Canadian Underwriter

Why your clients’ basements will probably leak eventually

July 7, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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Homeowner clients are battling the elements just by living below the ground floor, and so they will need to act quickly if they notice water pooling in their basement, a building supply vendor suggests.

“Creating a comfortable living space in a basement can be a challenge because you’re basically attempting to stay dry in a concrete box,” wrote Chris Emard, co-owner of Emard’s Lumber in Cornwall, Ont. in a recent column for the Standard-Freeholder.

Basements are vulnerable to water damage because both concrete and soil absorb moisture, Emard wrote. Moreover, soil stays relatively wet most of the year.

“Most basements leak, eventually,” Emard wrote in Handyman Hints: Floor it? Or live with it unfinished? “So, the key is to heed the warning, and jump on the leak as soon as one becomes apparent. Don’t consider minor pooling in your basement as a one-off.”

Water is the biggest cause of property damage in Canada, surpassing fire, wrote Matt Hands, business director of insurance at, in a recent article on Ratehub’s website.

Whether or not the water damage is covered by insurance depends on the exact policy wording. Many home insurance polies exclude seepage, for example.

Home insurance normally covers water damage arising from “sudden and accidental” bursts of pipes, Brokerlink notes. If rain penetrates the roof and walls of a building with no visible damage, this is not normally covered, notes TD Insurance. Other water damage normally excluded from home insurance is deterioration or corrosion of the roof, or water that gets in because roof and vent flashings are not properly sealed.

A speedy response may require calling a foundation repair professional, Emard suggests.

“The risk with sealing foundation cracks from the inside is you have little control over where the injection fluid goes, with the installer blindly relying on the probability the urethane formula will follow the crack in the concrete, and not stray off into a void in the backfill,” he wrote in his column for the Standard-Freeholder.

“If after a couple of urethane-kit investments, the crack you’re working on just doesn’t seem to be filling up, then you’ll have little choice but to cut your losses and call a foundation repair professional. Enjoying living space in your basement means re-gaining control of the displaced water.”

Emard suggests that if a home is more than 25 years old, the drainage or weeping tile systems may need to be repaired.

For his part, Hands has several tips for mitigating water damage risk:

  • Try not to use the basement to store valuable items, or at least put them in containers up off the floor
  • Check pipes at least once a year for corrosion and leaks
  • Do not pour used oil or grease down drains
  • Install leak detectors and smart water valves that can remotely power down the main water if a leak is detected.

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4 Comments » for Why your clients’ basements will probably leak eventually
  1. Frank Cain says:

    The cramped confinement of subdivision homes with a setback of 4 or 5 feet between neighbors is the reason why basements are built and with height restrictions otherwise denying extra levels to accommodate their absence which means you’re stuck with a basement that as the article implies, will eventually leak. It would therefore appear to follow that it is virtually impossible for such homes to be designed to be built on slabs for perhaps reasons of service infrastructure – electric, gas, water, drainage, etc. If that is true, then if a basement is needed to accumulate rarely used items, then choose instead a commercial self-storage facility. You’ll note they’re all built on slabs.

  2. Ron Gillis says:

    Many people choose to abandon multi storey homes as the popularity of this style of construction wanes when families look to downsize , for example empty nesters or in retirement. Simply put properties above two stories are impractical and an eyesore. The bungalow is ideal for First time home buyers as well as for retirees. Small space between homes can be repurposed with crushed stone to facilitate drainage. Interior as well as exterior waterproofing has grown in popularity though more expensive will provide added protection from seepage

  3. Mark Anderson says:

    40+ years doing basement waterproofing,foundation repair. Most basement leak because there are exterior crack(s), cracked parging on the outside of block and brick basement walls. The exterior walls were never waterproofed when built and equally disturbing, many were backfilled with unsuitable backfill material, aka expansive clay soil and junk many builders didn’t want to haul away. It’s NOT about a supposed need for drain tile, this is just more incompetent crap many shuffle around year after year. Then add underground tree roots that sometimes grow along-against basement walls and cause crack,leaks. And every now and then a driveway slad or patio slab settle against a basement wall and causes a crack. What many do not understand with block and brick walls is they often crack on the outside and there will be NO visible crack on the inside of the wall, you won’t see a crack inside basement! Have many videos that shows/proves this and so many homeowners get ripped off, lied to, by interior drainage system co’s.

  4. Mark Anderson says:

    insurers, for all the many houses that had interior drainage systems installed when the actual problem (s) are exterior cracks in basement walls and other exterior openings into these houses, these interior basement systems never ‘stopped’ the water from where it was, still is entering and block walls can deteriorate, disintegrate and bow in, how do you insure these? And what about mold? One must ‘stop’ the water, not allow it inside and then try and divert it around basement floor perimeter sheesh! Radon gas also can enter these exterior cracks and where service lines come through foundation walls. Mice and insects enter the same exterior defects! lol Basement walls can bow in, sometimes collapse into basement often due to expansive clay soil that many builders backfilled with against walls. Well, the best means to reduce lateral soil pressure and remove underground tree roots off walls is to dig, exterior waterproofing. Slapping some carbon fiber straps or walls anchors on inside walls does NOT remove, reduce the soil weight or roots etc acting upon the exterior of basement walls, no they do not. And lol, the installation of these interior drainage systems do not seal/waterproofing the EXISTING defects, aka exterior cracks or openings, gotta hand dig to accomplish this smh nth time

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