Expert Interview with Kitty Cotten Of Waterproof.com On Waterproofing Your Basement


A waterlogged basement can do extensive damage to a home, ruining priceless possessions and expensive appliances, and possibly even damaging the house itself. Much like medicine, a dose of prevention can do more than extensive rehabilitation which could’ve been avoided in the first place.

Waterproof.com has been helping basements stay bone dry since 1965 in what is now the third generation family-owned and operated business.

Waterproof’s Kitty Cotten took a moment to share some invaluable guidance on preparing your home to make sure you don’t get so much as a drip in your downstairs.

What is waterproof.com for people who haven’t been to your site? When did you go into business? How did you get started?

We are a third generation business established in 1965 by Robert Cotten. With his patented hollow baseboard system, he set out to build a national network of professional waterproofing contractors spanning across the northern United States.

In the 1980s, a new single component adhesive was developed that would bind vinyl to damp concrete. What followed was an ideal product for do-it-yourself homeowners called the SquidGee Dry System.

The need to manage water from the roofline to the basement floor was critical to ensure a dry basement by helping to prevent water from pooling around the foundation. Homes without gutters and downspouts were prime victims of roof water running down the foundation and into the basement. The need for our UnderGround Downspout extension was obvious when cities across the United States required that any downspout extending down to the sewer line be disconnected. Emerging from this background and the advent of the Internet is our factory-direct website waterproof.com, which was was established in 1998.

You help people waterproof their basements for a living. How often have you seen someone’s basement floor ruined by an overflowing gutter?

The first step in a professional basement waterproofer’s sales call is known as the walk around, which entails taking the homeowner for an observation of their surface water around the outside of their home. The salesman would look for the obvious contributors to their wet basement problem. Number one on the list was the need for gutters and downspouts that carried the water eight feet minimum from the foundation. The second most important source was in the landscaping around the foundation. Low areas would need to be filled in and tapered away to properly direct runoff away from the basement.

Waterproof.com sells DIY basement systems. How difficult is it to seal your own basement? What kinds of tools do you need?

Before we introduced our do-it-yourself basement water control system (ours is the original DIY channel), a homeowner’s only options were to try and paint away the problem or patch cracks and leaks in the foundation with hydraulic cement. Soon, homeowners found that their efforts gave way to the hydrostatic pressure in their basement, causing a leaky mess and necessitating a call to a professional waterproofer, who always created a drain system either by busting up the floor or digging up around the outside of the foundation.

History tells us that water seepage in the basement is typically where the floor and the wall meet. The key success of our DIY SquidGee Dry System was that it addressed that very problem by collecting the water seepage and quietly channeling it around to the drain. There are no jackhammers, trenching or digging in the basement, and it costs a fraction of hiring a pro to install a similar system. The homeowner simply cleans the surface of the floor where the hollow baseboard channels will be adhered along the wall.

Each main section is 4-1/2 feet long and has pre-molded inside and outside corners to go around corners or pipes, creating a continuous watertight channel around their perimeter to the drain source like a sump pump. Homes with hollow blocks should have half-inch holes tapped into the blocks before gluing the system in place to relieve the hydrostatic pressure. Tools needed would be a drill and attachment to clean any paint off the floor along the wall, a sponge, a bucket, a Wet Vac, a standard caulking gun, and a utility knife.

If you had to give a ballpark estimate, how much does it cost for someone to water seal a basement?

We actually have a really neat cost calculator for homeowners to enter their linear footage and number of corners, and it generates a quick quote for the kit in seconds! The average is about $6 a foot, and that includes shipping directly to the homeowner’s front door! The great majority of our customers dry up their basement for under $1000.

Waterproof.com features a number of ways for people to keep their basements dry, from sump pumps to underground downspouts. What are some things that people can do to avoid having any mishaps or any major damage from water that they’ll have to repair later?

One of the maintenance concerns for homeowners would be to keep leaves out of the window wells. Leaves can create a watertight bed for water to rise up above the seal and come in and run down the basement wall. A condensation issue is common in old basements, and a simple box fan idling along the wall on a timer is an ideal low-cost solution for the problem.

What is the SquidGee Dry System? How does it work?

The SquidGee Dry System is a contractor-grade do-it-yourself basement waterproofing channel that quietly collects basement water seepage and drains it away to the sump pump. SquidGee Dry is ideal for basements leaking water through the joint where the floor and walls meet.

How the SquidGee Dry System works is simple. The hollow main sections collect the water seepage. Water is fluidly self-leveling, and when water is contained it will always be trying to level itself out. If there is a hole at one end (in this case, a sump pump or floor drain outlet), the water will drain out through that hole. The system is five inches tall, so as water builds up in the system, it’s trying to level off; but there’s an opening at the drain, and all the water rushes toward the opening at the drain.

Once the water stops running out of the system at the drain, it means it has drained the water table around your foundation down lower than the floor; so any water that may have been standing in a low spot will simply seep back out the way it came in as it seeks level. Also, the top of the main section channel is not sealed, but simply rests against the basement walls to collect any water seepage from the face of the basement walls and direct it back behind the channel.

How much of a health hazard can mold be if it’s allowed to grow in a basement? What are a few things that people can do to prevent mold from getting started? Do you have any advice on things they might try if their house is already infected?

Mold is an organic condition caused by stagnant air, decay and damp conditions. Getting rid of any one of those three items prevents mold. Use a box fan to keep air moving that will get rid of the stagnant air. Correcting any water problems will fix the damp conditions. A pail of water and three quarters of a cup of bleach to clean decay from surfaces reduces decay. Mold is extremely hard on your respiratory system and a huge health concern to anyone with stressed respiratory health.

Can you talk a bit about your underground downspouts? How do they work? Some people have been inquiring as to whether or not they can work in very cold climates. Can they?

The underground downspout system is designed to take water from your downspouts out eight feet or further in your yard, where it will bubble up through the bubbler pot and flow evenly out onto your lawn, without the washout that is commonly seen with splash blocks or downspouts that just discharge onto the grass.

Rainwater comes rushing down the downspout and free falls through a debris filter, chucking leaves and twigs off onto the grass and letting only the water flow down underground and out to your bubbler pot. As water fills up in the bubbler pot, the lid has a three-inch diameter cylinder of trapped air that makes the lid gently pop up; allowing water to flow out onto your grass and then seal back down so grass clippings won’t get into the system.

The UnderGround Downspout is a Minnesota-built product that has stood up to subzero conditions for over 20 years. In cold conditions, water is not flowing and the system is frozen solid in the ground. In the spring, you have a freeze-thaw cycle that goes on for a month or so. Water trickles down the frozen downspout and onto the ground without making its way through the frozen system. Ice and snow are also melting all around the outside of the foundation. This little bit of freeze and thaw adds an insignificant amount of water to all that takes place in the spring runoff.

When the thunderstorms roll in shortly afterward, the UnderGround Downspouts are raring to go and handle huge volumes of water channeling through them. Most people like the fact that they never have to take a downspout off when they’re mowing the lawn and then forget to put it back on, or having to step over one as it stretches out across the service walk from their front door to the back.

What are some really basic preventive things that people can do to avoid having water seepage in their basements?

We have a full page of preventative tips and advice on our website to help keep runoff water out of your basement. Prevention is always going to be about managing surface water. Basement floods occur because of the heavy thunderstorms or some type of surface condition that brings water up next to the foundation. There could be a berm to direct water around and away from a home, or simply bringing in dirt and filling in low areas along the house will work as well. Sometimes, the serve walk that leads around the side of the house has settled and tilts back towards the foundation, creating a dam which keeps water next to the house. Grass all the way up to the foundation is better then decorative rock.

For more info on how to keep your basement dry, like Waterproof.com on Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube channel.

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