Are you hunting for answers on flood control, water seepage, basement waterproofing, or sewer backup issues? Here are our experts’ answers to some of the questions we’re frequently asked.

Q. To me, a basement’s just a basement – a place where I store stuff so it’s out of the way. Why should I bother having it waterproofed when I’m only there every once in a while, and just for a few minutes at a time?

A. Well, if your basement’s damp I can think of a few good reasons to go ahead and have it waterproofed. Whether you spend much time in your basement or not, the stuff you store there does. Eventually, the things you keep in a damp or wet basement will start to deteriorate. Important papers will fall apart. Scrapbooks, old photos and other memorabilia will be damaged or destroyed – that sort of thing. Damaging your valuables is bad enough, but a damp or wet basement can also be hazardous to your health. Where do you usually see mold growing? In places where the humidity is high – like damp or wet basements. Breathing mold spores that are floating in the air can endanger you and your family because of the respiratory diseases they can cause. And if those two reasons aren’t enough, when you’re ready to sell your home, you’ll probably get more money if your basement is dry because it’s been waterproofed.

Q. How long does it usually take to install a new flood control system?

A. That’s a great question, but it’s not as simple to answer as you might think. Several factors can affect how long the installation will take, and your situation could be very different from the home just across the street. That being said, once we begin the actual work, installing a new flood control system normally takes between three and five days. That can vary some, depending on whether we need to deal with any nearby underground utilities. The length of the job can also be affected by the soil depth and which type of soil you have (in the Chicago area, the soil could be rocky, sandy, heavy clay or something else). But those three to five days don’t include the time we need to wait to obtain the necessary municipal permits and final inspection. So, although it could be quicker, as much as a month or so could pass between when you decide to go forward and the date the entire process is completed. Most of that time is just waiting for the permitting to come through.

Q. I hate going down to my basement after we’ve had a heavy rain. I just know I’m going to see a big puddle of water on the floor. It always happens in the same area, but it seems to be getting worse. I’ve been reading up on flood and seepage control. Would a drain tile system be right for my problem?

A. I wouldn’t jump into a drain tile system too quickly if I were you. Sometimes a drain tile system is the perfect solution for basement water problems. In your case, though, it might be overkill. Since the water always appears in the same area, it sounds like your problem could be seepage through a crack in your foundation wall. If that’s the case, we can seal the crack by injecting an expanding epoxy material into it. That’s a whole lot cheaper than installing a full-blown drain tile system. Give us a call - we’ll be happy to come out, take a look, make some recommendations for the solution we think would work best, and give you an estimate.

Q. I have an interior drain tile system. Will it help to prevent sewer backups?

A. Unfortunately, your drain tile system won’t stop sewer backups from happening. That’s not its purpose. A drain tile system is used to prevent seepage of groundwater into your basement. Usually that’s caused by excess hydrostatic pressure in the ground under and around your home. A drain tile system relieves that pressure and solves the seepage problem. You’d need a separate flood control system to stop sewer backups, which involve water being forced up through the drains in your floor.

Q. Does a flood control system need any maintenance?

A. Any flood control system could eventually fail unless regular maintenance is being performed by technicians who know what they’re doing. Even with maintenance, though, moving parts do wear out and sooner or later something could break. For example, the pumps in a flood control system are mechanical and they’re running 24/7. Most systems use quality parts and components, but the pumps do get a tremendous amount of wear and tear. I can’t think of a Chicago flood control and seepage company that wouldn’t be happy to come out and do yearly maintenance on your system if it’s no longer being maintained by the company that originally installed it or if it’s no longer under warranty. I know our company would. It’s not expensive (annual maintenance service should run under $100) and it’s well worth spending the money.

Q. Water seeps into my basement when we have heavy rains. So far it hasn’t been a big problem, just a matter of getting out my mop and bucket. But now I’m selling the house. Should I have this corrected before I put my home on the market?

A. Yes, for sure. Part of the process of selling a home involves filling out a residential real property disclosure report. The second question on the form used by the Illinois Association of Realtors asks whether you’re aware of flooding or recurring leakage problems in the home’s crawlspace or basement. A little further down, it also asks whether you’re aware of material defects in the basement or foundation. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure you can get into trouble if you lie on this form and say you don’t know of any problems. But it also won’t look good if you say you DO know there are problems. That could cause potential buyers to make much lower offers for your home. Some might shy away altogether. It would be safer and easier to sell your home if you have the cause of your seepage corrected before putting your home up for sale.

Q. Every so often a chalky white substance appears on my basement walls. What is it, and how can I get rid of it?

A. The chalky white material (called “efflorescence”) consists of mineral deposits. They appear when moisture on your basement walls dries and crystallizes. You can almost always remove it by scrubbing with a solution of white vinegar and water.

Q. Do I really need to hire a flood control and seepage company to fix my basement water seepage? Can’t I take care of it myself? I’ve seen all sorts of products and materials for sale in my local home improvement store and I’m wondering whether they work.

A. There are a few things you can do yourself – like cleaning out your gutters and adding extensions to your downspouts. Both could help keep the ground around your home’s foundation a little drier. But truthfully, most of the time, you’ll need the services of a professional seepage contractor. The products you see for sale at your local hardware or home improvement store usually don’t help all that much (or the help they do provide is only temporary). Most homeowners end up thinking they’re just a waste of time and money.

Q. How much does a basement waterproofing inspection cost?

A. It might be different with some flood control and seepage companies, but we offer free basement waterproofing inspections. One of our experts will come out to your home and evaluate your situation. If we find any problems, you’ll get a written estimate of the cost to correct them. There won’t be any pressure and you won’t be under any obligation to have us do the work we recommend.

Q. I’ve noticed that the walls in my basement sometimes have water on them when it’s hot outside. Do I have a seepage problem?

A. Maybe - but maybe not. The moisture might just be condensation. Water will condense on an ice-cold bottle of soda if you take it outside on a very hot day. The condensation is caused by the difference in temperature between the air and the soda bottle. The same sort of thing can happen with basement walls. On a very hot, humid day, the walls of your basement can “sweat” because of the temperature difference between the outside air and the walls. We’d be happy to come out and take a look to make sure that’s what’s going on. If you do have a seepage problem, we can go from there.

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