According to the dictionary Wicking is:
1. A cord or strand of loosely woven, twisted, or braided fibers, as on a candle or oil lamp, that draws up fuel to the flame by capillary action.
2. A piece of material that conveys liquid by capillary action.
wicked (w-kt), wick·ing, wicks
To convey or be conveyed by capillary action: water gradually wicking up through the bricks.*
So if you’re basement waterproofing professional mentions the term, Wicking, it simply means that water is traveling up your wall.
How can this be? Doesn’t gravity keep water closer to the Earth? How can water actually travel up my foundation walls, they’re concrete?
Those are all very good points. To understand this term we have to understand the behavior of water. Water seeks it’s own natural level. It does this by filling voids left in its path by displaced objects. The make up of water, or molecules, will bond to each other and actually push and tug in order to make this happen. Water can find its way through tinny openings through this push and pull molecular action.
Concrete has small openings in it left behind from its drying process. Water evaporates in a process called Curing. It leaves behind very small holes called micro-pores. The micro-pores, separated by thin layers of concrete, can be easily broken into with enough force. So, like a sponge with holes, concrete’s holes invite water to seek it’s own level by entering the voids left from the drying process.
Water pressure from the outside of the home can force more water into these pores. Eventually the water fills up the pores and starts seeking out other pores. More than likely the pores are above where the water is currently. It again uses the push and pull of its natural capillary action and slowly climbs up the concrete wall using the micro-pores.
With water climbing its way higher on your walls and the saturation level of the wall increasing, it’s a matter of time before that water pushes through the final barrier and into your basement.
*The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.