basement apartment · waterproofing

Adventures in Waterproofing

Most of the time, the Husband and I are weekend renovators. Spending time with the dogs, cooking, cleaning, running or exercising, and zoning out for a few hours all seem like more important activities during the week. Finding the energy to come home and get at whatever project we have on the go… it just doesn’t happen.

However. Since our walls turned into taps and spewed water all over our basement floor during the Big Rain of 2013, we don’t really have much choice in the matter of work versus relax. With new tenants on their way at the end of August, we have a tight deadline to get the basement apartment back into livable, dry condition. So, to work we go.

Admittedly, I don’t do much of this work. There’s still all the household stuff to keep on top of during the week, and despite my shirking of patriarchal expectations in lots of other things, my interests and my husband’s interests have us falling into traditional gender roles most of the time. So, he and a friend work downstairs. I cook, do the dishes and the laundry, sweep the floors, play with the dogs.

This doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to talk about what’s been happened downstairs, right?

So far, in the waterproofing journey, the Husband has done two things.

The first step was to make sure the crack, which had formed around an old pipe sticking out of the wall, was fully and 100% sealed up, He went above and beyond and dug down along the foundation wall outside, found the pipe, removed it, and completely filled the hole left behind.

He did this on Monday. It was hot on Monday. I felt bad for him, especially when he discovered that the previous owners had buried a whole bunch of cinder blocks instead of disposing of them properly when they built our front porch.

Second step: seal the whole wall of the front bedroom. There were pretty clear signs of the mortar breaking down and inexpertly patched many years ago. The whole wall felt damp to the touch in a way that the adjacent wall did not. We picked up a waterproofing concrete – King Xypex High’n Dry. As directed by the bucket of powder, we scraped and scrubbed down the wall with simple water and a stiff metal brush. After mixing the paint-like concrete up, the Husband attempted to slap it on the walls with a paint roller, but quickly discovered it was useless with the heavy mix.

A whitewashing brush worked far better, allowing him to smear it on thickly, but evenly enough. Before painting, he had to thoroughly douse the wall in water, so the cinderblocks of our foundation were glistening with moisture. It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Completely soak your walls in order to waterproof them!

By the end of the night, I had finished two loads of a laundry, made the kitchen shine, swept the floors, melted into a few puddles of sweat*, was thwarted in a simple DIY project by a lack of materials, and half scrubbed the bathroom. He had accomplished this:

It looks so much better already.

Next steps down here? We’ll have to rebuild the stud wall, and then we’re calling in someone to spray foam for even more waterproofing. We’ve ordered new windows from Fieldstone Windows, which should help significantly with rain coming through the ancient wood frames. We’ll update and fix the flashing around the house, which will help to make sure water is being directed away from our foundation. And, of course, drywall, mudding, sanding, and painting in the room itself to finish it all off.

We’re getting there.

* It was 91*F in our house last night.

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