Should I Seal the Gap Between My Basement Floor and Wall?

By:    |   Published January 4, 2018

Every homeowner is concerned with keeping their house protected from moisture and water damage. One area that is vulnerable to seepage is your home’s cove joint. Unfortunately, you can’t just seal the gap between your basement floor and wall to fix it. Learn why not, and the best options for keeping water out of the cove joint by reading below.

What Is a Cove Joint?

This joint, where your basement wall and floor meet, is known as a cove joint. It exists due to the way that a home’s foundation is poured. After your foundation footings are built, your basement walls are poured so that they slot into a keyway. This helps keep them properly aligned.

When your walls have cured, the basement floor itself is then poured. This leaves a small gap between the floor and the walls – known as the cove joint.

Why Does the Cove Joint Leak?

Following a heavy rain, ground water around your home will rise. It begins to push into any potential openings in your foundation. Because the cove joint is a necessary part of structuring your foundation, it’s a common entry point for water. As prolonged rains or heavy rains continue, they’ll begin to force their way in through these gaps. This is typically referred to as hydrostatic pressure.

Why You Can’t Just Seal the Gap Between Your Basement Floor and Wall

It may seem like an obvious solution to simply seal the cove joint to prevent water from breaching into your home. However, it’s not that simple. In the short term, a sealant applied along this gap between your basement floor and wall may prevent leakage. However, it will eventually fail in one of two ways:

#1. The water being blocked by the sealant will find another gap in your foundation to enter the home. Typically, this will be cracks in your foundation.

#2. The sealant you used will be forced off or penetrated by the water. Once this happens, all the water will leak through the opening in your sealant, rendering it useless.

Either of these events will happen due to the strength of the hydrostatic pressure. It’s not easy for water to push into your home. When it meets with resistance, such as a sealant, it will work its way through or around that resistance.

The Best Solutions to Protect Your Cove Joint

While sealing the gap isn’t recommended, you do have options to help protect your home from potential water damage. There are multiple approaches to keep this water from leaking into your basement:

Interior Drain Tile

A drain tile system is the most commonly recommended solution for leaky cove joints. This drain is installed underneath your basement floor. It reduces hydrostatic pressure and directs ground water away that would otherwise leak into your basement – like a gutter under your basement.

Interior drain tile systems are made with a plastic pipe that’s flexible and perforated to allow the entry of water. It connects to a sump pit to allow your sump pump to push the water out instead of letting it leak in through your cove joint.

In some cases, drain tile piping can be made of clay. The overall diameter ranges from just a few inches to over a foot.

There are several advantages to an interior drain tile system:

  • It can be installed without disrupting your exterior landscaping
  • It’s less expensive than some exterior waterproofing options
  • Lower potential for damage from the elements or roots

Exterior Waterproofing Membrane

Foundation being coated for exterior waterproofing.

If something is preventing your home from being waterproofed from the inside, you can still protect your home from hydrostatic pressure. Professional waterproofing experts can install a waterproof membrane along the foundation walls. This membrane coats your foundation and adds another layer of protection against encroaching moisture.

Like any external installation, a membrane will require excavation. Landscaping and nearby buildings like decks or garages can be a concern for homeowners when planning an external waterproofing solution. If your home doesn’t have any obstructions to an interior waterproofing solution, it’s recommended to try those solutions first.

Exterior Drain Tile System

In some cases, an exterior membrane installation will also include an exterior drain tile system. This functions similarly to an interior drain tile, but is installed outside of the foundation.

There are some unique advantages to an exterior drain tile system over the interior alternative:

  • Installation leaves your basement interior intact
  • It prevents moisture saturation in the soil around the foundation
  • The installation can be performed during excavation for the membrane, saving some costs

However, it’s far less labor intensive to install an interior drain tile system. Therefore, the exterior drain tile system will always be a less economical choice for homeowners.

Schedule Your FREE 20-Point Inspection

The best way to keep your basement dry is with professional waterproofing. EverDry Toledo can help with a FREE 20-point basement inspection! We’ll help you find out if your home is at risk for water damage and which solutions will best serve you.

Contact us online to schedule an appointment or give us a call at (419) 469-5833 and schedule your inspection today!

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