Waterproofing Garden Units in Old Buildings?

6 Replies

Hi All,

I'm under-contract on a 4-flat in Lincoln Square. The basement today is 1/2 garden apartment, 1/2 unfinished common space. The finished part appears to have water / seepage coming from the brick foundation, which is need of re-pointing. The building is >100 years old, has a brick foundation, and all exterior gutters and sloping appears to be in good condition directing water away from the house. There is no sump pump or interior drainage system installed today. 

I've received mixed advice on how much work will be needed to stop the seepage in the basement apartment and make the garden unit livable. Some in my network shared that it will only need basic repointing, others have shared that it will need extensive work (installing a sump pump, exterior drainage, etc.). 

Has anyone had success waterproofing an old building with a brick foundation for relatively cheap? If so, could you share what you did and how long it stayed dry for?

Thank you!

Dan Short

I own a 100+ year old 2-flat in Lincoln Square, welcome to the neighborhood!

I had water issues in my basement too, but with a concrete foundation.  I've never heard of a brick foundation, it feels like you'd have a lot of issues because brick is very porous.  For me, I had several cracks in my concrete foundation and the sidewalk running alongside the house was several inches above the foundation, so water was pouring in through the brick and over the top of the foundation.

One company suggested running tarp (there's a fancier term) along the inside of the problem walls, then drainage tiles to a sump pump.  That might be the route you have to go.  The quote was around $10k for roughly half of the basement.  I didn't like that the water was still coming into the basement, so I got a second quote.  The second company opted to repair the cracks and then dig a ditch along the problem exterior wall and put in a membrane from a few inches below the foundation to a few inches above the sidewalk, effectively raising the top of the foundation (to water).  This was $9k.

Both quotes were for an unfinished basement and neither company handles any of the interior work, that I know of, so you'll need to find a contractor to handle that.  Feel free to send me a message if you'd like to know which companies I got quotes from.  It's the two big places in Chicago.

Originally posted by @Dan Short :

Hi All,

I'm under-contract on a 4-flat in Lincoln Square. The basement today is 1/2 garden apartment, 1/2 unfinished common space. The finished part appears to have water / seepage coming from the brick foundation, which is need of re-pointing. The building is >100 years old, has a brick foundation, and all exterior gutters and sloping appears to be in good condition directing water away from the house. There is no sump pump or interior drainage system installed today. 

I've received mixed advice on how much work will be needed to stop the seepage in the basement apartment and make the garden unit livable. Some in my network shared that it will only need basic repointing, others have shared that it will need extensive work (installing a sump pump, exterior drainage, etc.). 

Has anyone had success waterproofing an old building with a brick foundation for relatively cheap? If so, could you share what you did and how long it stayed dry for?

Thank you!

Dan Short

To guarantee it stays bone dry, don't go "relatively cheap".  Go with the sump pump and drainage tiles.

@Dan Short if you know you have water issues then I would recommend going the drain tile route. With that being said, I like the idea of doing the exterior and the interior. If you truly have a brick foundation then you would want to make sure the brick has been tuck pointed before it is covered up. They also can install a membrane on the exterior of the building and they can do drain tile on the exterior too that ties into the interior drain tile. 

None of this is cheap. I am guessing you could easily spend 8-10k but more likely 15k to do the 100% solution.