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115 year old solid masonry, 8 stories multi-use w/condos on the upper floors & fancy schmantz art galleries on the lower levels.

My best buddy, the fancy furniture maker (he just shipped out 5 of his $75,000 pool tables to the Wynn in Las Vegas), is pulling out of the Mart & getting his own gallery space in River North. Given the artists profit margin, he's in the bsmt., but has nice windows & light coming in on 2 sides.

Did the inspection, found water, pulled the sheetrock, & found the usual long term slow running moisture migration through the common brick foundation. No ponding flow, just a fair amount of efflorescence & the black mildew thing on the back of the drywall. Nothing surprising or out of the ordinary, but it's still water, & we want to slow it down.

We've isolated the primary source(s), caulked, repointed, & otherwise staunched the flow of moisture from the top, but know there will be some continued moisture migration.

What say the collected brethren on how best to minimize vapor & moisture diffusion into the bsmt.? The seller is scraping off all the efflorescence and wants to "tuckpoint" to make it dry; we know that's nowhere, but what about vapor barriers?

Parge the interior w/a rich mix of portland? Plastic sheet? MiraDrain type collection membrane on the interior wall?

We realize this isn't perfect or anything else, but we knew the previous gallery owner for about 17 years and have a reasonable idea of just how "bad" it is. We're going to use steel studs and stand them off the wall a few inches, vent the bottom & leave the top "open" to provide a little convective drying of the stud cavities.

I know the fundamentals of Joe L's work, but this is art & we have to work w/what we got. Anything else anyone can think of?

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Hi Kurt,

It's probably too old to have a floating slab but if it does I'd use either ice and water shield or Kerdi directly on the masonry and let condensed water out at the bottom. I've used the ice and water in the past (smooth, non granulated) and experienced good results. Fur out from there.

Honestly, foil faced polyisocyanuarte, caulked with Quad at the seams will make one heck of a moisture barrier and insulate a little too.

Getting the condensate out of the wall has to be considered and little interior floor mount tiling may need to be incorporated.

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I know it doesn’t directly answer the question, but if this is going to be a showroom for wood furniture located below grade behind a foundation wall with evident moisture problems, one thing I would want to consider was the implication of a given control method for minimizing humidity *swings* within the entire conditioned space. For example I’d be leery of any control method that had the potential to act as a “humidifier padâ€

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Hi Kurt,

I don't know that I'd want to apply a layer of MiraDrain or plastic. That'll just collect moisture against the backside and then it will build up, drain to the bottom and you might end up with some ponding.

How about parging it with some fiber reinforced mortar to minimize curing cracks and then apply a layer of crystaline waterproofing material such as Xypex, to make the parge layer impermeable to water? If it's not enough to cause ponding now, this might be just the ticket. Xypex will allow vapor diffusion but will not allow water molecules to pass through.

If you stand the wall off as you've described, stand the rock free of the ground and cover it with a slot-routed baseboard, air circulation will make that wall cavity part of the conditioned space and there shouldn't be any mold developing.

He's a woodworker? Have him pick up some composite lumber and use his shaper or router table to fabricate the baseboards right there in his shop. The composite wood won't absorb moisture, discolor or rot and will remain dimensionally stable.

Oh yeah, the water vapor. It sounds like he's a pretty knowledgable woodworker, so I'm sure he's letting his wood aclimate to his shop atmosphere before he uses it, but what's the humidity in that showroom? Are pieces that remain in that showroof for a long time being shipped to Vegas? Isn't he concerned about dimensional stability in Vegas' dry climate? Aw, maybe I'm over-thinking it - everything in Vegas is air conditioned anyway.

That's all I got.

OT - OF!!!


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Thanks for the input. You've both hit on the basic conundrum. It's the "right" amount of water that would probably condense mightily on plastic sheeting & require collection, but an amount that would dissipate to the interior if there is ventilation. There is no history of flooding (we know the space; it's been a high end gallery for 17 years).

Relative humidity in the showroom is fine; it's dry in winter, and not so dry in summer, but nothing AC can't handle. And, this is just a showroom in a hip location; his furniture is made by specialty subcontractors in Grand Rapids, Toronto, and a tiny bit coming from China (where else?). None of the final shipped out pieces go through this place.


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