Improving–and water-proofing–Your Basement

If you’ve been giving some thought to updating or remodeling your basement—particularly as an area that will see more frequent use as, say, a playroom, den or entertainment area, you’ll want to take some precautions before beginning, once in particular:

Check for excessive moisture—and take steps to prevent it.  You can make a simple moisture test to ensure there aren’t hidden water hazards.  Place a piece of cardboard about two feet square on the basement floor with its edges held down by bricks or other heavy objects.  If the cardboard remains dry for several days after a heavy rainfall, you can be confident that you don’t have an underground water hazard.  Make the same test on the walls by taping cardboard to the foundation about two feet above floor level and after a storm, remove it and check to see if the side pressed against the wall has remained dry.

Water proofing of basement walls has been simplified by the development of easy-to-apply paints with a cement base.  They are typically sold in powdered form and can be mixed with water and brushed on.

If your basement walls are bare, cement paint can be applied directly.  But if the wall has previously been painted, then that paint should be scraped off first.  A water-soluble remover will do the job with wall paint.  And muriatic acid, scrubbed on with a brush and rinsed off several times, will remove whitewash.

It is not difficult to apply cement-based paint.  Wet the walls thoroughly with either a brush of spray.  Then apply the waterproofing paint, working from the bottom up.  After the wall has dried thoroughly—in two days or so—add another coat.

 Once the walls are effectively water-proofed, you can begin making more specific plans for transforming your basement into something more appealing.