Combating a wet basement is one of the challenges of homeownership.

After all, basement leaks happen in new and older homes alike. But one of the most common areas for basement leaks is the space between the wall and the floor, known as the cove joint.

Preventing leaks in the cove joint poses its challenges: You can’t easily seal away this area as you can in other areas of your home. Because the cove joint is part of the home’s foundation, it is especially susceptible to leaks and moisture damage when heavy rainfall occurs.

Is there currently a leak at the cove joint in your basement? What can you do to solve basement leaks between the wall and floor? 

In this article, we’ll share tips and explore everything you need to know about how to stop and prevent cove joint seepage. Let’s get started!

Understanding the Cove Joint & Why It Leaks

The cove joint leaks because it is essentially a gap between the walls and floor of a basement. To understand why this occurs, it helps to understand its relationship to the foundation.

Once poured and laid out below ground, a foundation needs walls and a floor to support and stabilize the building structure as a whole. However, a gap (the cove joint) does remain where the walls and floor meet, making it an ideal entry point for groundwater.

Moderate rainfall typically won’t cause cove joint leaks. But persistent, heavy rainfall can cause groundwater to seep through the cove joint, adding pressure to the foundation.

It’s important to note that the foundation of a home can begin to wear away 10-15 years after construction. As the foundation weakens, the cove joint gap can also widen or weaken.

Can You Seal a Basement from the Inside?

Sealing the cove joint may seem like a simple solution to preventing leaks and seepage; however, it is not an effective or long-lasting solution. 

Groundwater can penetrate and weaken the sealant you’ve applied. Even if you seal the cove joint, water can still travel and find another entry point in the foundation, which can cause cracks in the foundation. 

Can Water Leak Upwards Through the Floor?

In addition to seeping through the cove joint, groundwater can also leak upwards through the floor. 

Basement floor leaks are common with porous cement floors because water essentially travels through the pores and cracks. 

You may be experiencing a wet basement floor due to drainage problems with your home’s gutters and downspouts. If these become clogged, it can cause water to dam up at the foundation.

A failing sump pump may also be to blame. Damage to your home’s sump pump, which is underground, can cause water to backflow and travel through cracks and holes in the foundation.

An upward leak coming through the basement floor is not the only potential problem you can encounter.

How to Tell If Pipes Are Leaking Behind a Wall

A wet basement floor or cove joint might be due to leaky or burst pipes in the walls. 

Unfortunately, pipe leaks are often not recognizable until significant leaks have occurred. Hidden leaks are especially damaging to the home’s foundation and structure of the basement. 

Repairing structural damage is not only expensive. If left unfixed, leaky water pipes can also cause severe mold growth and potential health hazards. It only takes 24 to 48 hours for mold to grow. A serious water leak can accelerate this growth, making the mold infestation bigger and more noticeable.

Identify pipe leaks in the walls as soon as possible because the damage and mold growth will continue to spread. Of course, leaks coming from the area between the basement floor and wall is an obvious sign of potential water pipe leaks. But how else can you tell if the pipes behind your basement walls are leaking? 

Here are some of the telltale signs of leaky water pipes:

  • Warped walls (walls that bend or curve)
  • Bubbling paint or peeling wallpaper
  • Musty odor (especially coming from the walls)
  • Wall stains (especially if they continue to increase in size)

In addition to checking the floors for leaks, you should also examine your basement ceiling for these signs. There could be a leak somewhere in the pipes between your basement ceiling and the first floor.

You can also check for hidden water leaks in your home by shutting off all faucets and water-efficient appliances. After doing so, record the reading on your water meter. Keep your faucets, plumbing fixtures, and appliances off for a couple of hours. Go back and check the meter reading; if it has increased, this is indicative of a hidden water leak.

3 Tips to Solving Basement Leaks Between the Wall & Floor

There’s a whole array of causes for leaks between the walls and floor (cove joint) of a basement. Leaks can also travel upwards through the basement floor. And whether there’s a leak at the cove joint or through the floor or the walls, hidden pipe leaks may be the culprit.

As mentioned earlier, sealing the area between the basement wall and floor is a no-go. So, what are the next best alternatives to preventing leaks and cove joint seepage?

Next, we’ll dive into three tips for solving basement leaks between the wall and floor and throughout the basement as a whole.

1. Interior Drain Tile System

Installing an interior drain tile is the most common approach to fixing leaky cove joints from the inside of your home. It can also combat other leaks and forms of seepage.

An interior drain tile works by directing groundwater away from the basement’s cove joint. Think of an interior drain tile as a gutter system for your basement and home’s foundation.

Basement Waterproofing Diagram Courtesy of FamilyHandyman

Made from a perforated plastic (or clay) pipe and installed underneath the basement floor, an interior drain tile collects groundwater. It then directs the flow of this groundwater and empties it into a sump pump. An interior drain tile system can also reduce the amount of pressure put on your home’s foundation.

2. Exterior Drain Tile System

Another alternative is to install an exterior drain tile system. Rather than collect groundwater around the foundation, this system collects water before it gathers at the foundation. It then directs the groundwater away from the foundation and empties into a sump pump, much like an interior drain tile system.

Because it collects groundwater in a basin outside of the foundation, professional excavation is required prior to installation. Fortunately, because the work is done outside the foundation, the basement’s interior goes untouched, equating to less mess, a plus for many homeowners.

An exterior drain tile system is also an ideal choice because it provides a sealant and waterproofing barrier for the rest of your home’s foundation and basement walls. If moisture control is another variable in your decision, then consider installing an exterior drain tile system as opposed to an interior system.

3. Exterior Waterproof Membrane

Are you looking for other ways to waterproof your foundation from the outside? Do you frequently experience water leaks through the top of your foundation and in your basement? By installing an exterior waterproofing membrane, you can prevent water leaks, reduce pressure, and better protect your foundation.

An exterior waterproofing system by PioneerBasementSolutions

A waterproof membrane is a type of coating that covers the outside of the foundation. It can essentially prevent water and moisture from passing through the foundation. 

Installing a waterproof membrane does require excavation. Before installing the membrane, it is necessary to fix any cracks or defects in the foundation.

Other Ways to Prevent Leaks & Control Moisture

By installing an exterior waterproof membrane or an interior/exterior drain tile system, you can prevent serious water leaks and optimize the safety and integrity of your home’s foundation. In addition to these installation projects, you may be wondering what else you can do to combat wet and humid basements.

Here are ways you can control moisture and prevent water leaks in your basement:

  • Get a dehumidifier for your basement and run it for at least 12 hours every day.
  • Close the basement windows.
  • Install a new ventilation or HVAC system.

You can also insulate your water pipes. By doing so, you can prevent burst or frozen pipes during bouts of cold weather. You can even go the extra mile to seal cracks and air gaps by insulating your basement with unfaced insulation. New insulation can also reduce your energy bills in the process!

It’s Time to Put an End to Basement Leaks

Are you tired of a wet, damp, musty, or humid basement? 

It’s time to solve basement leaks once and for all. By identifying basement leaks between the floor and walls sooner rather than later, you can prevent severe and costly foundation repairs. 

Because some of these tips can prevent water pipe leaks and better seal away air gaps in your home’s foundation, you can also save money on your monthly energy and water bills in the process.

Which of these tips will you try to safeguard your home’s foundation and combat basement moisture and water leaks? Let us know and send Appliance Analysts a message!