Reuben Saltzman

The problem with wet basement companies

If you have a finished basement, it’s important for this space to stay dry. If water leaks into your finished basement, it can lead to hidden mold and rot, which is bad news. The good news is that most basement water problems can be fixed from outside the house.

Water Management is critical

The most important part of preventing basement water intrusion is dealing with water at the exterior of your home. The first part of exterior water management is about roof water management: after rain falls on your roof, where does it go? Most homes can benefit from gutters, provided they’re properly installed and properly maintained. This means they’re properly sized, properly pitched, and not clogged. After that, it’s important to have long downspout extensions to take the water away from the house.

Downspout discharging next to house

The second part of exterior water management is about groundwater management: where does the surface water go in your yard? The landscaping, grass, and hard surfaces in your yard need to drain away from your home. If they’re flat or pitched toward the house, you greatly increase the potential for basement water intrusion problems.

Negative grade

When these two things are done properly, most homes won’t have basement water problems. But I said most. Some homes can still have basement water problems even after the best efforts at the exterior, and that’s when it makes sense to contact a basement waterproofing company.

Lack of a one-stop shop

In a perfect world, a company specializing in wet basement problems would be a one-stop shop. No matter the cause of your basement water problems, you could call a ‘Wet Basement’ company, and they’d fix your basement water problems. If your wet basement problems were caused by poor exterior water management, the wet basement company would fix it. They’d take care of your gutter problems, downspout problems, re-grade the landscaping, and fix your patio that slopes towards the house.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any companies that do all of this stuff. Most basement waterproofing companies only do basement waterproofing. They offer a single solution, consisting of tearing up the basement to install drain tile and a sump basket. This is a big, expensive project that’s just about guaranteed to solve your basement water issues. And it’s a lot more than what most people need, but it’s all that basement waterproofing companies offer, so it’s usually the recommended solution. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Because of this, we always recommend doing everything you can at the exterior before calling a basement waterproofing company.

Honest basement waterproofing companies

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom for the basement waterproofing industry. If you call a great basement waterproofing company to evaluate your basement water problems, their first focus should be on the easy, obvious stuff. In other words, exterior water management. This is stuff that doesn’t make them any money because they don’t do any of this work.

But still. The best basement waterproofing companies won’t even give quotes on their sales calls when there’s obvious stuff at the outside that needs to be addressed first. And this is exactly how it should be. We frequently refer Standard Water to our clients, because they refuse to sell their services to people who don’t need them.

In next week’s blog post, I’ll share a scammy sales tactic used by shady wet basement salespeople who are after a quick buck.

Beware of the moisture meter scam

I don’t know if this is a new scam or it has been going on for a long time, but I recently heard about a basement waterproofing sales tactic that made my blood boil. Company X came out to our client’s house to discuss concerns over some stains on the basement wall, and the salesperson used a wood moisture meter on the concrete block wall.

The moisture meter showed that the concrete was wet (of course), and he used those results to make a recommendation for a full drain tile installation. There are two possibilities here: 1) the salesperson was incompetent, or 2) the salesperson was pulling a scam.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog post about using a moisture meter on concrete, it can be done, but you need a very expensive moisture meter. And the moisture meter won’t tell you if you have the potential for basement water problems; it’ll just tell you if it’s safe to install a floor covering over the concrete.

If you have a salesperson use a moisture meter on your concrete block wall or floor so they can sell you a huge project, I recommend you kindly show them the door.