Patching leaks in your foundation probably won't stop all the water from coming into the basement, but it can't hurt. To do this, you will need hydraulic cement. Hydraulic cement puts a cap on the water coming through the walls. It sets and hardens extremely quickly. Once you mix it, it's workable for only about 10 to 15 minutes, so be sure you're ready to use it before you mix.
First, clean the surface of the foundation. If there's dirt, dust or oil, it will hinder the cement from bonding. Wire brushes work well [source: Rodriguez]. Next, get rid of all the loose particles on the foundation no matter how large. Use a trowel to slather the cement on the surface.
You can also waterproof your walls. Waterproofing goes on like paint, but don't spread it too thin. The idea is to put enough waterproofing so that it sinks into the pores and cracks on the walls. Also, brush the waterproofing on in all different directions, like the Karate Kid did when painting Mr. Miyagi's house: wax on; wax off. This will ensure that the waterproofing goes to where it's needed. Of course, clean the walls first with the aforementioned wire brush. Then go to town. Once the first coat is dry, apply a second coat [source: familyhandyman.com].
You can also damp proof the outside wall of the foundation with a tar- or asphalt-like substance. If you have a newer house, chances are the foundation is already damp proofed. But keep in mind, damp proofing will fail in time. Also, waterproofing and damp proofing are not the same. You want to damp poof your basement to keep out soil moisture. That's the stuff that gives you that awful, musty smell [source: Basement Systems].
Foundation waterproofing membranes are also an alternative, though this job is expensive and best left to the professionals. Made from rubberized asphalt attached to a waterproof polyethylene film, the membranes have to be installed to the outside of the foundation. It works best in full basements, as opposed to crawl spaces [source: Home Advisor].