Waterproofing your home sounds complicated. It sounds expensive. We’ve convened the experts at House Manager, and they’ve assured us neither need be true. They insist that a home can be waterproofed at minimal cost in a single weekend.
Let’s start at the beginning. Waterproofing is a critical part of a complete home maintenance plan. Being proactive is the key. Minor leaks can lead to dry rot. Dry rot can adversely impact your home’s foundation. An adversely impacted home foundation is expensive.
For most homeowners, keeping water out of the house primarily involves making sure the roof, windows, and doors are in good repair. It’s an inside/outside job, and it can be done efficiently, effectively, and quickly.
What are you doing this weekend? Let’s do this, together.
Exteriors Take a Beating. Here’s How to Fight Back.
Start with your home’s exterior. It’s essentially a three-step process. (No previous experience required.)
- Step 1: Extreme weather can take a toll on your home’s exterior. Between winter’s rains and summertime’s mixture of sun and fog, it would be a miracle if cracks didn’t develop in the siding or door and window trim. The key is to seal those cracks before they create larger problems. Paintable latex caulk labeled for exterior use will do the trick. For gaps larger than a quarter inch in length, you’ll want to consider using a plastic foam filler to ensure a thorough seal. (Estimated time: three hours)
- Step 2: Check your exterior paint job. Paint is more than cosmetic. It acts as a sealant, protects your home’s wood siding, and helps prevent water from getting into the home. If there are cracks in the paint, it’s easy enough to touch them up yourself. (Estimated time: three hours)
- Step 3: Time to hit the roof. If your roof is like most, it contains ventilation pipes and other openings that were sealed when the home was built to prevent water intrusion. (Nobody likes a leaky attic.) The materials used to seal the openings erode over time. It’s a perfectly natural occurrence, but it should be addressed before a little minor erosion develops into a major problem. You’ll need access to your roof and some roof sealant. While you’re up there, check for other signs of wear and tear. Depending on the roof, this may include tears in rubber membranes, cracks in tin roofs, or compromises in the plywood structure. (Estimated time: three and a half hours).
Pro tip: Your willingness to tackle the roof is impressive, but there may be a limit to what you can spot and repair yourself. (You also may not be willing to climb up on a ladder and tackle the roof yourself.) Either way, for best results we recommend having a professional inspect your roof every five years.
Sealing the Deal: It’s an Inside Job, Too.
Let’s move inside, where water fixtures are the primary water risk. Make no mistake: waterproofing your sinks, showers, and bathtubs is as critical to keeping water out of the home as waterproofing the roof and siding.
We like to think of interior waterproofing as an easily executed two-step task:
- Step 1: Use a high-quality silicone caulk to seal your sinks, showers, and bathtubs. Pay extra close attention to the corners inside the tub or shower. Never caulked before? It’s as easy as 1) Using a caulking gun to apply a single bead of caulk along the bottom of the shower or tub, 2) Using your finger to wipe the caulk and push it into the gaps, and 3) Smoothing out the caulk with a slightly moist sponge. (Estimated time: two hours)
- Step 2: Let’s move to the kitchen, where the goal is to prevent water from leaking into either the wall or under-the-counter cabinets. Gaps between the sink, countertop, and backsplash are the biggest culprits. It doesn’t take a sleuth to spot them or a waterproofing expert to repair them. You’ll need your silicone caulk and your caulking gun. That’s it. (Estimated time: two hours)
What About Water in the Basement?
Most homeowners will tell you it’s not a question of if water will seep into the basement, it’s a question of when. Typical causes include condensation, runoff, and groundwater swelling. Solutions depend on both the cause and extent of the problem and may take more than a weekend to repair.
What you can do this weekend is check for dampness, mustiness, and other outward signs water may have crept into the basement (30 minutes). You can also check the grading around your home, downspouts for any leaks or pooling, and even cracks in the driveway (30 minutes). If you still have a few hours to kill, sealers are available for coating basement walls and floors (two hours).
Jack Masters, a waterproofing consultant and author of the book “The Original Waterproofing Handbook,” says that the vast majority of the time, an interior fix is more effective than an exterior fix.
Rain will fall, water will collect, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a sitting duck. We mentioned the importance of having your roof periodically inspected. Inspecting your bathroom, kitchen, roof, and siding annually is a critical part of your home’s long-term waterproofing needs. The good news is that staying on top of those needs doesn’t take a lot of time and the only handyman you need is you. If you choose to outsource any of the work described in this piece, we recommend you take the time to hire a skilled contractor who is licensed to do the work, bonded and insured, and has reliable references.