Water Woes: Leaky Lower Levels

 My wife is afraid of basements. "They freak me out!" She'll tell anyone. She's not alone in her distaste for these sometimes dungeon-esque spaces, I've heard others express similar feelings. The creepiness often associated with basements has a lot to do with the damp, cold, dark environments typically found in older style lower clearance basements, especially old field-stone foundations. When we first bought our current home, it had some water-in-the-basement issues. Her dislike and fear for the basement has worked largely in my favor. I have an entire floor to myself. My workshop, My office, My chillaxin' spot. All I needed to do, before claiming this vast amount of floor space to myself, was get it to stay dry. Luckily... I knew a guy.

Damp or Wet Basements, Cellars & Cold Rooms

The 3 most common materials for basement/cellar foundations in and around St. Louis:

  1. Stone/Fieldstone
  2. Concrete Block or Brick
  3. Poured Concrete

Water can eventually make it into any of these types of foundations. When you see water entering your cellar, basement, cold room or other below grade space, it is important to stop the water from the outside first, only then should you make needed repairs to the inside.

 Stopping Water Entry: From the outside

The most common point of entry for water, in basements, is usually around where grade meets the foundation wall. This is because water travels the least resistant path and the worst masonry deterioration occurs at near and below grade level. More specifically, water makes it in at these areas where an improperly released downspout exists, where water can collect or where grade is falling into the foundation, rather than away.

Basement water entry points

The image above illustrates the 3 of the most common basement water entry points we deal with. (Please forgive the crudeness, I am a masonry contractor, not an artist)

  1. Flower Boxes, Planters and Retaining Walls that do not have proper irrigation to release water away from your home. These structures eventually act as a reservoir, holding water, until it finds a path into your home. During freeze/thaw cycles this can cause even more damage.
  2. Areas where grade is falling into house. (For those who may not know, when we talk about grade we’re referring to gradient or slope of your property/yard.) Adjusting grade around the foundation of your property, can sometimes solve a water entry problem in itself. As stated earlier, water travels the least resistant path. If you give water an easy path away from your walls, it will follow.When adjusting grade isn’t effective enough on its own to stop water entry, creating an irrigation system with drain tile to collect water around the outside of the foundation, then leading to a dry well or other runoff source can be helpful. Additionally, Rubberized membrane installation along exterior foundation walls can be done.A masonry walkway (concrete, brick, block or stone walk path) running along your foundation walls can be a double edge sword if not properly installed. Adding a masonry walkway against exterior walls, tilted slightly away from the foundation can offer an easier route around your home and give water another place to go. Walkways built against a foundation should have a strong foundation themselves and should have an expansion joint between the walk and foundation to allow natural movement and settling of the earth under and around the pad. When the joint doesn’t exist, nature creates one, and this becomes an access point for water entry. Likewise an existing expansion joint improperly sealed can lead to water entry problems.
  3. Downspouts! Angle downspouts AWAY from your property. Sometimes this is much easier said than done. When pointing a downspout away from your home means it will be directed at a nearby neighbors home or put water in another unwanted area, additional measures need to be taken. A drainage system can be placed underground to direct water further away from any place it could cause a nuisance.

Other common ways water can make it into your basement are: The foundation is near the water table and is constantly saturated, Hydrostatic pressure issues and other stuff and junk. These issues, more often than not, will require a basement waterproofing system with installed drain tile, a well and a sump pump. ( We will address more on this in a future blog.)

Tuckpointing, Masonry coatings and other repairs: From the Inside

Tuckpointed field stone foundation wall

The tuckpointing has been completed and is ready for a fresh coat of masonry paint; if  desired.

Basement Repair Before Picture

“Before” Years of water intrusion left the joints in this basement wall deteriorated and failing.

Open joints in basement stone wall ready to tuckpoint

Start of Joint replacement: The joints have been hammered out to the proper depths and are ready to tuckpoint.


Basement wall in need of tuckpointing and waterproofing

After coating is applied to entire wall area, a masonry waterproofing paint is applied

A masonry coating applied to an interior basement wall. like tuckpointing

Finished product with masonry waterproofer paint applied.



Coating being applied to basement wall for waterproofing

Walls are cleaned, failed joints removed and masonry coating is applied


Tuckpointing should be maintained on interior and exterior brick, block and stone foundations. Cracked, deteriorated, and missing mortar throughout your masonry foundation is a sign of previous water entry, if not a source for current water entry. The mortar joints, inside and out, should be solid. If your foundation is in a questionable condition, question us, we’re here to help.

Interior foundation repairs are addressed in a variety of ways. Basements laid with brick, block and stone will require tuckpointing or a masonry coating (Pictures above). Cracks in poured foundations can be injected with epoxy or other materials. Masonry waterproofing paints such as Drylok by UGL or Behr Masonry coatings should only be applied to walls that are in a solid condition without cracks, holes or other failures/deterioration, applying it otherwise will just be a waste of money.

If you’re in need of a dry basement or have any thoughts, questions or concerns, give us a call, text us, send us an email or use our Contact Page for a Free Estimate.