10 crucial questions to ask your basement waterproofing contractor

10 crucial questions to ask your basement waterproofing contractor
A sump pump in the basement prevents flooding

A sump pump in the basement prevents flooding

Summer is here, and with it come summer storms. Once again, your mind races back to your beautiful, finished basement, or that unfinished basement, that you want to finish, but are concerned will flood.

You’ve done your research, and have done all the things that a prudent home owner should do: You have extended your down spouts, raised the grade, cleaned your gutters, and had a battery back-up installed, but you still feel tense every time it starts to rain. It's time to call in a pro, so can have some piece of mind knowing your basement won’t flood.

When it's time to hire a professional waterproofing company, it’s also time to research the subject, and ask the right questions. Don't just hire any waterproofing company. They are not all the same! Here are the top 10 questions you need to ask before you settle on a decision to hire your contractor:

1. Have you ever had a failure?

An honest contractor, who has been in the business for a significant period of time and has done hundreds of installs, has had a failure at some point. This isn't bad. What I want be looking for in the interview is the contractor saying; “Yes, I did have a failure. Let me explain what caused it, and what the company did to address it, so that it wouldn't happen again.”

2. What size sump pump is installed in the system?

A crawlspace should never have less than a half HP pump, and a basement should never have half of a 1HP pump.

3. What is the discharge capacity of the pump?

The contractor should know his system, and should be able to immediately tell you. A waterproofing system is all about how much capacity the system can move. This is essential information in making the right choice!

4. What is the best back-up system available?

A real pro is going to say it will be in this order: An automatic switch- over natural gas or propane generator, if a pump is needed to produce lift. If you are up high, and perhaps can have a gravity feed drain, then a pump will not be needed to begin with (this is the best option). Battery back-ups, or water back-ups, should only be recommended if one of these two options is not possible.

5. Do they install a level-footer system, or is it a deep-channel pitched system?

This is vital. I only recommend installing a deep- channel pitched system. Period. It's just common sense: water flows downhill. A real waterproofing system will have a high point located at the farthest point away from the sump pump, and it will pitch all the way to the pump. It will not sit level on the footer.

These systems fail regularly, so buyer beware! Most of the time a consumer can save 20-30 percent if you go with one of these systems. Just remember they are not designed to handle large amounts of rainfall rapidly.

6. I have an issue in one location: Why is the company recommending an entire system?

If you have a poured basement, nine out of ten times it can be addressed in that specific location by addressing a crack. If you have a block wall, you will most likely need a system installed.

7. Do you do outside waterproofing?

Every excellent and professional waterproofing contractor in the industry will offer this service. You should ask if they do, and have the contractor explain why or why they’re not, taking this approach with your proposal. In most cases, an outside system will be more expensive, and many obstacles can obstruct this type of install. However, it is the best approach, if possible.

8. How far away do you bury a discharge line?

It should be at least 20 inches away from the basement.

9. Can they provide you with three references to call?

Call them. You need to hear from people the contractor has done work for.

10. What does the warranty cover?

This is huge factor in making a determination. Have them flip over the contract and explain it. Ask questions and make sure you understand. The standard warranty is very weak. It may say things like," Life time transferable." Check out the details. Most of them cover nothing. If your system fails, the contractor will most likely have a way out of all liability. Some quality contractors in the industry are working hard to improve this, so do business with them. 

This leads me back to the first question: Have you ever had a failure? This will tell you a lot about the company and how they deal with failures. Going with the best price is not the answer in waterproofing. You will be well served to take the time, and do your research in finding a contractor. Find the best and pay more if you must.

About this Experts Contributor: Mark Bird is a managing partner at Advanced Restoration & Waterproofing. They have provided water damage restoration services in the Indianapolis area since 1993. Advanced Restoration & Waterproofing is the recipient of a 2013 Angie’s List Super Service Award. You can learn more by visiting the company website.

As of August 4, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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