March 22, 2010

What Is the Best Method for Waterproofing a Cellar?

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Any person who has got a cellar or basement in their home surely knows just what the risks are when it comes to moisture building up and eventually flooding the place.  Though the worst case scenarios almost always occur in old buildings where the foundations themselves have cracked in places, even in modern buildings it is common to see water accumulate in any rooms that are located beneath the ground level.  The problems that can arise from prolonged moisture accumulation in the cellar can be quite serious, putting the structural integrity of the home in danger and even presenting very serious health risks for the inhabitants of the home (the mold and fungi that grow down there are no joke!).  Hence, the task of waterproofing cellars is and ought to be given a high degree of priority by any sane home owner—which begs the question: what really is the best way to waterproof the cellar?  The answer depends largely on the kind of home you are living in, what the conditions of the ground beneath the cellar floor are like (what is known as the substrate), and furthermore on whether or not you are still in the construction phase of your home (in which case all the better).

Here, let’s take a look at some basic ideas for achieving the best cellar waterproofing results possible given today’s highly engineered materials and clever waterproofing techniques.  If you put the following ideas into practice, then you’ll be doing your home a major favor and you’ll be sure to keep your mood positive even during the wettest months of the year!

The earlier the better: when it comes to cellar waterproofing jobs, the best time to take action is before the cellar has even been finished.  That’s because many highly effective waterproofing methods entail applying waterproofed materials to the cellar walls outside the insulation and other finishings that will eventually also be applied to the wall.  It is only logical that the best way to keep walls nice and dry is to stop the water from every penetrating them rather than trying to keep the water from entering the room after it has already seeped through the entire breadth of the wall itself.  Getting an early start on cellar waterproofing is also crucial because the various kinds of drains (such as perimeter drains, one of the most effective) that are used in waterproofing jobs will otherwise require home owners to tear up flooring, etc.; if the flooring isn’t there yet, the drains can be put in place nice and simple.  So, if you’re still constructing your home, the time to waterproof the cellar is now!

Cementitious slurries: one of the most practical and efficient ways to waterproof a basement is to use cement-based slurries which are applied either with a spray gun or with a trowel to all surfaces: floor, walls and ceiling.  Before actually applying the slurry, such “tanking” systems require that a render be applied first (generally a sand-cement mixture that creates an ideal bonding surface for the tanking slurry itself).  After this render has been created and special coves created at the junction of the wall and the floor throughout the cellar, the cementitious slurry itself is applied, generally in more than one coat with time for each to dry between subsequent applications.  Lastly, this tanking method usually implies the installation of a floor screed and wall plaster to create a more appealing and more particularly a protective surface so that the tanking system will last a good long time.

Membranous systems: the alternative to such tanking systems is to use membranes to waterproof your cellar, and such systems are also marvelously effective when properly installed.  There are many different kinds of membranes to be found, and some serve additional purposes beyond simply waterproofing (for example, certain membranes may also have heat-reflecting properties that will keep the cellar better insulated).  Frequently, studded membranes are used in conjunction with special plugs—known as fixing plugs—that fasten the membrane to the walls and ceiling while ensuring that no moisture will seep through at the point where the plug is hammered into the wall.  Such membranes are normally not fixed to the floor as gravity itself will keep the membrane in place in this case.  The coverings here could be screeds or various kinds of plasters, with plaster boards being particularly common.  This option is particularly recommended for homes where the substrate is not to be relied upon, and these systems usually include the installation of a perimeter drain as well.

Combination systems: when it comes to waterproofing, the experts will generally tell you that more is better.  Hence, the best waterproofing methods may imply a few components from either system above or other systems besides, though you should always check with a professional before attempting to cross-breed different waterproofing systems.

Landscaping techniques: in addition to implementing the abovementioned waterproofing techniques, there are some fairly simple yet wonderfully effective exterior landscaping techniques that can be implemented to enhance the waterproofing potential of the system you’re using within the cellar.  When it comes to water, the laws of gravity must always be respected: hence, one effective landscaping technique is to create a slope around the cellar that will cause water to flow away from the cellar walls as opposed to towards them (this technique may not always be possible, such as for a cellar located at the bottom of a hill).  The slope doesn’t have to be incredibly long: just build up the land around the cellar walls with a little extra topsoil, pack it down a bit, and then throw some mulch, straw or sod so that the soil isn’t carried off by rainfall; similarly, grow a few plants along the cellar perimeter so that soil erosion is reduced even further.

There are even more options out there when it comes to waterproofing cellars, and one of the final touches should always be to apply a good interior waterproof paint to the ceiling and walls.

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