Damp-Proofing versus Water-Proofing Your Foundation

If you walk in mist or fog and your clothing becomes wet, you feel a sensation of dampness on your skin – unless of course you are wearing a water-resistant garment. In pelting rain the water will force itself past the fibers, and start pouring down your arms and legs.  That’s why sailors aboard ships wear sou’westers, not scotch-guarded pullovers.

A similar principle applies to homes and basements. Damp-proofing is a lightweight treatment that helps prevent the moisture in the soil from penetrating through a basement wall or floor. However, if there’s a possibility of underground water damming up from time to time, then water-proofing is the only practical solution.

Why Is That?

The difference is a thing called hydrostatic pressure. When you were at school your teachers probably tried to explain that the pressure exerted by a column of water is equally exerted in all directions. This means that the weight of damp earth outside your basement applies an incredible force to its retaining walls, and can force the moisture in through any cracks as if it’s a pump.

This same pressure ensures that most basement walls and floors eventually fracture (although this may sometimes present itself as mere hairline cracking). As the ground-water begins to find a way through the fractures more and more water takes its place, creating a steady trickle if nothing is done to impede the flow. Under these circumstances traditional damp-proofing methods are useless, for reasons mentioned below.

Why Damp-Proofing Fails

Builders customarily apply an asphalt-tar solution to any outside wall that’s below ground level. This is to meet Section 406 of the International Residential Code that specifies this as the bare minimum. While this may be adequate in dry, hot areas, it seldom suffices in Canada, where expansion and contraction between winter and summer seasons causes it to crack (especially over existing cracks in walls and floors).

Why Water-Proofing is More Successful

Water-proofing on the other hand is a material that’s mainly made from natural rubber, which means that it’s environmentally friendly. Moreover, as your basement flexes and cracks open and closed again, genuine water-proofing stretches and shrinks in harmony, so that it keeps on doing its job.

The Extra Cost  is Worth It

The budget-end of basement builders sometimes maintains that damp-proofing is equally good – and cheaper too. But then it’s not their problem when it fails, because they’re not responsible for the power of nature, and where you chose to build your home. When that happens there’s only really one solution. And that’s to remove every square inch of cheap damp-proofing, and water-proof your basement properly from scratch.

In Ontario, You Really Don’t Have Much of a Choice

Ontario’s prevailing climate with longer, usually frozen winters, and temperate summers in the south is an open invitation for basement walls and floors to crack. If you are building a new basement this means that you need a specialist to water-proof it for you. On the other hand, if you’re already experiencing leaks and dampness because of previous substandard damp-proofing, then the same logic applies again. If you’re experiencing water problems in your basement and are thinking about a solution, waterproofing methods is simply the better choice as a long term solution.


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NuSite Group is a Toronto based basement waterproofing and foundation repair company that specializes in Basement Waterproofing, Basement Lowering, and Foundation Repairs. Call us today at 416-622-7000 or 905-731-1228 for a free in-home estimate and inspection.

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Interested in working with us? Check out some of our customer testimonials below and find more on Homestars. We are one of the highest rated basement waterproofing companies in Toronto

Mark Lipton - Homestars Review

Basement Waterproofing

Our basement leaked! Of course . . . we bought a 100 year old house! But my office needed to be in the basement permanently. I interviewed 10 different companies until we decided on the Steinbergs and their crew at Nu-Site! They are professional, reliable, courteous, honest, and they really make an effort to communicate with the client about every step of the process.

Sara Jack - Homestars Review

Foundation and Waterproofing Repairs

After several years of chronic leaks, we decided to have our basement waterproofed once and for all. The team over at Nusite was professional, answered my questions during the project and stayed within their quoted price....which is always a concern for me when working with contractors. Great job overall

Joshua Persaud - Yellowpages Review

Basement Waterproofing

Had several cracks in my basement wall and they would leak whenever we had a heavy rain. It started about a year and a half ago and seems to have gotten worse over the past 6 months. I tried having my neighbor seal it, but it started leaking again within a few weeks. Called several waterproofing companies and got several quotes. Finally went with Nusite contractors for the job. They gave a reasonable quote and I liked the guy that came by for the estimate. They stayed within budget and cleaned up before they left. It's been almost 3 months now and it seems to be working great.