21 Nov 2015
The worst part of the basement was the inside corner, right by the reverse-sloped front porch landing. The hot water tank is located there along with the main sewage line that drains the plumbing to the street connection. Next to it is the wall running parallel to the street behind the washer, dryer, and freezer is where we got all the seepage. The wall behind the appliances wasn’t nearly as bad as the corner wall with the hot water tank: its seepage mostly came in at the bottom where the wall met the floor.
But the corner behind the hot water tank was ground zero. The seepage was so bad that about 90 percent of the paint had flaked off of the concrete block, which we didn’t realize until we had started repairs (Bill used a wire brush to scrape off the loose flakes, revealing the extent of the damage). Elsewhere, we only have patches of flaking paint and efflorescence, generally at floor level. The concrete block was in poor shape, starting to get eaten away by moisture damage.
Bill and I scraped, brushed, and swept down these walls, removing all the remaining paint and then we repainted with a magic, miracle product called Dryloc.
This is the best paint we have ever used. It has a soap and water cleanup, it can be applied even when the concrete block walls are damp, it comes in a matte white finish so when you’re done the basement cave effect goes away, and, most importantly, it seals and rebuilds the concrete block, keeping out condensation, moisture, and seepage.
Dryloc will not hold back a flood, but it slows it down considerably. It seals the walls and keeps out the day-to-day condensation. It is expensive but far cheaper than replacing the foundation walls. You have to use special brushes and the stuff spreads on like pudding. A gallon doesn’t go very far at all, so if you have a few hundred square feet of space to cover, buy it in the less expensive 5-gallon containers.
Dryloc effective on raw block
The only limitation is that Dryloc doesn’t work it’s magic unless it is painted on raw concrete block. This is not a problem if the paint has already fallen off of the wall due to moisture damage. Just sweep down the remaining bits and you’re good to go. If you have a lot of paint still adhering to the wall, you’ll have to wire brush it to get the paint off. Dryloc also doesn’t like sticking to efflorescent deposits on the walls. The paint can comes with complete directions on how to prepare the walls for the Drylocing. There’s a chemical to clean the walls of the efflorescence and there’s even a product (Fast-Plug) which you can use to seal all the holes and gaps, even when water is coming into the house!
Be meticulous about your prep work and Dryloc can work miracles for you. It certainly did for us. Bill painted the offending corner, from the outside corner near the door and over to the workshop window. Thereafter, when we had a terrible storm the Dryloc forced the water to work its way around the foundation, and we would get some seepage where there was no Dryloc!
The Dryloc also had the effect of lowering the humidity in the basement. When we moved in, we had to run the dehumidifier continuously in the summer. After Drylocing the place, the dehumidifier would turn itself off when it reached the set point. We gradually dried out years of accumulated moisture.
After all this work was done, it appeared our water problems seemed solved. Then a tremendous storm come through, and the direction of the storm forced water up against the front living room window. We discovered that the previous owners had the house treated for termites (yes, you can get termites in a concrete block house). This involved drilling a series of holes drilled into the concrete block wall that used to inject the toxic chemicals. The holes were filled with what appeared to be little dabs of toothpaste and then a bit of paint to disguise it!
When the storm came through, the force of the water was so great that the plugs gave way, sending jets of water arcing out of each hole. Even with all this water, we still didn’t get as much water in the basement as we did during the very first storm in the house. The next day, Bill opened up all these supposedly closed holes, and closed them up with Fast-Plug. No water has since tried to come in through those holes.
When we had to move appliances around, Bill ran a line of concrete sealer along the entire seam where the wall met the floor.
We still have to finish up Drylocing the rest of the basement. The remaining walls are all painted and the paint is adhering pretty well, other than behind the oil tank. The old damage caused the paint to flake off but it’s not going to be easy to get some skinny person (Hi Younger Son!) to wiggle back there, wire brush off the bad spots, and then paint the newly exposed concrete. I would like to get this done and, eventually, it will happen.
I would also like to strip the basement bare and carefully check each wall, from top to bottom, for damage. We don’t seem to get seepage anywhere else, but I want to be sure. This would also be the chance to repaint the walls in ultra high gloss white which would go a long way to making the space lighter and brighter.
Sealing the Priest Hole
The other job we did in the basement was not yet causing water damage in the basement, but you could see it coming. The previous owners had built a sort of cubby off of the back basement wall. It had the most termite eaten horrible wooden door you can imagine, poorly concealing what appeared to be a 4-foot by 6-foot dungeon lined with sand. We nicknamed it the priest hole.
The dungeon was awful. It was filthy, damp, damp, damp, had no lighting of any kind or shelves. It did have a 2-gallon bucket to collect water leaking from its roof. The dungeon had a concrete ceiling of some sort, on top of which the previous owners had (of course!) planted 8-foot cedars. The roots of the cedars were there to make sure that the concrete ceiling would be corroded away. Why would they do this? They knew the dungeon was there as the bucket had to be emptied on a regular basis!
I wasn’t going to live with this situation either. I believe the space was supposed to be a root cellar. It didn’t function as one because of the mold, lack of shelves, and constant drip drip drip of water. We couldn’t make it back into a root cellar without rebuilding it completely so instead we chose to fill in the hole.
Jake the Contractor removed the termite-riddled door (all old damage, thank the Lord), rebuilt the concrete block wall to close up the hole, installed a window that lights up that corner, and on the outside, his crew knocked the concrete roof into the hole. The new concrete block wall got parged from top to bottom, the hole was filled with gravel and topped with soil and the area outside is now a productive set of raised beds. Inside, I painted all the new raw concrete block with more Dry-Loc, the seams got sealed, and the floor painted. This corner is now clean, dry storage with daylight streaming in. We do not have a water problem in this corner of any kind.