basement waterproofing

wet basements Richmond Hill-TorontoDoes your Toronto home have a wet basement?

A chronic wet basement is a sign that you have a serious problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. A basement that is chronically wet can mean you have potential foundation problems. Damp or wet basements can lead to structural issues, water damage, and potential health problems such as mould and mildew growth.

There are many reasons why people use their basements. Some of the reasons you use your basement could include using the basements for additional living space, recreational, a home office, or just simply as storage space. Regardless of the reason, if you have a moisture problem, leakage or some degree of flooding, you need to address the problem because it will not go away on its own.

The only solution to correct your basement’s water issues is to determine the source of the moisture. Most commonly wet and leaking basement problems are remedied through waterproofing your Toronto basement.

However, you need to be aware that not all basements are the same. There are many reasons and causes why your basement leaks or is wet, so there are a variety of waterproofing solutions that can be used to fix your particular problem.

Also, not all basements are constructed the same as foundations for homes can be different, especially in older homes. Building codes and materials used in the construction of basement foundations have evolved over time.

Also, everything changes from the effects of wear and tear, and is subject to movement, erosion, and temperature extremes, just to name a few. Even newer homes can have leakage or seepage problems from different causes.

Reasons for your wet and damp basement problems

Let’s look at some of the causes in more detail for a leaking or wet basement. It can range from hydrostatic (fluid) pressure, deterioration of the foundation from water or frost, shifting and movement of the soil, and a host of other reasons. Each cause needs to be determined and corrected properly or the problem will likely recur again.

Some of the reasons for your wet basement can include one or several of the causes;

Cracked Foundation Walls

Leaks can occur from cracks in the foundation walls or floors of your basement. They allow moisture and even critical leaks of water to occur. These cracks may appear small on the inside of the basement, but even small hairline cracks will leak over time. You might think a simple patch job will fix the problem, but it will do so only temporarily. The problem has to be fixed from the outside through excavation and a full repair. We may employ an interior solution but only if the problem cannot be repaired from the exterior.

cracked foundation wall in toronto basement


Many people experience flooding in their homes because of a heavy snowfall followed by a sudden warm spell which the clogged and ice covered municipal drain systems can’t handle. Even more problematic are the sudden and heavy rainfalls which also overload the system. Sometimes this is confused with a significant problem, or that waterproofing someone previously completed is not functional. However, it is best to let a professional assess the source of the flood and advise accordingly.

Water Table

The water table varies throughout the city of Toronto, and also varies according to amount of rain. You may not have experienced any problems for years. All of a sudden you have leakage, seepage or flooding problems that appear inexplicable. This problem will flood the subfloor of the basement, and does not allow the weeping tile to “weep” water down underneath the finished space of the home.

toronto has a high water table

Drainage Problems

Poor drainage is another major cause of wet basements. Water can suddenly start to appear as if it’s leaking up through the floor. It may appear where the walls and floor meet or come through cracks in the wall. There are different types of drainage systems used which range from French drains to crushed stones. For one reason or another, there may be damage or the system becomes plugged which causes the water to back-up.

Eaves trough Problems

An eaves trough system is used to prevent rain water and melting snow from overloading the drainage system and direct it away from the house. Unfortunately, many people neglect to keep the eaves trough in good repair, and let it to become clogged, or fail to ensure the water is being drained away from the home.

cracks in troughs can lead to basement leaks

Window Wells

Poorly constructed or badly maintained window wells can also cause your basement to experience leakage or moisture problems. Most often these wells require a little maintenance which can help stop leaks seeping through below grade windows! Any window within six inches of the ground requires a well with a drain to the footing!

window wells are a source of basement water leaks

Waterproofing Solutions

Depending on the cause of your wet basement problems, you will need the right solution to permanently fix the problem. The proper waterproofing solution will save you aggravation, prevent health and humidity problems. Additionally, proper waterproofing will give added value to your Toronto home.

There are 2 approaches that can be taken when to waterproofing your basement. They are interior repairs and exterior repairs. Truthfully though, the interior repair is not a real waterproofing solution, and is used for areas when the exterior of the foundation cannot be accessed.

Interior repairs are also used when lowering a basement. This process means that the floor and utilities are lowered, so the weeping tile and drainage board must also be lowered to account for the new depths.

Real waterproofing occurs from the exterior repair of the basement where we employ various layers of membranes to ensure no water can penetrate the worked on area.

Let’s examine both solutions in more detail so you will properly understand the differences.

Drawbacks of Interior Basement Waterproofing

Interior basement waterproofing does not employ the use of a sealant. True interior waterproofing allows a membrane to be installed into the interior of the home where we divert water underneath the basement floor to a drainage system (interior weeping tile).

Applying an over the counter sealant on the interior of a basement wall or floor, will likely result in causing the moisture to be trapped in the cracks, and cause further eroding of the foundation. The foundation problems will worsen over time. If the problem is caused by problems in the exterior drainage system or cracks, the interior is a more temporary solution as water still enters but is diverted.

Another drawback of this solution is that if repairs are performed incorrectly you are likely going to be creating standing water. This will perpetuate problems of high humidity, and can develop health hazards from mould infestation which can spread throughout the house.

Interior repairs are only to be performed after evaluating the state of the basement foundation and the severity of the problem. Usually the interior repair is done only until you can fix any existing or apparent problems on the exterior of the basement foundation.

Benefits of Exterior Basement Waterproofing

The best approach to have your Toronto home waterproofed, and to do so correctly, is to perform an exterior repair. This is the only way you can solve drainage issues and to properly correct any problems with the foundation of your home and prevent further structural damage.

exterior waterproofing on Toronto home

How Exterior Basement Waterproofing Works

The first approach would be to correct any problems with the drainage system such as the weeping tiles, and fix any existing foundation problems in the footing or walls of the basement.

After correcting any existing problems which may make excavation unsafe, the exterior of the basement foundation walls and footings are fully excavated. When exposed, the walls are then covered with a special hydraulic concrete and liquid tar like membrane.

This process prevents the advent of moisture and acts as a permanent barrier. The exterior is then re-enforced with a mesh, and the tar is re-applied. A drainage board is installed along with new weeping tile, landscape fabric, clear stone and finish strips.

How long do these liquid membranes last? These membranes have a shelf life prescribed by the manufacturer, but most carry a functional life span of ten years. They are designed to stay elastomeric (never cures hard).

Regardless of what caused the leakage or seepage into your basement, selecting the best waterproofing membranes is always the correct way to repair a wall. The only way to fix failed tar is to dig it back up, so it must be done correctly the first time.

Waterproofing Versus Damp Proofing

When your home is constructed new, it is initially damp proofed to allow the concrete or foundation block to dry. This means that only 99% of the water is deterred from the wall allowing some escape of moisture so the wall can dry. Conversely, this means over time that water can and will enter the wall.

You must understand that damp proofing is part of the building code in Ontario, and lasts an indefinite amount of time. When we employ waterproofing membranes, 100% of the water is kept out of the wall to avoid frost issues, prevents water penetration through absorption, or covers any gaps, cracks, and holes that may leak. This only can be done with exterior repairs!


Some contractors might promote the notion of a ‘quick fix’ by suggesting that you strictly use a sealant as a cheaper alternative to fixing your leaky basement, but the money you save now will most likely end up costing you a lot more down the road.

Your best bet is contact a qualified and licensed waterproofing contractor and to have your basement properly inspected with moisture tools and repaired by a reputable waterproofing contractor.

Some things seem sent to test our patience, and a flooded basement’s certainly one of them. For starters, by definition you can seldom drain a basement easily, and access is often only up and down the stairs. Stay calm. First things first, keep your cool, call in specialist assistance. After that, you need to take action before the situation deteriorates any further.

Flooded basement in Toronto

Think Safety First

Stay out of your basement if you think there’s the slightest chance of an electric short circuit. Isolate the power supply (if you can access it safely) and call in an electrician to make sure it’s switched off properly. Before you enter the flooded area afterwards make sure you have the right safety gear. Gumboots, a hard hat, heavy rubber gloves and a facemask are minimum requirements.

Notify Your Insurance Company

Log a report with your insurers right away. Tell them you are taking immediate action to protect your assets, and ask them to confirm their preferred service provider(s). Remember to take copious photographs as you go along. That’s because these are the silent witnesses that everybody trusts.

Find out Where the Water’s Coming From

There’s no point at all in drying out your basement if the water’s still flowing in (although you may wish to remove your precious possessions assuming it’s completely safe to do so). Consider the following possibilities:

  • A burst water pipe (in which case you need to isolate the supply)


  • A sewerage overflow (don’t put anything more down the drains)


  • Water seepage (try to redirect the flow of water outside).

Once you’ve completed these essential checks and taken the necessary action with the assistance a certified waterproofing contractor, your next step is to remove the water that’s accumulated down there.

removing water from Toronto basement

Empty Out the Basement

Remember that you’ve got just a few days before the mould sets in, and that it’s well-nigh impossible to eliminate it once it has taken hold. If there’s standing water find a specialist to pump it out for you. You could also rent a submersible pump and do the job yourself. However this might end up wasting precious time and costing more money in the end, especially if it results in extensive mould damage.

Remove everything from the basement – unless it’s clearly irretrievably damaged – and take it to a recovery area. Remember to maintain a list as you go along, and carefully note any damage that could be an insurance claim. Find a professional cleaner to attend to your soft furnishings, clothes and carpets.

The Big Clean-Up

Don’t take chances with your health. The water down there’s certain to be polluted, and a simple cut can easily turn septic. Find a professional restoration company to completely dry out, disinfect and sanitise all walls, floors and permanent fixtures. This is what makes and breaks your battle with persistent mold.

Assess the Long-Term Damage

It’s highly likely that your damp-proofing has been impaired. There’s also a possibility that your building foundations could have been damaged. Call in a specialist to investigate these possibilities before you move back in, so that any remedial work can be done with minimal disruption to your life style. Finally, arrange a mold inspection in a week’s to make sure you won that battle.

Lessons Learned

Basements do flood sometimes. The problem is we’re not there all the time and the water can accumulate undetected.. There are several things you can do to reduce the damage next time though. Keep things in storage off the ground. Inspect the basement regularly. If you can afford one, an automated sump pump can make a huge difference to your peace of mind.  If you have a basement susceptible to dampness, consider having your basement inspected and tested for any health hazards that may be brewing down there.