John's Waterproofing Q&A

The power is out and my sump pump alarm won't shut off. What do I do?

If the alarm is going off that can mean one of two things. If you have a battery backup pump it is letting you know the battery backup is working. It will continue until the power comes back on. However, if you have a water watch alarm there is a button on the alarm that you can press for 3-5 seconds to silence the alarm for 24 hours.

How long will the battery backup last if the power goes out?

There is not a set amount of hours for the battery backup. The battery backup will pump 12,000 gallons of water on a fully charged battery. How long the battery will last depends on how much water you have in your space.

Where is the water in my crawlspace coming from?

This is probably the most frequently asked question we get from our customers. The truth is it can come into the crawlspace in various ways but it always starts from above... the rain. From there:

1:  In heavy or long consistent rain, lawns can become saturated and so many customers believe the answer is doing exterior french drains. While french drains are good for slowing down water that is coming downhill, heavy rain spreads out beyond and under french drains. With the footing of a foundation anywhere from 3ft below the surface of the exterior dirt line and a french drain sitting typically 1-2' below ground level, this does little to stop the water. 

2:  Bad Rain Drains. A roof takes on an average of 623 gallons of water per sq ft during rainfall. You can imagine how much falls during a heavy downpour. So, if your downspouts are not sufficiently moving the rain well away from your property, that water will saturate the area around your foundation and flood your crawlspace. While a proper drainage system and sump pump can help, the best way to handle downspouts is to extend the downspouts under ground to a safe distance away from the foundation.

3:   Water Tables.  If you live in an area with high water tables, as they rise, so will the water in your crawlspace. If you have a stream or pond nearby you probably have high water tables but even without an obvious water source, some areas can suffer from an underground springs that will cause the same issue.



Can I use my Crawl Space for storage?

It depends, if you have a vented crawlspace, then it is not advisable. A vented crawl space is open to the elements and has a high risk for mold, pests, and high humidity all of which can damage your stored items.

However, with our crawlspace encapsulation, you can have a controlled environment that can make the space usable for storage. Our full encapsulation will include a layer of TerraBlock, providing a layer of insulation over the dirt floor, also making it more comfortable to move around on. A CleanSpace vapor barrier is then secured over it, this is a 20 Mil woven barrier backed with a twenty-five-year warranty against tears and rips while keeping the water out. The foundation walls are insulated and air sealed, and every vent is sealed up. As a final piece, a SaniDry dehumidifier is installed to keep the humidity levels under control. All of these work together to make a crawlspace ready to be used for storage if wanted!

Can you finish an old damp basement?

Yes we sure can! We have a number of products that will keep your basement dry while looking incredible!

How can I make my basement or crawlspace feel dry, smell dry, and prevent mold, even during a humid summer?

Keeping the relative humidity down is the key to reducing odors and preventing mold. A SaniDry Dehumidifier air system is specially deigned for cool environments to protect your home all year. If you already have a SaniDry unit, your service technician will service it during your annual maintenance. If you don't already have one, your technician can install one for you. 

How do I fix a wet crawlspace?

There are a number of ways to temporarily fix a wet crawlspace, but only one way to provide a long term solution. A crawlspace encapsulation will provide a solution backed with warranties, installed by seasoned foreman. This process will properly insulate the space, divert all groundwater safely away from the homes foundation, block out external elements, and control humidity levels to ensure mold and mildew cannot take hold. Give us a call and we will send someone out to your home for free, to do an inspection and tell you exactly how this solution will help your crawlspace water issues be resolved.

How to fix a leaky foundation crack?

There are several options for repair of a leaky foundation crack. Using a product such as Xypex or carbon armor or Flexispan will fill cracks. But, you need to ensure that the crack is not due to too much hydrostatic pressure. If you fill the crack the water and pressure will migrate to a new location. A free inspection to go over the various options you have for your basement or crawlspace is always in your best interest even if you decide to fix the issue yourself.

How to fix mold damage?

Mold is always a tricky one. The fix for mold depends on not only the type of mold but the source and the location. Surface mold can be cleaned with a variety of things including; bleach water, vinegar, hydrogen & peroxide, or baking soda. This, however, will only eliminate the surface mold you can see. In order to eliminate mold, you must reduce the relative humidity in the space. This can easily be done with a dehumidifier in the space.

How to get rid of black mold inside your home in Oregon?

The best way to get rid of black mold is to take away the things that make it grow. Mold needs a relative humidity of over 55% and organic substances to grow. Eliminating these items will eliminate it from growing. If the Mold is already present, we would recommend getting it professionally cleaned out by a mold remediation company.

How to get rid of mold in crawl space?

Mold needs two things to grow, organic material and moisture. By taking those things away, the mold will have no way to grow. Your indoor relative humidity levels should be between 30-50% to prevent mold growth. This is where our crawlspace encapsulation system comes in handy. With our product, Cleanspace, being made with a treated, non organic material it takes away the organic material factor that the mold needs to feed of off to live. To keep humidity levels down, we have our Sanidry dehumidifiers that will take moisture out of the air while filtering it, causing clean dry air to be pushed back into the crawlspace and eliminating the moisture factor that the mold needs to grow. For a further explanation call and set up an appointment for one of our inspectors to come out and they can give you a detailed presentation on how we accomplish this!

Is it normal for a basement to smell damp?

In general, basements are damp and dark, the ideal conditions for fungi to thrive. When left to thrive, mold and/or mildew begins to grow. This peculiar odor is a sign of water damage taking hold of the basement. While common due to the environment, there is a solution through waterproofing. 

Is it normal for a crawl space to be wet?

Due to how a crawl space is fashioned, it is natural for a crawl space to be damp, as the dirt floor will get wet and dry with the changes in the weather. However, to keep your home healthy, having a proper waterproofing system installed to address this wetness, is an important aspect for a homes health and longevity. 

Items in my Basement have little white spots on them, what is happening?

If you use your basement for storage, and little white spots are appearing on these items, there is a water issue present. Those little spots and water mold, even if pooling water isn't apparent, high humidity or moisture must be present, creating an ideal space for mold to grow. To protect this space in your home, then your basement should be waterproofed, and the humidity levels need to be controlled. With a basement waterproofing solution suited to your home's needs, mold and mildew will be a thing of the past, and your home will be dry and healthy. 

My power came back on but the pump is still not working, what do I do?

Often this can be due to a tripped GFI (think about the small button on your home plug-ins that sometimes flip if something too powerful is plugged in). This is a safety precaution to make sure you don't start a fire or blow the fuse. The sump pump may also have one of these GFI's depending on the type and model. This could be located on the sump pump or on the cord or outlet it is connected to. If resetting this GFI does not restore function to your system, please call our office so we can have one of our techs come and look at it.

Should a crawl space have vents?

If the space is encapsulated, then the vents will be sealed shut by the professionals. This is done to bring the crawl space into the homes envelope. The space will need to be air sealed, and have a dehumidifier to ensure the spaces moisture level is properly regulated. When done properly, this creates a healthy crawl space, which keeps your homes indoor air healthy with it. 

Water on my Vapor Barrier?

This can be due to a few different reasons:

Poor Placement: if it was installed without an attention to detail and the vapor barrier was installed without the edges overlapping as they should and water will rise over the edges

Critters Chewed Threw: the crawl space environment is inviting to many critters, and if they need to, they will chew through a simple 6 mil vapor barrier to get into this space. Once chewed through, water can seep up through the hole

High Waters Occurred: If water levels get high, the water can move the 6 Mil vapor barrier out of its place. Once the vapor barriers have shifted, it can be easy for water to creep onto the barrier.

Condensation/ High Humidity Issues: moisture content in the air can allow the water from the foundation to vaporize and condensate, dripping the water on top of the vapor barrier. 


To stop this issue, a full interior drainage system with an accompanying sump pump can make a big difference so water levels cannot rise above the vapor barrier. To fully protect the crawl space though, a full encapsulation will deter critters, is sealed down into place, includes a dehumidifier, and will set your home up for success for the long run. 

What can I do to protect my home in the event of a sump pump or power failure?

An UltraSump is a secondary battery operated pump that can be installed in the same sump hole as your primary pump. It has a secondary switch, a special 120 amp battery and a smart charging system. If you already have one, your service technician will service it during the annual maintenance if you don't, your technician can install one for you. 

What is Hydrostatic Pressure?

The actual definition of hydrostatic pressure is “the force exerted by water when it’s at rest.” It’s evident in the name: “hydro,” meaning water; “static,” meaning non-moving; and “pressure,” meaning physical force. This pressure gets its strength from the weight of water. Water weighs, on average, just over eight pounds per gallon and a cubic foot contains around 7.5 gallons. That means a single cubic foot of water can exert over 60 pounds of pressure. When you multiply this over and over again, you can start to see why hydrostatic pressure is so intense. 

Hydrostatic pressure is the number one cause for basement water issues. This is because before a home is built a large hole is dug to accommodate the basement. The footings are poured and after they cure, the walls are formed and then the floor. Then the areas around the basement are backfilled and this dirt is much looser than the virgin soil so when it rains, it fills up with water much like a swimming pool. Like a pool, the water at the deepest part pushes the hardest, and this excess pressure will work its way through the porous concrete foundation, into the basement space. 

What is the best way to insulate a crawl space?

The best way to insulate a crawl space is with material made to last in a crawl space. This entails having a full encapsulation system installed. Encapsulation should include an insulation made to go over the dirt floor, one that will not rot, mold, or mildew; such as TerraBlock insulation. The foundation walls then should be insulated with either a spray foam, or a insulation made for the crawlspace; such as SilverGLo. This products do not absorb water or get damaged by water which allows them to last within this below-grade space. 

Fiberglass is not a lasting option as it is built to be encased on all six sides. When that is not done, it absorbs moisture, and looses it's insulation value and become a host space for mold and/or mildew to grow. 

What is the harm in moisture under house?

There is a number of issues moisture can cause under and in your home. You can experience mold growth, wood rot, increased energy costs, sagging floors, cracked walls, sagging insulation, an increase of bugs and animals under the home and many more issues. For a complete list and explanation of issues caused by moisture, give our office a call. We will be happy to send someone out to go over it all with you for free.

What kind of plastic should I use for a vapor barrier?

The basic option for a crawl space vapor barrier is a simple 6 Mil black plastic vapor barrier. 6 Mil is the minimum mil thickness that is accepted per building codes for ground space coverage. However, this is only the minimum. This will need to be replaced every few years to keep it working properly as it is prone to shifting out of place, rips, tears, and is easy for critters to chew through. 

For this reason we like to use a 20 Mil woven vapor barrier called CleanSpace when we do a full encapsulation. This material comes with a 25 year warranty against rips and tears, and its woven fiber deters critters from chewing through it. This material also is white on the side that will be visible, making it easy to check over for general maintenance and brightens the space. This material is used during a full encapsulation, meaning it will be installed under every wooden post, anchored next to the rim joists and sealed fully into place with a special four inch wide waterproof tape to keep it fully in place. 

What should be moderate humidity in crawl space?

Your crawlspace should always be below 55% RH.

What to do about basement leaks?

There are many solutions to leaks in a basement. Many of them depend on the type of leak as well as the location. It is best if you get a free consultation to determine which solution is most cost effective for you and will take care of your issue. In general we recommend a WaterGuard drainage system to grade water to a sump pump, and this has a wall system to divert water moisture from the water down to the new drainage system. We also highly recommend a dehumidifier to ensure a basement stays dry and healthy.

What type of moisture barrier is required in a crawl space?

At a minimum there should be a 6 mil thick plastic vapor barrier. However these need to be changed out every few years due to rips tears, and they are susceptible to being chewed on by critters. We highly recommend a 20 Mil thick vapor barrier; CleanSpace. This is made of a woven material and is backed by our twenty-five year warranty against rips and tears. 

What's wrong with fiberglass insulation?

It really depends upon what you are using it for, but in our business of insulating and keeping crawlspaces clean, it's not a good choice even though it's an industry go-to.  

Fiberglass insulation is only effective as long as it's flush against the surface of the space it's intended to insulate and that's the problem with a crawlspace. The moisture in a crawlspace causes the insulation to get heavy with moisture and then the insulation pulls away from the floor above. Now, cold air can creep in between the insulation and the floor, rendering it useless. Additionally, rodents just love the stuff and will make homes out of it and they will urinate in it, and since 50% of the air in your home rises up from your crawlspace... well, you get the picture. Consider Cleanspace Encapsulation to get the insulation quality you deserve and save money on your utilities.

When should you waterproof a below-grade space?

Ideally, waterproofing should be installed on all new construction to retroactively keep homes dry and healthy. Homes naturally settle and can have water creep into the space over the years. However, this doesn't always happen. To protect a home, we do recommend waterproofing on all homes to prepare them for the inevitable water damage. If water is already present, we offer a free inspection and estimate to remedy the problem. 

Where Should a Sump Pump be Installed?

Ideally a sump pump should be installed in the lowest point of your crawlspace or basement. This will allow the water to naturally grade down to this point so it will not pool. When a large amount of water is present or the area is generally level, we do then recommend a drainage system is installed to assist directing the water to the sump pump. From here the sump pump will divert and push all of the water safely out and away from the home's foundation. 

Which is better, crawl space or slab?

There are pros and cons to each foundation type. Slab foundations are generally recommended for more wet climates and help reduce mold growth in the home and are less expensive for the most part. In addition, they tend to be more energy efficient as they don't have to be heated. On the flip side, they are more prone to cracking with shifting soil and can be damaged by tree roots. Crawlspaces work well for several applications. Sloped lots and areas prone to earthquake and ground shifting, they are better for drier climates as they are prone to moisture and mold growth. Wiring and ductwork are more accessible and can be used as a storage area if finished. They also have their own drawbacks. They are more expensive to construct than a slab, they take longer and are less energy efficient than a slab.

Which material is used for waterproofing a basement or crawlspace?

There are a multitude of materials that can be used for waterproofing. However, to have a long term solution, we have systems set up for both crawlspaces and basements. 


Crawlspace: We offer our full crawlspace encapsulation. This uses a perforated pipe system in a silt sock to collect groundwater and grade it down to a sump pump. From the pump water is pushed out and away from the foundation. We then insulate the space with TerraBlock along the dirt floor and spray foam along the foundation walls. This is all then entirely sealed with our 20 Mil woven vapor barrier; CleanSpace. This goes under each wooden post, anchored along the walls, and sealed into place. As a final piece we add in new vent covers and a SaniDry dehumidifier. 


Basement: We use the WaterGuard drainage system. This is laid in a trench around the home's interior parameter on a bed of gravel. The walls will be covered with either BrightWall or ThermalDry radiant barrier which collects moisture from the walls and directs it down to the drain system. The drain system is then cemented over to create a smooth finish to the flooring. The drain system moves the water to a sump pump and then out and away from the home. We then add in a SaniDry dehumidifier to keep the space dry and healthy. 

Who does foundation sealant Portland OR?

Depends on the type of sealant you are needing, different companies do different types of sealant. It is always best to do your research on your issue and the contractors, get multiple bids, search that they are certified contractors for that field and check out reviews online.

Why does my Basement Smell Odd/Damp

This could be due to a few reasons, but it generally falls under at least one of the below reasons:

Humidity and Moisture: Basements are prone to high humidity, which can be tested with a hygrometer. If the humidity levels are high, this leads to mold, mildew, and rot; all of which give off odd odors. 

Water Leaks: If water has a way in, it will get in. Without a system to address this, the water will product water mold, and musty odors. Even if you can't see standing water, a small crack in a corner can house a water issue. 

Efflorescence: This occurs when salts are brought through the foundation walls, carried by water, which then evaporates, leaving behind a white mineral deposit. While this in itself is not harmful to your health, it is a sign that the space is to damp and that can cause the odd odor. 

Rotting Wood: If water has made its way into the wooden pieces of your home, or wooden items within the basement, it can cause rot, emitting an odor. 

Why does my vapor barrier have mud on top of it?

If your crawlspace has a 6 Mil vapor barrier installed, then it should be changed out every few years. If your home experiences a large amount of water intrusion, then this will cause the 6 Mil barrier to be moved out of place. Once it is askew, water can begin to leak onto the vapor barrier, carrying mud and debris. Once water is stuck on top; mold and mildew can easily occur which can cause long-term damage to your home. If you find dirt or mud on top of your 6 Mil vapor barrier, give us a call, we can help. 

Will a dehumidifier get rid of a damp smell?

A dehumidifier pulls the excess moisture out of the air. By doing this, and maintaining a healthy level of moisture in the air, mold and mildew growth can stop, and with it the odor. We also recommend a full waterproofing system to keep pooling water or other external factors from negatively affecting your below-grade space.  

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