I am standing on the precipice of realizing a magical dream that I have carried with me since my youth. You see, I have recently purchased a basement. There is, of course, a house attached to the top of this basement for my wife and I to live in, but that is really just icing on the cake. I own a basement. And if you fall into the correct demographic for this publication, you know where I'm going with this... basement studio!
I've been living for three years in a tiny little 1-bedroom apartment with an MS-16 deck, a Mackie 32-4 board, a rack of outboard stuff, about 150 gallons of assorted cables, a wife, and a cat with a huge ass. You can understand my joy at the prospect of a more spacious workspace. The aforementioned inventory (with the exception of my wife and cat) was purchased by my band "Home" with two record advances. And while we still have a wish list longer than my arm, we've got the basics covered and have been biding our time since 1996 to find the space to build a proper temple for what we call "The Devil's Isle Wet Lab".
Dear friends, I would like to invite you along for the journey we are embarking on. A journey from raw cement basement to cushy recording studio that will no doubt include more tribulations, snarls, and opportunities for learning than I can imagine with my childishly optimistic mind.
Step 1: Waterproofing
The first thing you need to know about waterproofing a basement is that there's no such thing. Hurricane Floyd taught me this lesson four days after we moved in. At first sight of the three inches of water that covered my basement floor, I called out for a pox on the lying SOBs who sold us the house with the assertion that it was a "dry" basement. Upon visiting with the neighbors the next day, however, it became clear that our street had indeed been flood-free for nearly 10 years, and I had to recall my pox request. Luckily I hadn't loaded any equipment downstairs yet, and only lost several rolls of extremely ugly carpeting (it has become my opinion that God sent Floyd specifically to force me to dispose of this atrocious floor covering).
That being said, there are steps that one can take to keep moisture out of the basement in between hurricanes and monsoons, and to keep damage to a minimum during these acts.
1. Location, Location, Location
Try to find a house on a hill; water only travels in one direction, so no matter how much rain you experience, the water saturating elevated property will have no choice but to slink away. Explain your intentions to your house inspector, ask him/her to check for foundation cracks and efflorescence (mineral deposits that indicate water seepage). Also, if you are legally able to buy flood insurance on the house, it means you're located on a flood plain and should probably keep looking.
Don't overlook these simplistic marvels; they do a world of good in keeping water away from your house in the first place. In addition to keeping them unclogged, make sure they lead out at least 5 feet from the house, farther on the upstream side of the property.
3. Sump Pumps
Being originally from Florida this was a new one for me, but a sump is a hole cut in the basement floor and lined with semiporous tile. When the ground gets saturated the tile allows water to fill the hole, but holds out the mud. Now, add to this the deliciously fun to say Sump-Pump, a float triggered water pump. When the water level rises to a certain level the motor starts pumping out the water. Simple enough, but here's the trick... Find out where it's pumping to! Following my run-in with Hurricane Floyd, I spent several days sweeping standing water down into the sump and making no significant progress. Finally I crawled under the deck (face down in soft mud) to investigate the problem, only to find that the sump-pump was piped out to less than six inches from the foundation, creating a pointless water-cycle that I was foolishly perpetuating. Your sump- pump, like your gutters, needs to lead away far away from your foundation and to a lower elevation when possible. The other solution, which is illegal in most towns (meaning I would never officially suggest it), is to pipe it into your outgoing sewer line. One final note on sump-pumps: get a back-up generator in the mix, because heavy-duty rains are often accompanied by electrical outages.
4. The French Drain
This solution fell outside my budget restrictions, but from what I've been told, the French Drain offers the closest thing to a "dry" guarantee as you can get. The basic premise includes digging out your entire foundation and installing underground drains that lead away from the property. If you need this kind of security, have it done first as it will completely fuck up your landscaping.
5. Up and Away
Returning to my opening statement; there is no such thing as waterproofing, and it behooves you to keep everything off the ground. If you follow the basic precautions above, you will not be facing a swimming pool in your basement, but rather a few inches at worst, which is easy enough to guard against. Unless you are following some wacky feng-shui design, most of your dearest equipment will be up on a desk or in a rack anyway. Cables, stompboxes, tape reels, and the like should be stored at least 6 inches above the floor, and...