Why You Should Waterproof Your Basement Before You Finish It
Home Improvement

Why You Should Waterproof Your Basement Before You Finish It

There are a variety of reasons why you might want to finish your basement. Maybe you need more livable square footage for your growing family. Perhaps you’re trying to increase the value of your investment property. You might want to add a self-contained living area to accommodate tenants. No matter what motivates you to finish your basement, there is one thing that everyone should do.  Waterproof your basement before you finish it! Doing so can save you a lot of time, money, and headache if your basement takes on any water. 

Basement Finishing: A Popular Home Improvement

Finishing your basement has become a very popular home improvement project as the price of square footage has risen over the years. In the late 1990’s, early 2000’s it became standard to put waterproofing systems into new homes. This was due to the advancement in waterproofing materials and systems, and changes in building codes. 

So where does that leave homes built before the more rigorous waterproofing standards were implemented? Well, according to The Insurance Information Institute, water damage affects around 14,000 people per day in the United States or 1 in 60 insured homes.

The Importance of a Dry Basement

Basements serve many important roles in homes such as storage for belongings; housing for home systems like heating, cooling, and electric panels, additional living space, and structural integrity of the home.

Moisture and/or water intrusion issues can lead to a variety of problems in a basement including: 

  1. Mold and Mildew Growth: This is one of the most significant concerns as mold and mildew can lead to serious health issues. 
  2. Structural damage: Over time, improper management of water intrusion can lead to weakening of foundation walls and compromise the structural integrity of your home.  
  3. Health concerns: Apart from mold and mildew, a moist and humid basement can lead to a host of other health concerns due to poor indoor air quality. It can also attract pests like insects and rodents, which can carry diseases and cause further damage.
  4. Repair Costs: Fixing structural damage, removing mold, and addressing water issues can be expensive. The longer water damage goes untreated, the more costly repairs become.
  5. Decreased Home Value: A wet or damaged basement can significantly reduce the resale value of a home. 

These issues alone should be enough to get you thinking about waterproofing your basement. Now add in the fact that you’re thinking about finishing your basement and this should be a no brainer. 

Challenges of Waterproofing After Finishing Your Basement

Depending on the size of your basement and scope of your project you can expect to pay anywhere from $20,000 to $150,000 for finishing your basement. Whether you’re spending on the low or high end of that range, that’s an investment in your home. Waterproofing your basement is insurance for that investment. 

If your basement has never suffered from water damage it may be tempting to put off waterproofing efforts to reduce the cost of the overall project, however, the state of ground water can change over time. If your neighbor does some landscaping, installs a pool, or adds an addition to their home that can change the status of your dry basement. If your basement is already finished waterproofing it becomes more costly and more complicated. 

Difficulties Waterproofing a Finished Basement

  1. Damage to the finished space: You likely know your basement needs waterproofing because some area of your finished space has been damaged by water intrusion. You’ll need to demo and remove the wet materials to prevent harmful mold and mildew growth. This will be a costly project not always covered by your insurance. 
  2. Removal of finished materials: Installation of systems like French drains is significantly easier to complete before a space is finished. If your basement is finished you will need to remove 12 to 15 inches of flooring along the wall and at least 16 inches of studs and drywall. 
  3. Increased cost: If you decide to waterproof down the line you will have to pay for demo, installation of waterproofing systems, and repair of the finished space. This will greatly increase your costs.

Benefits of Waterproofing Before Finishing Your Basement: 

Installing an appropriate basement waterproofing system before you finish your basement will save you money and time in the event of water intrusion occurring. There are a variety of other benefits that you will receive from finishing your basement: 

  1. Lessening Water Damage from Other Sources

The exterior or your home is not the only source of water damage you need to worry about. If you have a leaking water pipe or a burst water heater that can cause flooding in your basement. A well-placed sump pump will save you from catastrophic damage by collecting water and pumping it out of your home. 

  1. Home Insurance

Installing waterproofing systems can potentially lower your home insurance premiums by reducing the risk of water-related damage, such as flooding and basement leaks. Insurance providers may offer incentives or discounts for homeowners who invest in effective waterproofing measures, as they help protect the property from costly water damage claims.

  1. Healthier Environment 

Basements are damp and humid. There are no shortages of entry points for moisture to infiltrate the area. If there are no systems in place to mitigate moisture build up, then you are giving mold and mildew an optimal place to grow. Mold and mildew growth can cause health concerns such as respiratory issues and allergies.

How Should You Waterproof Your Basement? 

When you’re finishing your basement it’s important to have a complete waterproofing system in place. There are various components of an effective waterproofing system, and each home utilizes a unique combination of these tactics to fully waterproof the home. Your waterproofing system could include: 

  • Exterior sealing 
  • Exterior French drain 
  • Interior French drain
  • Sump pump
  • Vapor barriers 
  • Dehumidifier
  • Interior applied waterproofing (crystalline/Drylok)
  • Slab replacements 
  • Wall crack repair 

In Conclusion:

Waterproofing your basement before finishing it is a crucial step for several compelling reasons. It safeguards your investment, as the cost of finishing a basement can range from $20,000 to $150,000, making it essential to protect this valuable space from water damage. Waiting until after finishing can be costlier and more complicated, requiring the removal of finished materials and potentially resulting in uncovered expenses.

Moreover, a waterproofed basement provides a healthier living environment by preventing mold and mildew growth, reducing the risk of water-related damage from sources like burst pipes, and potentially lowering home insurance premiums. An effective basement waterproofing system, which may include exterior sealing, French drains, sump pumps, and more, offers comprehensive protection and peace of mind. So, whether you’re expanding your living space or enhancing your property’s value, beginning with a dry, waterproofed basement is a wise and cost-effective choice.

Photo taken by Drycrete Waterproofing

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