basement waterproofing

When You Need To Install a French Drain System

A French drain system can be the ideal solution for Toronto area homeowners who are dealing with a wet basement and/or soggy yard. Water naturally flows downhill and always takes the easiest route it possibly can. This concept is basically what’s behind a French drain system as it’s a trench which is sloped slightly and filled with a pipe and round gravel which diverts the water away from the building. The concept was invented by a 19th-century American named Henry French and is still an effective system today.

The French drains gives water an easy avenue to flow through. It runs into the gravel-filled trench and then flows into a perforated pipe which is sits at the bottom of the trench. The water can travel quite freely through this pipe and its emptied from the home at a safe distance. In general, the bottom of the trench should slope approximately one inch for each eight feet in the direction you’d like the water to flow. The water can then be emptied to a drainage ditch, a low-lying section of the property, the street or a dry well etc.

Soggy Property
Those who are dealing with surface water and soggy areas of their property can benefit from a French drain system as can those who suffer from wet basements. When it comes to soggy areas, the French drain, which is also known as a curtain drain, runs horizontally across the property and uphill from the area which you’d like to dry out. The drain doesn’t necessarily need to be deep as most of them are about two feet in depth and approximately 1.5 feet across. If the drain has to pass through treed areas or shrubbery a solid pipe can be used to make sure roots don’t grow into it and clog it.

Wet Basement
With a wet basement, a deep French drain is a good option. This system is also known as a footing drain. It is located at footing level and runs around the home’s perimeter. This enables it to catch the water before it’s able to flow into the basement. These systems are easy to install during the construction of a building, but can also be added later if necessary. If the basement is tall then the foundation footing may be quite a few feet down. In some instances, landscaping, walkways and decks may have to be taken out to install the drain. If there isn’t enough slope for the system to be effective the water may need to be sent via a sump pump to the storm drain system.

French Drain System

Interior French Drain
The interior French drain is designed to intercept the water as flows into the basement and is considered the best option when it comes to a dry basement. If the basement is finished though it means the interior walls will need to be moved before the system can be installed. A channel is cut around the basement floor’s perimeter and the concrete is chipped out. Perforated pipe is then installed all the way around. This sends the water to a collection tank which is sunk into the floor and it’s sent to a storm drain or the yard by a sump pump. The channel contains a thin concrete layer except at the edge and this catches water which may dribble down the wall.

If you’re interested in learning more about French drain systems please contact our team of professionals at Nusite. We’ll be glad to answer all of your questions and schedule a house call to discuss your unique situation. A French drain may be just the thing you’re looking for if you basement is continually wet or your property consists of soggy areas which won’t dry out.

What Basement Waterproofing Is Best

There is one concern that all homeowners with basements have… a wet basement. Chances are if you are reading this article you either, have a wet basement and are looking for a solution or you are worried about having one in the future. No one wants to deal with leaking or flooding in their basement, so it is important to take steps to waterproof your basement before the need arises.


If you do a quick search online for waterproofing your basement there are three main solutions that you will find: crack injection, interior weeping tile and exterior waterproofing.


  1. Crack Injection – Using a product for crack injection is a common way to repair cracks in your home’s foundation and one of the least expensive. With all of the freezing and thawing that happens throughout the year it is common to end up with small cracks in your basement walls over time. Crack injection is one solution for repairing any of the small cracks that are allowing water to leak through. However, while this solution can keep water from entering your basement it is a temporary solution.


Crack injection does not address where the water is coming from so you will continue to have water trying to enter your basement and it will eventually find a new route. A long term solution will still be necessary. While this can help keep water out for a short time, it is not truly a long term waterproofing solution.


  1. Interior Weeping Tile (French drains) – A solution that is a step up from crack injection, is installing interior weeping tile. Just like crack injection, installing interior weeping tile is not a true waterproofing solution, but more of a way to manage the water that has entered your basement. This system is also known as an interior French drain, which is not named after the country, but the creator Henry Flagg French.


When installing an interior French drain in your basement you have to break up the concrete flooring around the perimeter of the basement. Once that has been completed crushed stone is put down and a drain is install that will pull the water to a sump pump. The sump pump then works to drain water away from the house. It is important that each step is completing correctly using the right materials or else you could end up with a clogged drain and a wet basement.


When installed correctly interior weeping tile can help to manager any water that enters your basement. This method is more effective than crack injection, but is still a water management method instead of actual waterproofing. This is a popular solution for wet basements because it is more affordable than exterior waterproofing.

Exterior Waterproofing


  1. Exterior Waterproofing – With all of the options out there, exterior waterproofing is the only way to truly waterproof your basement. The process is the most extensive of the methods that we have mentioned but also the most effective when installed properly. Exterior waterproofing stops water from entering your basement and helps to eliminate wet walls.


To install an exterior French drain you need to dig a trench around the entire perimeter of your home. This can mean removing shrubs, plants and patios if needed. A French drain system is installed to drain water downward and away from the foundation. While the dirt is removed from the foundation a waterproofing membrane is added to the exterior of the foundation. The combination of the waterproof membrane and the exterior weeping tile system keep water from working its way into your basement.


While the other methods work to properly manage the water when it reaches your foundation, exterior waterproofing also works to keep the water from getting to your foundation in the first place.


Choosing the best waterproofing method for your basement

When considering which method of waterproofing is the best for your basement it is important to weigh all of the factors. Make sure to consider not only the expense of the repairs and installation but also the way that the water is entering your home. It can be well worth investing a little more into your basement’s waterproofing now to avoid a problem in the future.


If you are interested in speaking with a professional on the best options for waterproofing your basement call Nusite Waterproofing today. With free estimates, written guarantees, flexible financing options and a 30 year A+ rating from the BBB, we have you covered for all your basement waterproofing needs.

leaking basement Toronto where basement floor meets wall

Water leaking through top of foundation wall

As a waterproofing contractor here in Toronto, I’m often asked what is the most common cause of a leaking basement. But first, I want you to conduct a small experiment for me.

Take a used tin can (baked beans, peas, whatever) and remove the bottom end. Then, place the open-ended can in a cooking pot that’s a little taller than it. Hold it down as you slowly fill the pot with water to just below the top end of the can. While you watch:

  • Water seeps into the can past the bottom end
  • The rate increases as the outside water-level rises
  • Finally, the water levels are the same on the inside and the outside

Two things are relevant here. First, there was no seal between the bottom of the tin can and the cooking pot. Secondly, the water found a way inside the can because of what’s called hydrostatic pressure.

Basement Basics

A basement is comprised of two separate structures which are by definition underground. These are:

  • A concrete floor set in an excavated space (the “cooking pot”)
  • A rectangle of four walls standing on it  (the “tin can”)

If you were to fill the excavated space with water, this would place hydrostatic pressure on the structure. In turn, this would seek relief by entering the basement through the concrete floor and walls. These may be well waterproofed; however, as the structure settles, the joint between them weakens and gives way to water pressure.

And that, my friend, is the most common cause of leaking basements. In fact, it’s almost built into the basic design. Just like your camping tent in a storm, the leak is usually at the seam.


Interior weeping tile system image

Interior Weeping Tile System

How to Avoid the Problem

Do you remember how the flow of water into the tin can increase as the water level rose? The same is equally true of a leaky basement. The correct solution is installing an outside drain at floor level. This leads the underground water away as it arrives, so it never builds up enough pressure to become a problem.

In the basement water-proofing industry we call this a weeping tile or french drain system. They’re simple to install during initial construction, but a messy job to repair and install after construction. Getting a certified and insured waterproofing contractor is important if you think you may need this type of work.

Basement First-Aid

In my decades in the basement repair business, I’ve come across countless botched repair jobs involving water-proofing interior basement walls. While waterproofing your foundation can be effective if done properly, if there is an outside water source placing constant pressure on your foundation, it probably won’t last. The hydrostatic pressure invariably dislodges the material, especially since the area was inevitably damp when the seal was applied.

The only solution that’s effective is an interior water-catchment system that feeds a sump pump to an outside drainage point. It’s expensive though. However, it’s also better than abandoning a working basement, which could otherwise add good value to your home.

Is water seeping through your concrete foundation?  If left untreated, water can slowly erode your foundation and lead to costly foundation repairs.  Here in Toronto, we respond to several hundred basement waterproofing calls a year.  Some repairs are minor, while others are costly repairs.  Most of the costly foundation repairs we treat could have been prevented, or at least minimized, if proper measures had been taken earlier.

One of the foundation problems we frequently come across is a slowly eroding foundation due to a prolonged period of water penetration.

Nature often has its way with buildings, no matter the constructors’ intentions. Sometimes builders don’t try hard at all. Perhaps they are running short on time or materials. Possibly, they don’t understand the theory behind what they are doing. Property owners end up with the result, long after the construction team is gone.

In this article, we examine the phenomenon of wet concrete foundations. What causes them, why they happen in some places and not in others, what to do about the problem, and so on.

The Inherent Weakness of Concrete

Concrete consists of five essential ingredients:

  • The first is stone chip that adds bulk and strength.
  • The second is the steel bars that prevent the mix from cracking.
  • The others are cement mixed with sand to form a “glue” that holds the thing together when water’s added.

Concrete is porous when it’s dry. When there’s water in the area, it sucks it up like a giant wick.

Where Does the Water Comes From?

Dig a hole that’s deep enough, and it starts to fill with water like a drinking well. That’s because there’s always water somewhere beneath the ground. The only uncertainty is the depth. It could come from rainwater that’s filtered down, from an underground stream, from a leaking water pipe, or from a leach drain.

The same gravity that prevents us from flying off the earth presses down upon the ground, compressing it. This force pressurizes the moisture just like when a child squeezes the trigger on a toy water gun. Scientists call the energy that results hydrostatic pressure. This turns ground water into a mighty powerful thing that can find a way through most materials.

Concrete is a Natural Target

We mentioned earlier that dry concrete acts like a natural wick. As the water pooled on top evaporates, it siphons up more to replace it. This is why vacuuming it away seldom helps. Sometimes the concrete cracks due to poor construction methods, ground movement, or a weak mixture of the “glue”. When this happens, groundwater comes bubbling up through a fissure.

How to Prevent This From Happening

As we said earlier, nature will have its way. If you must build in damp earth, you can try to divert the water by installing French drains, and putting down a moisture barrier before you cast the slab. This is by no means as simple a matter as it may sound. Water is a dynamic thing and incredibly persistent.

What to Do if This Fails

Over time, the water permeating through your concrete floor is going to soften and dilute the glue, eventually causing it to begin to disintegrate. There are two strategies to counter this.

  • The preferred one is to install French drains that lead the groundwater elsewhere.
  • Second prize is to try to stop the siphon process by applying a waterproofing medium on top.

More often than not, you need a combination of the two to achieve success.

If you live in Toronto and the surrounding GTA, and would like a free on-site inspection and estimate, contact us here today.  If you are outside of the GTA, feel free to send in your questions, we are happy to help!


Why Water Leaks In Toronto Basement

Moisture in the basement can be a real pain. At the very least, it can result in mold-related problems. At the worst, it can ruin the contents of your basement, including the carpets and any fabrics on your walls or ceiling and lead to long-term foundation damage.  In between these outcomes are issues like health considerations, and your basement becoming downright uninhabitable. Most homes in Toronto do not have basements meant for living space, though many people use them this way due to rising real estate prices and land scarcity.

The solution is knowing what to look for when it comes to water leaks, and what to do about it when you find it.

Plumbing Problems

Water heaters and washing machines bring water down into the basement. This is fine, until they – or the pipes themselves – spring leaks. This often happens when they start pumping after a dormant period during which something may have settled. Make a habit of checking the floor for water regularly, and, if you find it, to discover where it’s coming from.  If pipes are hidden behind drywall, look for signs of water damage and check the base of the wall to look for wet or crmbling drywall.

water leaking through basement walll

Water Leaking Through Basement Wall

Natural Water Intrusion

The rest of your basement water problems will likely come from intrusion of natural water from outside the basement space itself – unless it is dripping through the ceiling slab from the house above. Think logically about where it could be coming from.

  • Hairline Plaster Cracks may admit moisture that has penetrated through the bricks against the excavation, and generally show as a little water running down and marking the wall. This is usually the only source of natural water that you can stop effectively by scraping out the gaps, and backfilling with a proprietary waterproofing sealer.  If the leak is very small and not expanding, this method may work.  If it is a progressive water leak and causing ongoing foundation erosion, then the source of the water leak will need to be addressed or else you may face foundation issues later on the down the line along with a more expensive waterproofing solution.


  • The joint between the walls and floor is an obvious space to start looking, because builders construct them in two phases, and a tiny crack can develop between them as the building settles. The only workable solution is to chop up the edge of the floor, construct a french drain to lead the water to a sump pump, and cover neatly over again.  This type of interior waterproofing (actually water management) is called a weeping tile system.  Interior waterproofing solutions are good options when exterior waterproofing is not an option due to accessibility, foundation concerns and cost.


  • Water swelling through the floor slab manifests itself in the form of damp spots or worse puddles. Again, the only solution is to lay a line to lead it to a pump (weeping tile system). Usually for type of water leak, general waterproofing procedures won’t work, you’ll have to channel that water away from your basement. Water welling upwards under pressure will eventually find a way through anything, and you will be right back to square one again.  A good water management strategy is essential if you hope to use your basement for living space or at the very least, avoid mold issues.


  • Outside doors and ground-level hatches present a raft of different problems, all of which are curable if you do it properly. The only effective way is to raise the door lintel above the ground, or to set the hatchway on a masonry box high enough to keep the water out. Anything else, again, is bound to fail eventually as it will always be fighting water trying to find its way in, better to just get the entry points out of the way of the water.


  • Windows set in outside basement walls should be as waterproofed as those in the house itself – and provide equally trouble-free service. Window wells are actually one fo the most common sources of water leaks in a basement, usually due to age and lack of maintenance. If they are leaking, the correct solution is to rip them out and replace them with an energy efficient alternative. Mucking around with silicone seal is usually a waste of time if the window needs repair along with the drainage system built around it.
water leaking through basement floor

Water Leaking Through Basement Floor

Staying Out of Trouble

If we did no maintenance on our houses, then the roofs and walls would eventually start admitting water.  Foundations age, settle and start to compromise over time, and if you have water trying to get in, becomes a problem for the homeowner.  That they do not, is proof that prevention’s better than cure. Do not neglect your basement as half of homeowners do, and put up with potentially harmful water intrusion and health concerns.  Inspect it regularly.

Nusite Waterproofing has been serving Toronto and the surrounding GTA for over 30 years.  We are experts in basement waterproofing and foundation repairs.  We offer a free in-home inspection and written estimate and can help you find all of the water entry points in your home.  Contact us today to schedule your free inspection.