Friday, August 2, 2013

Grossest DIY Project to Date

Six months ago, I decided it was time to tackle the basement.  It smelled slightly musty, was full of cobwebs and the carcasses of pill bugs, and my attempt at keeping things in order down there wasn't working out so well.  My washer and dryer set is in the basement, and I frequently do messy projects there when the weather is too cold to head outside.

When we moved into the house, there was a backyard "patio" that butted up to the back side of the house.  I use the term "patio" lightly, as it wasn't really all that usable.  The back stairs were crumbling, the patio stones were overgrown with weeds, and some intelligent person had decided to use asphalt for a foot wide strip that sat between the foundation and the patio stones.  This created a serious problem, as the stones were 2 inches higher than the asphalt, which meant that every rainstorm caused the emergence of a small lake that touched the back of my house.

How awful looking, right???

During particularly heavy rainstorms, you could find me in my galoshes and rain jacket, attempting to forcefully sweep the lake away from the foundation.  It wasn't a pretty sight.  All of this extra moisture had caused the paint on the inside of the basement to flake away due to efflorescence.   Three years ago, we ponied up and had a lovely (and large!) brick paver patio put in that graded AWAY from the house.  While this solved the possible water issues, it didn't fix the damage already done to the basement walls, especially under the glass block windows.


While there are big projects that I will admit are beyond the realm of my expertise, I refused to pay someone for a job I could do myself.  Scraping and painting?  Easy peasy- I could do that.  I did my research first on how I should attack this project, and what supplies I'd need.  Here's what I needed:

1 paint scraper
1 wire brush
1 mop
1 bucket
2 bottles of Mr Clean floor cleaner
1 bottle of DryLok etch
2 bottles of DryLok Fast Plug
1 5 gallon bucket of DryLok latex basement paint (tinted cream)
1 4 inch flat brush
1 roller
3 ventilation masks
2 prs rubber gloves

(I used DryLok products, as they seemed to have the most consistent reviews for basement paint/products)

I started out by using the scraper and wire brush on the entirety of the basement walls.  This was important, as there were pieces of the cinderblock that looked perfectly fine to the naked eye, but were not.  As I ran the scraper over the walls, small pits were unearthed, that would have begun to crumble had I just slapped some paint over them.


After scraping away all of the loose bits, I washed the walls down using good old fashioned muscle and Mr Clean.  This cleaned up any remaining dust particles.

Next, I mixed up the Drylok Etch, and used it on the areas that showed efflorescence.  It's important to wear gloves and a mask for this step, as getting the etch on your skin can be toxic- it's acid!!  (I actually wore a mask and gloves for the entirety of the project, as I wasn't sure when the basement had been painted last, or if the paint was lead based).  The Etch prepped the effloresced areas to take paint and hold it.  Without using it, you take the chance that your next round of paint will flake and bubble off- no one wants that after working so hard to prep a project like this!!

Scraped and etched.

After etching, I used 2 bottles of premixed Fast Plug.  It comes in squeeze bottles for easy application.  Every pit, hole, and crack line got this form of hydraulic cement pumped into it.  I used my paint scraper to smooth out the edges as it dried.  Some pits/cracks required more than one application to really fill the holes.

No picture here for this step.  The Fast Plug turned my plastic gloves into sticky pulp, and I wasn't going to pick up a camera to document it.  Sorry!

Whew.  This was A LOT of work- not going to lie.  Dave steadfastly refused to help with this project, telling me that if I wanted to get lead poisoning, that was on me.  He was ready to make the call to hire someone to take care of it, but my tightwad tendencies wouldn't give in on this one.

After waiting the recommended 24 hours for the Fast Plug to dry, I began with the paint.  If you've never had the pleasure of working with DryLok basement paint before, let me paint you a picture(get it?  HA..I think the fumes really got to me on this sorry excuse for a joke).  Go to your kitchen, make yourself some pudding, add a cocktail of the most nostril burning cleaning products you have, and voila!  Basement paint.  It's super thick, and pretty nasty smelling.  The consistency makes it go on the wall at about the rate of oil based paint- a snail's pace.

For full disclosure, this entire process took me several weeks to complete, as I only worked on weekends, and the holidays and real life got in the way a bit.  I am glad I did it, as the basement now looks and smells MUCH better, but I'm not sure I would do it myself again.  It took me about 50 hours, all in, to complete.  Cost wise, I probably spent a little less than $200.  Brain cell cost, though?  Probably immeasurable.

Much better.  Anybody else have one of these ancient behemoth double sinks?  Love it!!

If your basement needs some sealing, and you've got the time but not the money, DIY.  The vast amount of cobwebs that hit me in the face were enough to cement my desire to never do this again. (Cement...last lame attempt at a joke, I promise:)  I now have one more DIY notch on my belt with this project, but it's one experience that I hope to never have the pleasure of repeating.  


  1. I can't believe you have one of those sinks! I do too. And boy does it come in handy. Great blog post BTW. :^)

  2. Hi. I was wondering how your basement has held up?

  3. Hi Robin! It has held up great! We had the storm of the century in the Detroit area last summer, and my basement did not flood, I did not get any weeping through the walls, etc. If it was going to happen, that would have been the time for it!

  4. Hello Robin. Thanks for this deatailed article. Hope it will be useful my next repair. Is it worth to use liquid rubber and these basement waterproofing products ? Are there any similar products?

  5. Alex, all of my research before I did this project suggested that I use the Drylok products. I am not familiar with the LiquidRubber products, so I don't think I'm of any help there for you- sorry!! I completed this project three years ago, and it's still holding up great- no peeling or mildew!