Basement Leaks

Dear NH,
Hello, my question is concerning a house I am looking at purchasing. The problem is the basement did leak 3 years ago but apparently seems to be good for now. The basement wall where the water was entering was repaired from the inside of the house. Do you feel that this is a temporary fix or a permanent one? Is repairing the basement wall from the inside as effective as repairing from the outside?
There is a cement slab on the outside of the house right where the water was entering. Would I be able to break the concrete up with a jackhammer if need be or not? I can't tell if the wall is permanently fixed since the vendor did not re-insulate the exterior wall and put drywall back up. There is no smell of dampness or moisture in the basement. Thanks.

Dear CB,
It is impossible to say if the repair is permanent, since we can't duplicate the conditions that caused the original leak. Under the right conditions, any basement will leak, so there is no definitive answer to your first question. The fact that you can't look at the repair is not ideal, but is common in finished basements where the owners want to get on with their enjoyment of the room. You could hardly expect them to leave the repaired wall open forever, or to cut open the wall for you unless you have committed to buy the house first.

Exterior waterproofing or the installation of a drainage system at the base of the foundation walls is the most thorough repair for a recurring water problem, but it an overly extreme one if the original leak was caused by an unusual circumstance, such as a broken gutter or unusually heavy rainfall. Perhaps you should try to find out from the seller how, when, and why the leak occurred. The hole or crack in the wall may have been there for years, only causing a problem under the "unusual" circumstance!

The cement slab you mention could be a part of the problem if it is not sloped away from the foundation. If there is a slope away, even a slight slope, the slab should keep the foundation dryer by directing water away from it. An acceptable slope for a new slab near an existing structure is approximately one inch of slope for every ten feet of slab. A slab can be raised to increase the slope, it can be coated with new cement to the same effect, or broken apart and redone. It really depends on how large the slab is and how much work you want to get involved it!

I have done countless small crack repairs with various cement patching products. If done properly, these repairs can last as long as the wall itself... long enough to be considered permanent. If you decide that you want to open the wall to inspect the patch, you might want to add a waterproofing coating (not a sealer) over the repaired area before closing the wall. Think of it as a cloth diaper over a Pamper... backups are always a joy!

Oh, and be sure to choose a waterproofing product designed to be used below grade.


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