Waterproofing Foundation – What Are Your Choices?

If you are going to build a new home you need to waterproof the foundation of it so you won’t have a wet basement in just a few years.

There are different waterproofing products and systems on the market so it really can be confusing. Hence what are your options?

Here is the short overview of the most common foundation waterproofing systems to help you to decide:

1. Liquid rubber foundation waterproofing membranes

Are elastomeric polymerized coatings made from liquid rubber – the same quality material your car tires are made from.

Advantages: They are easy to apply, quick to dry, cold applied. You can do it by yourself, by using sprayer, roller or trowel. The liquid cures into an elastic rubber coating, able to fill up current small holes and bridge possible future cracks in foundation wall as the building settles down. Rubber is flexible. They also usually come with a long warranty, and many are environmentally friendly with low solvent content, or solvent free. Very economical.

Disadvantages: Possibility of inconsistency in coverage, but the newest products will help you to determine the “right” thickness by the intensity of color, i.e. if you apply the product and you see any lighter patches, you just add more liquid. Additional surface preparation and curing may be required. If there are bigger cracks or holes in the structure you have to fill in with cement or other trowel-grade material before applying the overall coating. Also some of the liquid membranes require longer curing times for the concrete before they can be applied to insure proper bonding.

2. Hot applied Liquid Rubber Foundation waterproofing product:

It is a rubberized asphalt compound that forms a strong, flexible monolithic waterproofing membrane. Can be also applied on roofs.

Advantages: Adheres to virtually any structural surface. Ideal for rough uneven surfaces. Monolithic, free of seams, watertight, eliminates water migration and buildup of moisture. Offers strong protection because of the way it has to be applied.

Disadvantages: The surface has to be primed by primer first. The cost is higher because the product has to be applied in layers – basically you apply first coat of hot liquid rubber, then you have to quickly firmly press on the fabric reinforced sheet into that hot layer, then apply a second coat of hot liquid rubber waterproofing. Also, depending on the local building code you may have to apply 2 or 3 of these sheet layers. Because of this, the elasticity is low. And because it is Hot you have to be very careful – the best is to have it applied by a certified specialist.

3. Sheet membranes

The most common are self-adhering rubberized asphalt membranes composed of rubberized asphalt laminated to a waterproof polyethylene film.

Advantages: The biggest one is consistent thickness because they are “pre-made” to a required standard. Mechanically strong, resistant to hydrostatic pressure. Cover even the bigger holes or damaged areas.

They can be applied to concrete, metal, wood or masonry surfaces.

Disadvantages: Harder to apply because of their very high “stickiness”, also the cost for in-place is higher. Application requires at least 2 people to put in on properly.

Requires lots of additional work = additional cost. If there are irregularities on the surface you want to put a sheet on they have to be smoothed first with some coat to make the surface even. You also would need to learn of joint treatment, lap joints, corners, penetration, priming, patching etc. And once the piece is down you won’t get it back up in reusable condition.

4. Cementitious Waterproofing

Is a cement based flexible waterproofing membrane. It can consist of Portland cement, sand acrylic mixture, plasticizer and other active waterproofing chemicals to increase it’s durability and effectiveness.

Advantages: Very easy to use, just mix the powder with water according to manufacturers recommendation and apply with brush or trowel. Very accessible – available from suppliers of masonry products, or specialized dealers. Paintable. Also comes in a variety of colors. In most cases one coat is sufficient, although some areas may be needing a use of the reinforcing mesh. Low cost. Corrosion and weather resistant. Can be applied as a positive or negative side waterproofing.

Disadvantages: No flexibility – cement does not stretch, so as the structure settles down there are the possibilities of the future cracks. Before applying the surface has to be free from protrusions, gaping cracks, oils, paints, water repellents and any other foreign material that could act as a bond breaker. Holes must be filled with approved block filler.

5. Bentonite Waterproofing

is a bentonite clay below-grade foundation waterproofing product which consists of sodium bentonite clay sandwiched between 2 layers of woven and no-woven puncture resistant polypropylene fabric. Comes as a clay panels and sheets.

Advantages: Can absorb tremendous amount of water. And as it takes the water in the clay swells and pushes itself into cracks and voids where it stays permanently as a barrier against the water. It is flexible and resistant to most chemicals. Non-toxic, non-polluting. No fumes. Can be applied in cold weather.

Disadvantages: Because of the way the clay works the seal does not form until the foundation is backfilled and the water reaches the bentonite material, which means you cannot confirm the integrity of the seal.


As you see a lot depends on your own situation, needs, requirements and what you feel comfortable with. The best way is to talk to the experts, check the manufacturers requirements especially for the concrete curing time, temperature limitations and additional labor requirements. Yes, waterproofing of the foundation can seem to be expensive at the first glance, but remember that it is a Long-term solution which when applied properly will save you lots of time, headache and money in the future, so please, don’t skimp on it.