing for your basement.  Which one do you choose?

There are two schools of thought about keeping water out of a basement. One viewpoint believes in stopping it at source. The other lets in it and manages it away. To me it’s a simple matter.  Your first choice is to always fix it from the exterior.  If that’s not possible due various reasons (other homes will be affected, inaccessible area, etc), then an interior waterproofing solution will need to be implemented.

Waterproofing Defined

The dictionary states that “waterproofing” is the act of making something impervious to water. Backpackers waterproof their packs and tents so water can’t get through them. Admitting water into basements and managing it away is the opposite of waterproofing. It’s more of basement water management.

Waterproofing Basements

Waterproofing basements is about denying water access. Anything less is called something else. The process involves:

1  Putting catchment drains on the exterior of the basement at floor level to lead water filtering down away.


2  Treating the outside of the walls with a waterproofing compound or membrane


3  Backfilling the space outside the basement with quality soil, not builder’s rubble


4  Hard-surfacing the result and making sure water can’t pool on it.

This approach applies probability theory to the waterproofing paradigm. For example let’s say the likelihood of water pooling is 5% and that of the waterproofing 1%. The probability of both happening is .05% which is marginal.This belts and braces approach is used all the time.

What Doesn’t Work

The process I just described is specialized. It comes at a cost because digging out and fixing leaking basements properly does take time and is definitely an investment. Some folks prefer to try to skirt the issue by getting an interior waterproofer.  Some companies that claim that all of your basement water problems can be solved from the interior is just flat out wrong.  Applying some sealant on your basement wall won’t do much when water (under pressure) is pushing through cracks and seals in your wall.  You may be able to manage the flow of water once it’s inside the basement, but that’s not waterproofing, it’s water management.  It’s hard to have a dry, finished basement when you have a stream running inside it.

For Small Leaks 

For very minor leaks and cracks, sometimes an interior solution will work, especially if the exterior fix is not an option.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  The important thing to know is that the water trying to make it’s way into your basement is under hydrostatic pressure, and is constantly trying to push it’s way through any crack or pore it can get into.

Another Option

If you’ve been through all that and don’t have enough money left over to waterproof your basement properly, then you could try installing weeping tiles and a sump with a pump. In simple terms this involves chopping out a perimeter drain in the basement floor, and using this to lead the water to a deeper point called a sump.

After that you install a submersible pump to remove the water to someplace outside. This is fine if you use your basement as an unfinished space you don’t plan on using for living purposes. But do you really want this in your living space as you’re missing out on a big part of your home that could be a great source of family fun.

Have questions about water problems in your basement?  Contact us here, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have!



leaking basement where foundation meets first floorWinter in Toronto is cold and wet.  The thawing periods in between the freezing weather is where many basement starts to show signs of leaks. AS accumulated snow and ice start to melt, it makes it’s way into the earth, leading to basement leaks. Of course,  It can come from a number of areas, including sources inside your home.  Each problem has it’s own potential solution,

Almost every basement leaks from time to time, especially if it’s never been properly waterproofed from the exterior. It’s a natural phenomenon because building materials are porous unless treated properly, and structural cracks develop as the ground settles over time. This leaves important clues for anybody who knows what they are about. You just need to think logically about what causes dampness, and which of the following apply to you:

1- If your basement ceiling is moist then the water is likely coming from a drain or water pipe above, that could have sprung a leak. Alternatively, your problem could be the consequence of warmer air condensing on cooler pipes and dripping down. These are simple problems the average home handyman can probably fix themselves.

2- Surface water is a common cause of signs of damp on upper basement walls. It’s often caused by rain and flooding. If you allow water to pool on the surface, then the earth will absorb it because that’s what soil does. Where else do you think tree roots get their water from? It’s easy to figure out you need to lead storm water away from the walls of your house, especially near your basement location.


If the surface slopes towards your home then you need to re-grade it to a fall of one inch to one foot away from it. It will help greatly if you pave the immediate area too. This should deal effectively with damp showing in the upper parts of your basement walls. Don’t forget to clean out your window wells at the same time too.


  1. Ground water is usually the driver behind damp on lower basement walls and floors. This is moisture that travels through natural earth strata from elsewhere to your home. If your house is standing on a rise you shouldn’t have it. If it’s in a hollow then it’s inevitably there in winter. This is what causes damp on lower walls, and seepage through the joint between the walls and floor.

This is a tougher nut to crack, especially because problems behind walls and under floors that are hard to get to. If the leakage is radical you might have to excavate from outside and install the drainage systems builders call french drains and weeping tiles. If it’s minor, then a sump pump system might suffice.

It’s simpler when you understand the basics. However many of the cases we’ve dealt with had multiple causes that overlap. The best course of action is to look for the simple solutions and work your way back. If problems persist you’ll most likely want to call in a basement waterproofing company to conduct a full assessment of your water problems.


Sump pump installed in Toronto homeIt’s a homeowner’s nightmare, you come home after a relaxing vacation to find out that your sump pump quit on you, leaving you with a lovely welcome home present, a wet basement.

Unless a basement is professionally constructed with external french drains and thorough waterproofing, it’s bound to leak to an extent. This problem is especially prevalent in older homes where poorly-compacted earth may gradually subside. While quality sump pumps may seem to purr on endlessly, the time does eventually come when water starts pooling on the basement floor again.

When this happens the problem may not lie with the pump itself, because it is part of a system and the cause of the stoppage may lie elsewhere. It’s absolutely vital to remember that electricity and water do not mix. Make sure the power is turned off and the pump disconnected before you start. Never touch an electrical appliance with both hands if you have the slightest doubt.

Electrical Checks

Power supply is the logical place to start. However this is also the area where the greatest caution is required. If the sump pump is hard-wired to the mains distribution board you need to ask an electrician to perform tests. They will be able to confirm the integrity of the connection, or whether there is an electrical problem with the pump itself.

If your sump pump is of the plug-in variety (not generally recommended) then you can substitute another appliance that you know is working, and easily confirm whether there’s power to the pump or not. If it turns out that there are power supply problems or the pump is electrically faulty, then this is a job that needs the attention of a professional. If not, then here are a few other things that you could attempt.

Mechanical Integrity

Fill the sump with clean water and turn on the power. Does the pump start and run smoothly? If not, there are several lines of thought to follow:

  • If the pump doesn’t start then there may be a problem with the float valve. Lift it gently using a wood or plastic rod. If this causes the pump to start then the float valve is either stuck or dirty. Remember to turn off the power before you investigate.


  • If the pump is noisy or runs unevenly then you may be faced with a broken impeller or worn bearings. This is a job for someone with technical experience. It may be cheaper and quicker to install a new sump pump.


  • If the pump runs smoothly but the water level is unaffected then water is not passing through it to the drains. Locate the one-way valve a little thicker than the pipe on the delivery side. Disconnect the valve on the pump side. Loosely cover the exposed pipe end with a damp cloth and run the pump for just a second.


  • If the pump delivers water smoothly then your one-way valve is faulty and should be replaced. If not, then there is a stoppage in the pump itself. This could be a blocked filter which you should be able to clear easily. If not, then you’ve spent enough time on this one. Buy a new pump for the electrician to install. The old one belongs with the garbage!

Don’t always blame your handy little sump pump when water pools on your basement floor. There could be any one of a number of other things behind the problem. We recommend you test your sump pump from time to time during the dry season, and you have the time to repair and troubleshoot. The last thing you need on a cold and rainy Toronto day is a flooded basement.

This is a guest post by Bricks and Pieces, a UK based Independent design and building solution expert

Many older homes have a basement or cellar but the likelihood is that this isn’t being used for anything other than storage, if it’s being used at all. Yet in cities, where space to expand is at a premium, converting your cellar can give you useful extra space and add value to your property with relatively little disruption. The advantage of a cellar conversion over converting your loft is that it’s usually nearer to other living areas of the house. This makes it ideal for things like games rooms, gyms, studies or home cinemas.

Converting a cellar or basement into habitable space is a relatively rare task people take on in the UK due to moist air and land. It doesn’t have to be a scarce home improvement though. In most cases a conversion won’t need planning permission as you’re not changing the external appearance of the property. The exceptions are if you’re creating a completely separate living unit, a basement flat say or you’re excavating a new basement from scratch. Building regulations of course will always apply with regards to things like escape routes, ventilation, damp proofing, electrics and so on.

Is My House Suitable?

If you have an existing cellar then the answer is almost certainly yes. You’ll probably need to carry out some remedial work like water proofing and fitting a better staircase but otherwise it should be a relatively painless process.

The modern trend is to add new basements to properties that don’t already have them. Most older properties have a suspended timber floor which means that disruption to the house is minimized because most of the work can be carried out from the outside. However, some older homes have relatively shallow foundations so you may need to underpin the walls before work can commence. It’s important to get a professional to advise you here.

The biggest problem with any below ground conversion is likely to be water and how to keep it out. Rainwater may seep from the outside boundaries of the property or from blocked gutters and drains down towards the basement. Because it doesn’t get direct sunlight it can be difficult to get damp to dry up, leading to mildew and other problems. The most common solution to dealing with rainwater problems is to lay drainage pipes around the base of the outside walls so that the water is carried away before it seeps down.

Groundwater seeping into the cellar may also present a problem. In these cases the best solution is to install a lining membrane behind a secondary wall; this allows water to collect in a sump from where it can be pumped away to the outside. This is more effective than the older technique of tanking with a cement lining and works even in locations where the water table is high. Before undertaking any kind of conversion you should check if your area is liable to flooding.

Other Things to Think About

If your house is terraced or semi-detached then you’ll need to consider the neighbours. They’re entitled to inquire about the possibility of subsidence and request a report at your expense. A good architect or surveyor should be able to advise you here but it’s still worth having a chat to your neighbours before you start work.

Your cellar conversion will also need services like electricity, plumbing and heating so it’s important to work out how you’re going to provide these. Depending on the use you intend to put it to you may also need phone and TV points. To ensure safety it’s a good idea to have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide alarm too.

If there’s a wooden floor above you’ll need to pay attention to soundproofing so that you’re not disturbed by people moving about upstairs. Don’t make it too soundproof though, you still need to hear the phone and the doorbell!

Because there’s likely to be little natural light you’ll need to pay particular attention to lighting in your cellar. The use of halogen spot lights can produce a bright, white light and they can be embedded discreetly in ceilings or walls. The décor can help here too, opting for lighter colours can help to give the whole thing an airier feel.

There are lots of uses to which you can put a converted cellar, you’ll find plenty of inspiration online if you’re stuck for ideas. Whatever you want to use it for a cellar conversion can enhance your lifestyle by allowing you to utilize an under-appreciated resource in your home. It can also add significantly to the value of your property.

If you’re thinking of going underground with a cellar conversion, Manchester as an area offers you the chance to choose a specialist who can advise you on the best way to proceed.

Most basements are susceptible to water problems.  Eventually, the water soaked soil surrounding your basement eventually starts to find it’s way through cracks and seams in your aging concrete foundation.  Other times, a slow leaking pipe in the wall starts to cause mold and water damage to your basement.

Water finds its way into a basement through ceilings, walls and floors (and cracks and openings in them) in a variety of ways. When it does, your precious investment begins to deteriorate as your once dry basement, starts to develop a damp, musty small. This article lists the most common signs of damp, so you can take precautions.


Where to Look

Water readily collects at the bottom of basement walls, and makes its way through basement floors as the result of rising hydrostatic pressure. Often its hidden behind the skirting’s, carpets and laminate floors we install to conceal the concrete foundation. The only way to spot it is to look for adjacent efflorescence, mold or damp. After that, you have to remove the covering and get to the root of the problem.

Leaking window well in Toronto home

Window wells can be a recipe for disaster because they fill up like little dams if the drains are blocked. After that, the water leaks past cracked panes and seals in basement windows, before running down the wall and pooling on the floor. Once the drainage is sorted out, the only solution may be complete replacement of the window module.

Another common problem is damp appearing on a basement ceiling accompanied by mold. At least this time you know where it’s coming from, and where to look depending on what’s above. The cause could be a leaking pipe in the structure overhead, or a poorly sealed basement roof, depending on the design. If you can get into the floor space overhead, stick your head down and look carefully with a flashlight.

Basement bathrooms are another source of leaking pipes. This time it’s worse because the water has nowhere else to go. Look for mold where it shouldn’t be, and efflorescence on the walls. Then do something soon, before the tiles start falling off.

Don’t forget to inspect closets and other concealed spaces carefully. Look in corners, around doorframes and under ledges too. If there are signs of water leakage anywhere, you have to track it down and fix it.  Remember that just because you see water in one area, this may not be the source of the leak.  Water will follow a path of least resistance and can travel quite a ways before finding a spot to settle.

basement leak in Etobicoke home

Why This is So Important

Builders go to a great deal of trouble to waterproof houses, especially when it comes to roofs, and openings through outside walls. While you may think this is a cosmetic exercise aimed at increasing comfort, there’s a far more deep-seated reason why they do it .

Many of the materials in our homes are derived from timber and other plant based products. Think wood trusses, paneled walls and gleaming timber floors. When you add the curtains, upholstery and clothes with which we fill our homes, it’s obvious that a large part of our investment is at risk from flooding. And that’s because water causes natural materials to rot.

Basements are full of similar materials. However this time we don’t have easy access to the outside, proper ventilation  or the luxury of gutters, downpipes and run-off water courses. Once basement damp has been left unattended for a few months, the damage to some materials can be irreversible.

If your basement starts to show signs of water or mold problems, the best course of action is to be proactive and fix the problem before it becomes a big problem.  If you’re unsure where the water leak is coming from or if it’s in an inaccessible area, you can always call in a waterproofing professional to provide some expert advice.