Getting It Dry

"If your house has a history of basement flooding," says Newton, Massachusetts, remodeling contractor Paul Eldrenkamp, "you're crazy to consider a basement renovation until you solve that problem." Most water problems, he says, are caused by inadequate control of roof runoff. Eldrenkamp estimates that 2 in. of rain falling on a 2,000-sq.-ft. house produces 2,600 gal. of water. So repairing cracks in the foundation, making sure the gutters are clear of clogs and sloping the ground away from the house will solve a lot of flooding problems. But if water still seeps in, installing or repairing foundation drains might be the cure.

Either of these is a big project that requires excavating around the perimeter of your house. An option is to install drains along interior basement walls. Contractors remove a strip of concrete next to the wall and dig a trench around the outside of the floor. New drain lines catch water and rout it to a sump where it is pumped out of the house or directed to gravity-fed drains if the grade allows it. Eldrenkamp says this type of work isn't cheap, costing $50 to $60 per foot in his area, but it is highly effective at keeping water out of a finished space. Masonry sealers, such as those made by Drylok or Thoroseal, also can be effective in controlling moisture when applied to interior walls. But as Heim cautions, "If you have an ocean coming in, they are not going to stop it."

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas common in some parts of the country, is another consideration when you convert a basement. A simple test will measure the level of radon and indicate whether mitigation is a good idea. If so, radon can be collected by buried drain lines and vented to the outside, much like excess water.

Ask TOH users about Basements

Contribute to This Story Below