Concrete blocks and cinder blocks are much more permeable to water and water vapor than poured concrete. According to ASHRAE Handbook, the permeability of concrete (1:2:4 mix) is 3.2 perms per inch of thickness. A good quality newly poured concrete wall 8-10 inches thick has a permeance (=permeability/thickness) of 0.4-0.3 perms (=3.2/8 - 3.2/10).
Concrete Blocks Are Semi-Permeable - Concrete blocks (CMUs) have larger pores than poured concrete and only thin walls (about 1-1/4-inch) next to their hollow cores (3.2/1.25 = 2.6 perms). Materials with permeance of 1 to 10 perms are classified as "semi-permeable." The permeance of concrete blocks varies widely. Some tests show 4.8 perms for hollow concrete blocks and 2.4 perms when the blocks are filled.
Cinder blocks, lightweight CMUs, splitface blocks, and "popcorn blocks" are considered permeable to water and vapor (>10 perms) and make waterproofing even more difficult.
Block foundations provide only a weak barrier against water or vapor and they usually start leaking as soon as the exterior waterproofing coating deteriorates. A tall water column builds up inside the hollow blocks and the hydrostatic pressure pushes water indoors through the thin wall of the lower blocks. Over time, water gradually leaches out the concrete and makes it still more porous.
DIY Waterproofing Solution – If the concrete blocks are continuously wet or damp, drain the water accumulated inside the cores by drilling weeping holes in the bottom blocks (3/8" masonry drill) and let them dry out for a couple of days.
You will often see efflorescence (white minerals) or mold growth on damp concrete. Remove light efflorescence with a wire-brush (or wire-wheel). For heavier efflorescence, avoid dangerous acids and use our easy, spray-on Efflorescence Cleaner which will also kill molds and mildew. To just remove molds and mildew, use BioZap All-Natural Mold & Mildew Cleaner instead of inhaling fumes from chlorine bleach.
Once the concrete is clean and thoroughly dry, spray on RadonSeal® Plus Penetrating Concrete Sealer in three back-to-back applications half an hour apart. Cinder blocks and very porous blocks need four applications. RadonSeal penetrates deep into concrete (up to 4 inches), reacts with alkalis, expands, and seals the pores in concrete PERMANENTLY.
Unlike waterproofing paints or coatings, RadonSeal cannot peel and cannot be pushed off by hydrostatic water pressure.
IMPORTANT! – Do not apply RadonSeal on actively leaking blocks or when a heavy rainstorm is expected within a couple days. Heavy water seepage can push RadonSeal out of the pores before it had a chance to react. Avoid applying RadonSeal on wet or internally water-saturated blocks because water dilutes the sealer and prevents it from reacting (drain them first with weeping holes).
Tip – Good ventilation after the application or using a fan, dehumidifier, or heater will help, particularly in damp areas, to evaporate water from the sealer so that it can react and cure before the next big rain.
After the concrete has dried and RadonSeal has cured, fill the weeping holes with caulk or a patching compound.
Cinder blocks are more porous and harder to seal. Check out Waterproofing Cinder Blocks
Lightweight blocks, split face blocks, and Haydite blocks are dry-pressed blocks made with little or no cement. Since RadonSeal works be reacting with cement, you have to use another waterproofing sealer – our LastiSeal Brick & Masonry Sealer. It is also a deep-penetrating sealer that fills the pores permanently (it's like filling the pores with epoxy). More on RadonSeal Uses, Limitations, and Application
Using A Combination of Waterproofing Sealers – This combination provides the tightest possible seal in poured concrete and concrete blocks. It is recommended for more challenging applications like more porous concrete blocks and for cinder blocks.
RadonSeal Plus may not suffice for very porous or already leached out blocks. Such blocks may still appear wet or leak. If your concrete blocks still get wet after applying RadonSeal, or if you want to guarantee the result to your customers, use Ion-Bond Armor Subsurface Concrete Sealer in combination with RadonSeal Plus.
Applying Ion-Bond Armor – Allow RadonSeal to cure for at least 10 days. Clean off any purged efflorescence or minerals and make sure the concrete is thoroughly dry. Use a fan if needed. Then spray the blocks with the Ion-Bond Armor. Ion-Bond is a penetrating sealer which bonds with RadonSeal and forms a waterproof membrane below the surface of concrete.
Prevention is easier than cure – it is much easier to seal blocks before they start leaking. Long-term water seepage dissolves lime and salts, which shows up as efflorescence ("white powder"). Leaching enlarges the pores in concrete and further speeds up the seepage, leaving hard-to-seal leached out blocks.