The Case Against Waterproof Paint & Wall Coatings

A basement with flaking, chipping waterproof paint.

Waterproof paints and coatings will quickly blister and flake off the basement walls, creating a mess. Once applied, it's difficult to clean off.

Basement Systems contractors see problems like this every day, and as a result, we do not recommend this line of products for your home.

Waterproof paint is an easy-to-use, inexpensive product that can be applied by either a contractor or homeowner. When applied correctly, it coats the walls with a barrier that's meant to hold back water and moisture. Many come with written warranties.

When it comes to wet basement walls, waterproof paint seems like a perfect solution. And, indeed, if Basement Systems believed that this product worked reliably, we we'd gladly use it every day.

Unfortunately, we've never found a waterproof paint that works dependably. Because we insist on providing our customers with permanent solutions, we can't rely on these products.

For more than 20 years, Basement Systems has carefully researched, selected, and even invented the best basement waterproofing products on the market. These solutions continue to be used successfully in thousands of homes in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

In the following section, we'll explain to you why we've decided not to use waterproof paint. We'll also explain what does work when waterproofing basement walls.

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We have time-tested, proven solutions for keeping your basement walls dry and attractive -- permanently! Call us for a free basement waterproofing quote today!

A basement wall covered in a white, flaky mineral salt known as efflorescence.

One sure sign of a humid basement is the buildup of white, flaky powder on basement walls and floors.

This substance is known as efflorescence.

How Humidity Enters The Basement Through The Walls

At first glance, it would seem like there are few things more solid than concrete.

However, look closer, and it becomes obvious that concrete is a textured, porous material. Concrete is full of voids, cracks, and opportunities for water to pass through.

In the case of homes where the outside of walls has been dampproofed with tar, this problem is temporarily prevented. However ,this tar will eventually break down, allowing for moisture penetration.

As seasonal moisture builds in the soils around a home, this moisture will enter the pores of the concrete in the form of water vapor. As it reaches the interior side of the concrete, it joins the air in the basement, leading to humidity, mold, rot, and musty odors in the home.

What Is Efflorescence?

As water vapor passes through your walls, it brings minerals from the earth with it. As the water moves into your home, it leaves these minerals behind. The minerals crystallize, resulting in an ugly, white powder on your basement walls and floors . This powder is known as efflorescence.

A basement with bright blue waterproof paint that is heavily peeling and flaking off the walls.

This coating of waterproof paint has begin to flake and peel off the walls.

There's no easy way to remove this coating once it's been applied.

What Is Waterproof Paint?

Waterproof paints are applied to basement walls with a spray applicator, brush, roller, or other method. Once dried on the walls, they bond with the concrete, coating the surface of the walls in a continuous layer.

These products are typically oil or latex based, and they often claim to stop moisture penetration and to actually waterproof the basement.

Waterproof paints claim to withstand 8-12 pounds of pressure per square inch. By comparison, a washing machine hose is typically under a continuous 50psi of pressure.

These products contain organic materials and will rarely, if ever, guarantee that their product will prevent mold growth on the surface. At Basement Systems, we've seen mold growing on waterproof paint many, many times.

Why Waterproof Coatings Fail

While some waterproof paints will make their way into the pores of the concrete surfaces, they are, in the end, a coating on the basement walls. In other words, they do not penetrate the walls deeply enough to provide homeowners with a product that has a lasting bond on your walls.

Over time, efflorescence will begin to build up behind these walls, building pressure that will cause the coatings to blister, peel, and flake off. Moisture will also build behind these walls, contributing to the failure of the waterproof paint.

In the end, most professionals see waterproof paints as a temporary patch for their problem. They're not appropriate for waterproofing basement walls, and they're likely to fail, usually in six months to two years' time.

Waterproof Coating Warranties

Waterproof paint warranties will make a lot of claims, including being able to stop water pressure equivalent to a "column of water" more than 20' high (they don't specify how wide, just how high). Read these warranties very carefully.

You'll likely notice that the warranty will have some key exclusions. Most waterproof coating warranties will not include a warranty against mold growth, nor will they claim to be able to hold back efflorescence. The warranty may be void if the walls crack, and it only applies to basement walls that have been "prepared properly". Six years after you've applied the coating, how will you prove that?

Removing a coating of failed waterproof paint is an extremely messy, labor-intensive, and difficult job to complete. And as it fails, your basement will continue to get more damp, musty, and moldy. And remember all the work you put in to applying it in the first place?

Ask yourself this: Once the waterproof paint has failed, is a refund of the cost of the paint really going to make you feel good about the purchase?

Here's just a few examples of failed waterproof paint we've seen over the years:

(Click each photo to enlarge.)

A basement wall that's been upgraded with a plastic paneling that will keep it waterproof and attractive.

These walls, as seen above, were previously covered in ugly, flaking, blue waterproof paint.

By mechanically attaching white plastic sheets (known as BrightWall®) to the basement walls, we've permanently addressed the humidity and ugly walls.

What Works For Basement Walls

If waterproof coatings can't be relied on, what can you do to combat water vapor and efflorescence from basement walls?

At Basement Systems, we recommend mechanically attaching wall panels to your basement walls with plastic pegs. By avoiding waterproof coatings and adhesives, we can be sure that your basement wall panels will never peel, flake, or fall off over time.

Basement Systems has designed six different wall products that are appropriate for basement walls of all types -- including uneven walls, stone walls, dirt walls, and leaking walls.

We can also get your basement ready for finishing with our ThermalDry® radiant heat and vapor barrier, and our SilverGlo™ insulated wall paneling.

Each of our basement wall products is compatible with our waterproofing systems, and can be tucked into the drain to collect leaking water. When it comes to basement walls, there's nothing like our products!

We Can Dry Your Basement & Upgrade Your Walls!

Repairing and upgrading your basement is a fast, permanent job. A crew of Basement Systems experts can waterproof your basement and upgrade your walls in one, perhaps two days.

If you'd like your basement walls to look great and hold back water and humidity, we're the contractors for you! We offer free basement wall repair quotes to homeowners throughout the Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. To schedule an appointment, call or e-mail us today!

Each free quote includes an on-site inspection and measurement of your walls, a personal consultation in which we answer any questions you may have, and a written cost quote. We'll also send you a full-color complimentary copy of our waterproofing book for you to keep.

Looking for a price? Get a no cost, no obligation free estimate.