anything I can do to fix this leak?

Jeff C
by Jeff C
We are having our first major rainstorm of the season and when I recently checked the basement, the spots that have leaked before are leaking again. They are where the floor meets the wall which I know are two separate pours. It also looks like some water is coming through the cinder block near the floor. So the question is, is there anything I can do myself to fix the problem?
  12 answers
  • The answer to your question is yes and perhaps no in regards to doing it yourself. The repair is dependent on your abilities, strength and persistence in doing the job yourself or farming it out to someone else. What I like about what I am seeing in the photos is that the walls were not sealed using water proofing paints. Do not use them, do not waste your money and all the effort it would take to apply these sealers. All they do is mask the bigger issue and that is water inside the block wall itself. I also noticed that this leak(s) have been going on for quite some time. This is evident from the stains, efflorescence rust marks in block plus a few other things. If you notice real close towards the floor on the wall erosion of the surface of the cement block wall. Should you paint the walls this will become worse over time and can result in some cases repairing or replacing of the walls themselves. If the leak is isolated to a very small area within the basement I would start on the outside first. Check the soil pitch, check the gutters to assure they are clean, check the downspouts to be sure they are dumping at least six feet away or more from the house. While these improvements will slow down the water leaks in the basement, they may even appear to stop them. But the fact is all your doing is slowing the water leak down and not stopping it. Water proofing and or water control systems are expensive. Prices range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars to do it properly. While you may be able to do this entire project yourself and do it successfully, I suggest that you do not even attempt to do this. If you fail and this can happen, you have already spent a few thousand dollars on materials, neighbors help and aspirin with no one but yourself to call if the leak returns. If you pay someone professionally do to this work for you, the peace of mind knowing that the job is warranted and they need to worry about it leaking is a much better thing. Just do not let them paint the walls, While they may say this is part of the job in prevention, find someone else. All the paint does is hold back any water that may be trapped behind the block walls causing increasing amount of damage and hiding the fact that the work they did by cutting into the floor did not work as they planned. You will find also that most, not all, water proofing companies only warrant the leak up to and around six feet off of the basement wall. So you can have water come up in the middle of the basement yet stay dry along the repair area so you are out of luck on the repair. Another reason why you do not want paint of any kind on the block wall(s) is mold. Mold will not grow on the cement or bock wall. It has nothing to digest, as soon as you paint the wall the paint provides that needed food source causing black staining to begin and persist from that time on. I would suggest that you only do the outside grading, pitching of soil and sealing of any sidewalks or patios and perhaps even driveways that abut or drain water near the house. And leave the water control or water proofing system to the pros. Shop around with those folks, do not sign anything while they will try to get you to do so. Wait for several days after you get your price. They will call back and offer up a much better deal. They will say they are in the area, that another client decided to put the job on hold and that they have crews that they do not want to lay off until another project comes along, bla bla bla, Tell them you will think about it and wait. The price will drop quite a bit. But for an average size basement 20 x 30 foot or so, expect a realistic price of around $6000 or so.
  • Lynne Lynne on Apr 11, 2013
    i have almost the same problem, the difference is one wall is slightly bowed. thanks for the post and thank the person who posted the comment very good advice
    • Cynthia Freeney Cynthia Freeney on Sep 23, 2013
      @Lynne You will definitely need to fix the foundation drainage problem as soon as possible. That bowing wall problem isn't going to go away or stabilize on its own. It always gets worse. The soil around the foundation needs to be kept as dry as possible, with proper drainage, clean gutters, extended downspouts, good foundation drainage and a good sump pump, to stop water from exerting pressure on your foundation walls. Once you solve the drainage problem, the bowing wall problem can be also fixed. There are many solutions out there, that will help stabilize and restore the structural integrity of your basement walls, even if your home is built in clay soil. (The kind that shrinks when wet and expands when dry). I suggest you call a few companies in your area and get you free inspections as soon as you can.
  • Patricia W Patricia W on Apr 11, 2013
    If water is getting in this is a structural issue.There is a place that the water gets in from the outside that needs repaired. Like Woodbridge said, water proofing paints wont fix the problem. neither will sealants on the interior. Maybe grading the ground away from the structure is a good place to start if water is pooling near the house, you didn't mention it, but it may be as simple as the grade.
  • Lynne a bowing wall is something entirely different. The location of the bow has a lot to do with what causes it. Many people place clay against their home not realizing that this material shrinks and swells quite a bit when dry and then wet. Their thinking because water does not move freely through the clay itself it will cap the soil preventing water from seeping down to the foundation. Which it does help prevent. However what happens is the clay drys out during hot weather and shrinks. This allows it to fall or compact further down along the foundation wall. Then when the weather begins to become wet it begins to expand effectively pushing against the foundation wall causing it to move in ever so slightly. Then the clay dries again, shrinks and fills the void created by the pushed in wall. Gets wet again and pushes it in even more. This cycle continues until the wall fails. As it bows it begins to crack, You can often see this as an opening along the length of the wall where the blocks join. This crack although smaller on the outside part of the wall, never the less it is cracked. This allows water to start filling the block wall and over time begins to leak into the basement. By then the wall is pretty far gone and requires all sorts of fancy repairs to make it strong again. Another reason for cracking and bowing of basement walls is downward pressure. Autos and large trees can cause this to happen. In any case the proper fix is to dig out the outside of the foundation down to at least below the center of the bow to allow the wall to return to its normal vertical state. Many times the wall will never return. At that point in time installation of interior pilasters or large screws that fasten the block into the outside soil. In any case both are expensive so the sooner you catch the bow, the lower and easier the fix will become.
  • Find out what's happening on the outside of your house first. Is the grade sloping away from the house at (min. of 5% in first 10 feet away from foundation), and carrying the water far enough away? Overflowing gutters will cause leak in basements, too. Window well covers can help, also. Most basement leaks can be eliminated by moving water away from the foundation outside. If the slope of the ground outside can't be increased to facilitate proper drainage, there are other solutions for directing water away from the house, for example Installing a french drain. If you use perforated drainage pipe, remember the holes should face DOWN - I just saw a tutorial where they showed the holes incorrectly facing up. ~M
  • Miles Enterprises Inc. Miles Enterprises Inc. on Apr 13, 2013
  • Lorraine Edwards Lorraine Edwards on Apr 13, 2013
    As was explained to us, there is always going to be water seeping in and around the foundation of the home. Even though the term "waterproofing' means the trench and sump pump procedure, it is more a water management system. The water used to slowly leech out of small openings in the walls in our cinder block basement and one of the previous owners had dug a trench of sorts around the perimeter of the basement. I was not happy with this "fix" since I knew that water was coursing big time behind those cinder blocks but coming out in those small trickling "leaks." The walls had constant effervescence and the painted surfaces on the cinder block were always crumbling/wet/yellow stained. No special paint stops this wall leakage.and you could see the water running out, down into that gross (and muddy trench). We decided to have the basement waterproofed, i.e., the perimeter dug/pvc pipe laid in and placed in concrete and a new sump pump dug in the corner. Now, when it rains, we don't have to think about that water in the walls. Well, my hunch about those walls being filled with water was correct. They drill a series of holes close to the bottom of the floor after laying in the perforated (and wrapped with mesh fabric to keep out silt) pvc pipes to release the water pressure and allow the 'new' rain water to enter the perforated pvc and then flow to the sump pump and when they started to drill with that big masonry bit into the cinder block, YOWZA! The water literally gushed like a geyser through those drilled holes. THIS is what is contained in the walls pushing against the cinder block - and ours was dripping out through holes in the block prior to getting this job done. I will tell you, if you get this done, be prepared for a major mess in your basement, but in our opinion, worth the mess and expense having a nice dry basement without having to think about damage to the foundation. Oh, they also place a material that looks like baseboard around the bottom perimeter to mask the holes, I guess. We had the basement professionally cleaned and painted after the job was finished.
  • Lv Lv on Apr 14, 2013
    We had the same problem at my house when the foundation was disturbed, due to some plumbing work. Water POURED in! We regraded outside, found where it was leaking inside and filled with hydraulic cement and then used a name brand waterproofing paint-type product. We made sure and put the waterproofer on thick and into all the crevices. That was two years ago and we have had no more water.
  • Lorraine Edwards Lorraine Edwards on Apr 15, 2013
    LV I'm sure a contractor will tell you that the waterproofing paint only worked because you used cement on the outside. The paint won't do anything to stop water that is leaking through the cinder block. As our waterproofer told us, when we have really heavy, long lasting torrential rains, the ground is going to be saturated deep down. The walls of the foundation of the house are bound to have water pressing against them. The water has to go somewhere and the block is holding it back as best it can. But when you have a house as old as mine (almost 70) after time, the block begins to break down I guess and water seeps out in pinholes. I have shelving down there and didn't know that I had one of those seeping holes on the shelf wall. I had stored a comforter and some pillows in a large plastic zippered case. I noticed that half of the case seemed to be drooping off the shelf so I went to investigate a bit-when I moved it, the case was filled with water at the bottom and the comforter and pillows were drenched, all because I had this case on the shelf, pushed against the wall. That was when we decided we needed to spring for the waterproofing. The muddy trench was where the water was going and just sitting there, nice and wet and muddy. Yuk.
  • Cynthia Freeney Cynthia Freeney on Sep 23, 2013
    It looks like your foundation drainage ("french drain") is no longer working, or is overwhelmed. The french drain is a perforated pipe, installed by the footing, all around the external perimeter of the foundation, when the basement was built. Its job is to collect the water from the soil around the foundation, and divert it away, usually with the help of a sump pump. Overtime, however, french drains tend to clog and the water accumulates around the basement, ultimately finding its way in -- usually through the joint between the walls and the floor as you see, or through the cinder block, because it is filled with water. Fixing foundation drainage isn't a DIY job. It can be done but it need to be done by professionals, because they have the equipment and knowledge -- and know how to avoid structural issues. It is the very foundation of your home. You want it to be dealt with by someone with experience. There are, however, a few things you can do that may help improve the situation. The first thing you want to do is to keep the soil around the foundation as dry as possible. First check your sump pump (assuming you have one.). Is it working? Can you see the water coming out of the discharge line? Is the water being discharged far away from the house? Check your gutters, make sure they are clean and in working condition. Consider installing gutters if you don't have. If the downspouts are discharging right next to the foundation walls, consider installing inexpensive downspout extensions to divert the water as far away in the yard as possible. You can also help improve yard drainage with some proper grading, making sure it slopes away from the foundation, and take advantage of the fall season to make landscaping changes, keeping plants that need constant watering away from the house as well. If after doing these things you still have water coming in, call a few basement waterproofing companies in your area (some good companies inspect and quote for free), see what they have to say (each company will most likely have different solution for the same type of problem), pick the one that makes sense to you, including financially. I hope this helps. Please let us know if you have any more questions.
  • Margie*Lee Margie*Lee on Apr 13, 2014
    We recently found out from a waterproofing company that our walls are saturated with water and we have mold issues we were totally unaware of. We hired them to trench around our foundation outside and they also laid drain tiles around our outside walls inside. We also discovered a major mold issue that we are now dealing with ourselves. I strongly suggest you get 2 or 3 companies to come and look at your situation before trying to take care of it yourself. Trust do NOT want to be going thru what we are at this time! Once we are finally all done and have our family room and utility room put back together, we should never have this problem again.
  • Donald Johnson Donald Johnson on Jul 28, 2015
    It does little good to seal the inside without sealing the outside. Dig down 4 or 5 ft. seal your wall this should stop it. Make sure runoff water is funneled away from house.