Q&A OF THE WEEK: “What’s the Best Way to Fix My Leaky Cold Room?”

Q: What can I apply to the inside of my under-the-front-steps basement cold room to stop water from coming in? There are droplets of water on the ceiling and running down the walls, especially during cold winter weather. We can’t store food in the cellar because it’s just too wet.

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A: Modern basement cold rooms almost never work the way they’re supposed to for food storage and water is often partially to blame. Two kinds of water, actually. The droplets you saw during winter were almost certainly caused by condensation from the air as it came in contact with the overly-cold masonry ceiling surface. With no soil cover over the porch floor up above, the ceiling of your cold room gets way too cold in winter. In addition to dampness and moisture on the ceiling, you probably see frost sometimes during very cold weather too, right? The solution is to add the right type and the right quantity of insulation to the ceiling of your cold room. Click here for a detailed download that explains everything you need to do to make a modern cold room actually work.

Liquid water leaks from the surrounding soil and coming through the masonry of the cold room are another potential source of moisture. This is most likely to occur near the top of the walls and ceiling, but leaks can happen anywhere. The best waterproof paint I know of is called Drylok. It needs to go onto bare concrete that’s dry and room temperature, but it does work well if you put it on correctly.

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