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

View comments

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,,,,,, and other sites.