If you have a leak in your basement and are looking for a comprehensive, permanent solution, there are two ways to fix the problem. The most common is an interior drain tile system; exterior drain tile is your other option.
A few months ago, my colleague Ben Shachter wrote an article called “Interior Drain Tile vs. Exterior Drain Tile – Which System is Better?” It is highly educational and covers all the major advantages and disadvantages of both processes. Give it a read if you would like a basic understanding of drain tile.
Interior drain tile has always been the most common method of comprehensive basement waterproofing for one reason – cost. It requires significantly less labor to install and can be done in as little as one-third the time as an exterior system.
Just because exterior drain tile costs more doesn’t mean it is always a better solution. It has its advantages but, for example, if you have hydrostatic pressure building up beneath your basement floor, interior drain tile will do a better job of relieving it. Also, it’s sometimes just impossible to use exterior drain tile, such as when there’s an attached garage along the same wall where you have seepage.
One thing Ben didn’t mention in his article is the fact that, despite exterior drain tile being more costly, it comes with a more limited warranty. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but allow me to explain.
Interior drain tile sits beneath a concrete floor, making it naturally protected from weather, critters, and movement in the earth. There isn’t much that can go wrong under there. In the rare instance something does go wrong, it is usually a relatively simple repair that can be done by breaking through a few inches of basement floor.
Honestly, there isn’t that much than can go wrong with an exterior drain tile system either. I can probably count on two hands the number of times we’ve had to service a system and when we do, the cause was not the fault of the drain tile but of shifting earth or a settling foundation.
Servicing an exterior system is rarely a simple fix. It usually requires that the foundation be re-excavated in order to get at the root of the problem, which can be a major expense. For this reason, most basement waterproofing contractors will limit their warranty to five or ten years, as opposed to lifetime on interior systems.
This policy is all about limiting liability — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And don’t let overblown promises influence your decision about which company or solution to choose, because warranties are one of the most overhyped things in our industry. Two of the most popular articles on this blog have helped many readers understand just what waterproofing-related warranties will and won’t do for them.
If you hire a reputable company that has been in the business a long time, they will never run from your problem, regardless of whether the warranty has expired or not. If U.S. Waterproofing does an exterior drain tile job for you and you encounter a problem twenty years later, I can assure you we will not charge you full price to re-do the entire job. We can’t fix it for free but will charge you only enough to cover our cost. Sound fair?
I tell you all this because I don’t want you, regardless of who does your basement waterproofing, to choose the wrong solution because it has a lifetime warranty. For example, let’s say you have a century-old home built on a stone foundation. If water is coming through the foundation wall the best solution is what’s known as “positive side” waterproofing – exterior drain tile and a waterproofing membrane applied to the outside of the foundation. This approach would preserve the integrity of the stone wall and keep your basement dry but would carry a limited warranty because it is done on the exterior. Interior drain tile would not stop water running down the wall so it’s clearly the wrong approach, so does it make sense to choose that alternative merely because it has a lifetime warranty?
My colleague Ben is a waterproofing expert and he didn’t omit a discussion of warranties from his article because he forgot. He was trying to make the point, as am I, that if you choose the right company and the right solution, everything else will take care of itself. If you still have questions or concerns about basement waterproofing warranties, feel free to ask. We’re here to help.