Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

Return to the Basement of Doom

I've been hoping my basement would dry out before I had to put the sealant down; it last rained on Saturday, and the leak had slowed to a very slight trickle by Monday. So I was hoping it would have stopped entirely, and the floor dried out, by last night.

It hadn't. Now, my plan for sealing the basement is two-fold: First, I got some cement sealant that bills itself as "fast drying" and "for use on stopping active leaks". So, in theory, I ought to be able to use it even if the leak hasn't stopped. The second step is to paint over the cement with a paint sealant. That needs a dry surface to work. But if the cement stops the leak, then the interior of the basement ought to stay dry enough for me to paint on final sealant coat.

In any case, both the cement and the paint specify that they should be applied to a clean surface. The directions on the cement further specify that the surface should be "clean and any loose or cumbly masonry removed completely". So, even if the basement wasn't completely dry yet, I figured I could start scrubbing the seams and hopefully it'd dry out today.

The difficulty with cleaning a concrete basement floor is that concrete is, apparently, made of dirt. Or, maybe when it's not siphoning in water from outside, it's bringing in dirt. Whatever the case, it seems like no matter how long or how hard I scrub at the floor, there's always more dirt, paint flakes, bits of cinder block, etc., left behind. And even if I managed, by some miracle, to get all of that up, it's still a grey concrete floor and it will never look clean. I tried mopping. I tried scrubbing with sponges. I tried a steel-wire brush. I used paper towels. I used regular towels. My back got really, really stiff.

What seemed to work best was scrubbing using a cleaning-agent and water solution and the steel-wire brush, then wiping up the excess water and dirt with a towel. The interior wall, which had never been sealed but needs to be, is now fairly clear.

The exterior wall, which had been sealed (probably by the sellers) but has a couple of cracks in the sealant, is another story.

I attacked the cracked areas with the wire scrub brush and the cleaning solution. "Attacked" is the right word: I pulled up layers of paint sealant and a moist, crumbly substance that looked suspiciously like cement. In other words, I got the sinking feeling that who ever had done this last had done exactly the same thing I plan to do.

I haven't quite figured out what to do with this information.

On the down side:

  • Clearly, following the directions on my cement sealant, I'm supposed to remove all of the old stuff. And that stuff is a pain to get up. I can try clearing the worst of it with a small chisel or something like that, but still -- yuck. And if the leak contclearing the old stuff makes the leak worse, this could get pretty ugly.

  • If I'm doing the same thing the last folks did, it seems quite likely it won't work this time, either.

On the up side:

  • It's possible I could do a better job of this than the last folks did. They may have used ordinary cement and not given it enough time to dry before painting over it, or they may not have cleaned and cleared the surface as well as I will.

  • The previous sealant did, apparently, do some real good despite the cracks in it, because when I went downstairs to check on it, I discovered that there was a lot more water on the floor than there had been last night, even though it hasn't rained. On the other hand, I'd also turned the dehumidfier off while I was cleaning and forgot to turn it back on, so that may account for the extra water.

  • I do have fill dirt outside the house now, so less water should be reaching the foundation from now on.

  • No fresh precipitation is anticipated for the area until Saturday night, and even then it's only showing a 30% chance.

Ideally, I want the cement down and the paint over it before the next rain or snow. The way things look now, that will probably mean putting the cement down, whether the floor is dry or not, Friday afternoon, then putting a coat of paint over it Saturday morning, and the second coat Saturday evening. I'm not wild about the timing on that. But the cement *does* say it's for active leaks, so it ought to be all right.

What I may do is put cement down along the interior wall today, and see how that goes. The interior wall is dry and clean, so that surface is basically ready now. If I have a lot of trouble with it, I probably want to leave the majority of the original sealant where it is. Pulling it all up now, only to discover that I have some major problem replacing it, does not appeal.

Anyway, I think I'll go scrub the interior wall one more time, and see if the waters have receeded any now that the dehumidifier's back on.

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