$5,000 To Fix A Rare, Intermittent Issue–The End Of The Perfect Storm

Welcome to the 765th Metamorphosis Monday! Have you ever had a repair made to your home that you were dreading, thinking it was going to be a lot more involved and more expensive than it actually turned out to be? When I first moved into my home over 30 years ago, I noticed on very rare occasions (like every 4-5 years) a small amount of water would come in near this little jutted-out spot called a knee wall. In order for rainwater to seep in at this spot, it always took a precise set of circumstances to occur at the exact same time, something I always referred to as the “perfect storm.”


In order for there to be any leakage, two things had to occur simultaneously. It could rain literally all day long every single day for a whole week, and nary a drop would find its way into the basement. OR, a tornado or the remnants of a hurricane could blow through Atlanta and drop a massive amount of rain on our area all at once, and still, not a drop of rainwater would find its way in. BUT, if it rained and rained all day long every single day for 4-5 days in a row to the point where you would hear people say that maybe it was time to start building an ark, AND THEN a tornado or hurricane came through, dumping a massive amount of rainwater (as tornados and hurricanes often do) on an already completely saturated ground, a small amount of water would find it’s way in at the knee wall. So the ground had to be completely saturated from many days of constant rain, then a tornado or hurricane had to happen at the same time for the leakage to occur. Fortunately, that scenario has occurred very few times during the 30+ years I’ve lived here.

Several years back, I got an estimate for correcting whatever was causing those very rare leaks. The company I called back then advertised a ton on the local AM radio that I often listened to for traffic updates. I thought they would be trustworthy, but once I had them out for an estimate, I didn’t feel comfortable with the extreme, very costly things they were suggesting so I chose to wait. I guess they had to pay for all that advertising somehow! Sadly, I think a lot of companies try to take advantage of homeowners when it involves an area where the homeowner has no expertise or knowledge.

Though the leakage issue is extremely rare, since I’ve been gradually finishing in this room here in the basement and would like to eventually add flooring, I did some research online and called two local companies for estimates. Both companies had great Google reviews and both diagnosed the same issue, a problem that I learned is quite common. Both companies suggested the exact same solution except one company wanted to do a bit more just to ensure the issue was fixed for good. Their quotes were very similar and ultimately I went with the company whose owner took a lot more time to explain exactly what the issue was and how they would correct it.


One thing that made me feel better is the company I didn’t go with, although they are very reputable and have great reviews, told me that if you’re going to have a basement leak, the kind I have is the best kind to have since it’s easy to fix and not that expensive. He told me that it’s very common to have a leak in this knee wall area.

So, here’s my unexpert attempt to explain what I was told is the issue. Luckily, my home has a poured concrete foundation. Apparently, you see more issues with water leakage in basements if the foundation is made of concrete block. By the time my home was built in 1982, I think most builders had stopped using concrete block for foundations, or at least they had in this area–so that was good to hear!

I was told that when you have a basement (maybe this occurs in homes with crawl spaces, too–not sure) there’s an area where the foundation meets the brick and the wall. I believe this is called the brick ledge. There’s a space between the brick and the wall that the waterproofing guys kept referring to as the “finger space” and apparently, it’s not uncommon to have water find its way into the area.

The foundation waterproofing process involves filling any small cracks or holes they may come across in the foundation, applying an emulsion membrane coating to the foundation, and then installing a liner that protects the fluid membrane. Next, a brick ledge finger space drain pipe is installed that will take away any water that happens to enter that area.

The company I didn’t go with only recommended installing the drain pipe since my only issue appears to be with water coming in near the knee wall, but the company I went with likes to be more thorough and they seal the entire foundation across the front of the house and down the side, in addition to the drain pipe. The owner does this because water is tricky and even if it shows itself in one place, you can’t always be sure that’s the spot where it’s first getting in around the foundation. In this case, more is better! I liked his approach a lot more and the cost was the same for this additional protection.

They started out by digging out around the foundation in front and down the sides of the house in order to expose the foundation.


My foundation has a brick pattern to it, just like the foundation walls do on the inside in the storage part of my basement. So it may be hard to see the exposed foundation in these photos since it also has a brick pattern.


The waterproof emulsion membrane coating was applied below ground level.


And the drain pipe was inserted to ensure if any water comes into that area in the future, it will be taken away so it can’t enter into the basement.


The drain will take water out to the wooded area in my backyard.


The guys are coming back to finish up tomorrow. They will be installing the liner all the way around the foundation that protects the fluid membrane. Not sure what else they will be doing but I know they expect to complete the process tomorrow.

I’m not sure when I’ll start working on choosing flooring for the basement, I kind of dread that part since I’m not looking forward to choosing a color for the flooring. I know I’m going with LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring) since it is THE most recommended flooring for basements. I’d really rather do bathroom renovations before that, but knowing me I’ll get antsy and want to see the basement finally finished. New faux wood blinds are being installed on October 5th, so that will be the next update for the basement.

I hope you found this basement waterproofing process helpful. I’ll share one more post soon showing the final steps in this process as it’s completed. Looking forward to all the great Before and Afters linked for this week’s Met Monday!

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  1. Susan,
    I hate leaks of any kind…with that being said we now need our second “new” roof in 45 years….Hope to have it done before November for the Winter…..
    Thanks so much for hosting this lovely party each and every week!! I really appreciate the time and effort that goes into it along with visiting all the links and choosing Features!!! Thank You!! I hope you are having a great week!!

    • Ugh, I did my roof quite a few years back. Not sure if I’ll still be here when it’s due again. These are the necessary but unfun things we have to do.

  2. Franceil Parde says

    Too familiar…we had it done when in our Arlington (VA) Tudor…built a 100 years ago on something called “marine soil.” THANK GOODNESS… all those nooks & crannies directed water to vulnerable areas. Good job!! franki

  3. That was a very informative post, Susan, but it still made me hyperventilate a little when I saw that trench line around the hvac and way down past the house into the woods. The price is worth the peace of mind, most definitely. Is it warranted like the old b-dry system, in that it’s guaranteed and transferable with sale?

    • It is good to get it done even though it’s such a rare issue. The warranty states it for the life of the structure, so that sounds like it would be tranferrable. I used a local company whose offices are right here in the area of town where I live. As the owner put it, I’m his neighbor. I prefer to use local companies when I can.

    • Rita, I just verified again with the owner–the warranty is written for the address, not in the homeowner’s name since it is for life of the structure, so it will transfer for sure to the next homeowner.

  4. Thank you Susan, and glad you got your problem solved!

  5. All too familiar with the process though not for a basement. We built a new home and water leaked where the porch and garage connected. It didn’t work. I had to tell the expert construction men that the front concrete porch was poured wrong and tilted backwards. Fixed it. The pipe they installed going to your house, what is it connected to under the house ?
    As Gilda Radner said “It’s always something” So glad you picked the other guy and it’s working out.

    • I’m not sure since I wasn’t downstairs when they installed it, but they will cut open the wall tomorrow so then I’ll know exactly how it’s connected. I just know that it is supposed to catch any water that finds its way into the finger space which is the space between the brick and the wall. Hopefully, water won’t go there anymore with all the waterproofing they are doing to the foundation. Thankfully, my porch slants away from my home so no problem with that part.

    • Oh, and yes…you are so right! It’s always something with houses. By the time you finish getting everything done, it’s time to start over. lol

  6. Susan, I think that it is a good decision no matter how intermittent the issue is, because with eventual resale and having to disclose everything, it is all taken care of for a good price (IMHO). I have heard of issues like that holding up a sale or the sellers deeply discounting the sale price just to close. Now, it is done at the price you found agreeable. And, fall and winter is a great time for lawns to heal and be ready to grow back in the Spring!

  7. I can see why this was a job that you put off Susan, the “storm” had to be just right since it wasn’t happening often, but something that you needed fixed before the flooring went down. Interesting, I would have thought that a lot of more ground would have had to be removed around the house. I love that things aren’t so torn up. They seem to be pretty tidy when it comes to the digging and such. Nice to have this off your plate and looks like you picked the right company to do this job. When it is all said and done, hopefully you will have peace of mind that no more water will come in. Hugs, Brenda

    • I was surprised to how close they stay to the house…didn’t even effect my shrubs which I really appreciated. They were tidy which I really appreciate.
      Thanks, Brenda!

  8. Well done, Susan. Good decision – sounds like you went with a very good company. That’s the most difficult part of any home improvement process in my opinion: picking who to go with, and praying they do a good job. Yay.

  9. Susan H Whetstine says

    I’m glad you went with that company!! My husband is a builder and that’s what he would have done.

  10. Well, that’s nice – it’s always great when you a job is easier than you think! We have basement water issues too , and you’ve inspired me to look into it again. Thanks so much for the info, and for hosting! Hope you have a lovely week!

    • It seems like if you have a basement, you’re gonna have a water issue at some point. If I were building a home today and it had a basement, I would make sure it was waterproofed during the building process. I guess back in the day, they just didn’t think about that stuff. I hope you find that yours is an easy fix, Barbara.

  11. Wow, Susan, you are bringing back memories for me when I was the general contractor for our custom home remodel back in 1994. We had an issue of water seeping into the front two bedrooms. Before having solid oak OG baseboards and new carpet installed, I invited a friend over to assess the situation and give me his advice. He is a civil engineer and owns a company that builds neighborhoods.

    He recommended I have the landscapers dig a trench just like the one in your photos, and have a percolated 5 inch pipe installed, leading out under our walkway towards the street. Our home was on an elevated lot, with a grass yard.

    This did the trick and never had a problem since. I’m glad to hear your water issue was solved.

    • That’s wonderful to hear! Sounds like your neighbor knew what he was talking about. I think this will stop my once-every-blue-moon issue. I think they are going to water test tomorrow when they are here again.

  12. Just wanted to add what I was taught about home remodeling:

    I obtained three bids on every aspect of the project. I also went to the Registrar of Contractors and looked up all of the resolved issues with the companies and other companies. I was then prepared to return to the contractor I selected and ask, “How is this not going to happen to me?” They made sure they gave me the best workers.

    It takes a little more effort, but it’s worth the time and prevents frustration. Although, I will also admit, there will be problems to solve along the way, but think how worse it would have been if I hadn’t done my homework.

  13. Susan , do wait a bit before you do the flooring. I just built my second home here in Southampton and I’ve learned a lot!
    I know you need the perfect storm for a true test, but it can’t hurt to go through a few storms to test the new repair.

  14. well as long as the company stays in business that’s good and I sure hope that pipe is running down hill all the way. good luck …wet basements are ugggghhh..

  15. Hopefully this solves all your troubles. We had the same issue resolved the same way. Later we got a backup into the basement…..the far end of the drain pipe had plugged so the drain water eventually backed up the pipe. We were able to solve issue with some mesh around exit hole, some gravel around the end, and checking the exit yearly to ensure it was open. Much better than wet basement!
    We also had to have our pest control company redo termite protection since the excavation was in our perimeter protection.

    • Jae, thanks so much for mentioning those things. I will definitely ask them about that tomorrow when they are back.

    • Jae, just wanted to share an update. They came back today to finish up and the owner explained to me that the drain pipe is only a backup/insurance plan, as he called it. He said that all the waterproofing they did to the foundation should take care of the occasional issue I was having. He said the drain may never have any rainwater in it, it’s just there in case some water does find its way past the waterproofing they did. He doesn’t think that will happen, though. I’m still glad he went the extra mile with the drain pipe, though.

  16. Thank you for the information , I am having a similar problem in my 30 year old home. Will be anxious to see the results, it has been so frustrating trying to have
    My little water seepage issues addressed, what type of company diagnosed your problem? When it pours no water, but if there is a steady rain after a day it comes seeping in little by little around the baseboard.

    • I called and got estimates from two waterproofing companies. There are companies out there who specialize in this type of work and that’s definitely who you would want to call. Check out their BBB record, their online reviews at various sites, etc… You want to make sure you get someone who is very qualified to evaluate your situation. Yeah, mine didn’t leak when it rained hard either. In fact, we’ve had tons of rain this summer, and never leaked even once. It requires a very particular set of circumstances in order to get in water in. I hope you discover that your issue is a simple one to fix, Betsy!

  17. Glad you got your problem fixed ! We had that same problem in our last home…and did fix from the inside as the basement was unfinished. Now in an apartment on the 2nd floor we don’t have to worry about that any longer!!! Can’t wait to see your finished basement !

    • I’m glad this was as accessible as it was. They really could have done everything in one day if they had started a bit earlier the first day, so it didn’t take them very long.
      Thanks, Ann!

  18. The house I grew up in in NY state had concrete foundation blocks and boy did it ever leak! My parents had a sump pump that was really put to work every year when the snow would thaw. We used to get water 6” high down there! I’m glad to hear that they’ve discovered that the blocks aren’t the best concrete and poured concrete works better. Good information!

    • Yeah, from what they said, I get the impression they stopped using those a while back. When I purchased my house, I never even thought to look for that. There’s so much you really need to learn about before buying a house, makes me scared to ever move. Katherine, do you remember what year their home was built? I bet all the older historic homes with basements probably have the same type of foundation.

  19. Sarah Pergola says

    Your detailed account of the waterproofing process, along with the before-and-after photos, is not only eye-opening but also inspiring. It’s a testament to your determination and resourcefulness in tackling a home improvement project that can be quite daunting.

  20. Susan, one things for sure….if you ever sell your house….make sure your realtor highlights all the wonderful improvements and upgrades you have done! Someone will be getting a well maintained home! Repairs are an ongoing issue in any home. I thought of you when my microwave went out this week! Saturday I’ll learn if it can be repaired or if I’ll need to buy a whole new oven/micro combination! Yikes, I’m praying for a repair!

    • Thanks, Toni! I appreciate that! I should definitely make that list. Ugh, sorry you’re going through microwave issues, too. Thankfully, I had a good experience with Home Depot, the installers were professional, arrived on time, and did a great job with the install. I went back to an Amana microwave this time. The one I had before, I think it was a Samsung, did not cook evenly. One spot would be hot while another would be cold. I’ve never experienced that with Amana, and this one is definitely cooking correctly. The other reason I really prefer Amana is because you can turn off that annoying beeping that happens when food is done. I wouldn’t mind if a microwave beeped once, but the Samsung beeped continuously until you stopped what you were doing and opened the door to shut it up. Just wanted to mention those in case you have to get a new one. It is always something with a house, isn’t it?!

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