Q: How should I choose a contractor to stop my basement from leaking water during wet weather? I don’t want to be ripped off and I feel like a sitting duck.
A: You’re wise to be concerned because the technical challenges of waterproofing basements are significant and costs usually high. That’s why you need to check out the companies you’re considering very carefully. Get five different waterproofing companies to come around, inspect the situation, offer possible solutions, then give you a written cost estimate. You want to do all this for several reasons.
First, there’s probably more than one way to do the job. Getting multiple estimates will help you see what the different approaches might be. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions about how things will happen, either. There’s a definite tendency for homeowners to be afraid to look stupid in the eyes of contractors, asking fewer questions than they should or no questions at all. Better to feel stupid now rather than thoroughly ripped off later. And besides, good contractors are always at least decent communicators, if not great ones. If you don’t feel comfortable with the explanation of the approach, or if the contractor makes you feel less than completely comfortable, find someone else. In my experience an inability to communicate clearly is usually an indication of an inability to think clearly. Among other things you want a basement waterproofing contractor who thinks well.
Multiple estimates also give you different numbers to consider. I expect the cost estimates will range widely from high to low. Explain to the contractors who come around that you’re shopping around. State this up front so they know they’re competing against other companies. Go ahead and drop some names of these other companies. Also (and this is important) ask for five references from each company, ideally from people who have had work done recently, as well as others that have had work done at least a few years ago. If you encounter reluctance in providing references, that’s a definite warning sign to stay away from that contractor. One of the most common basement waterproofing myths is that it’s always expensive, but this is not necessarily so. In fact, it’s one of the best investments you can make in your home, especially if you consider how much damage a leaky basement can cause.
All this is much more trouble than simply picking up the phone and calling someone, but diligence is important. I’d hate to see you spend five figures only to have the basement continue to leak. And make no mistake, five figures is a distinct possibility and it takes work on your part to ensure a happy outcome. The best basement waterproofing jobs often use a dimpled drainage membrane on the outside of the basement wall, as you see being installed in a new home above.
To help you ask the right questions, and to properly understand the answers, be sure to watch the video below. It outlines the basics of how basement waterproofing works.