Using Hydraulic Cement to Stop Sudden Basement Leaks

Hydraulic cement is an “old school” but still very effective way to stop sudden basement leaks.

That’s because unlike epoxy leak fillers and other more modern solutions, hydraulic cement can be used on wet basement walls or leaking basement floors and actually sets in running water to stop a sudden basement leak.

Hydraulic cement has several advantages over ordinary Portland cement. Portland cement shrinks when it dies. That means if you patch a crack or hole in your basement wall with Portland cement, a tiny leak may form after the cement dries and shrinks.

Hydraulic cements expand as they dry – making them a good solution for stopping basement leaks. For best effect, you should chisel out the crack and undercut the opening so that the inside of opening of the crack is wider than the surface of the opening. This helps to give the hydraulic cement extra room to expand and tightly seal the leak.

But the real value of hydraulic cement lies in its capacity to set in wet conditions. When dry hydraulic cement is mixed with water, chemical reactions take place that cause the mixture to harden. So the hydraulic cement sets without having to dry – making it a good solution to plugging an active basement leak. In most cases, a patch made with hydraulic cement will stop running water immediately and set in three to five minutes.

To use hydraulic cement, enlarge the crack or hole and remove all loose material. Mix only as much cement as you’ll use in two to three minutes. Hydraulic cement sets very quickly. If you mix too much, it will just set up in your mixing container – making it useless.  If you have a large crack to patch, you’ll probably need to do it in stages.

Roll the cement between your hands until the cement starts to stiffen. Starting at the top of the crack or hole, force the cement into place, pushing as hard as you can. Keep the pressure up for a few minutes until the cement sets.  You may want to add a finishing layer and smooth the surface with clean water using your fingers, a putty knife or a trowel. After the hydraulic cement is thoroughly set, you should paint the entire area with a heavy duty masonry coating or waterproofing paint to help seal the edges.

One tip: hydraulic cement sets so quickly it will ruin whatever container you are using to mix the cement with water. Since you can only mix a small amount at a time, a large plastic cup, empty coffee can or a milk jug with the top cut off make good mixing containers. Mix up the cement, make the repair, and throw the mixing container in the trash.

Hydraulic cement also sets quickly on your tools, but trowels can easily be scraped clean with a putty knife.

If you have basement leak problems, a small tub of hydraulic cement costs only a few dollars. It’s a great first line of defense to keep on hand to plug sudden, unexpected basement leaks.

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What’s the weird little secret behind most basement waterproofing problems?

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Or it can save you thousands of dollars if you do decide to call in professional basement waterproofers.

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