Do waterproofing treatments sold in the paint aisle actually work on basement walls?

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Answered by Tim Snyder, Guest Editor

The answer, unfortunately, is “yes” and “no.” Specially formulated paint to waterproof basement walls can stop water from seeping through walls over a broad area. But keep in mind that water weighs a little over 60lbs. per cubic foot. During wet weather, thousand of pounds of hydrostatic pressure build up against a basement foundation. Under these conditions, even a tiny crack, gap or weak point in the coating can bring a large amount of water into the basement. Think about what happens when you punch a small hole in a bucket full of water. For this reason, it’s good to have a failsafe waterproofing system that can actually relieve water pressure instead of fighting it. Interior French drains connected to a powerful, reliable sump pump will do just that. Try the belt-and-suspenders approach: Finish the basement walls with waterproof paint to reduce seepage, but also install drain lines and a sump pump.

About the author: A journalist specializing in sustainability, energy efficiency and home improvement topics, Tim Snyder is a former executive editor of Fine Homebuilding and American Woodworker magazines. Tim's recent work includes a green remodeling manual for the Environmental Protection Agency, and a chapter on “Smart Shelter” for The Whole Green Catalog. Tim’s blogs and web content can be found at myHOMEscience.com, DrEnergySaver.com, BasementSystems.com, MotherEarthNews.com, Wisebread.com, Green-Energy-News.com, RealtyBiznews.com and other sites.

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