Foundations – Cracks and Cures

Concrete foundations are of two types – poured concrete and concrete block. Poured concrete is a modern manner of laying foundations, while concrete blocks are more traditional. Concrete blocks are preferred for their visual appeal and strength. Yet, as time passes, there may be degradation of concrete.

The prime cause of cracks in concrete foundation is seepage of water. Such cracks caused due to leakage of water are thin and hairline. They may widen over time, but they are present only in those areas where the seepage occurs. In order to repair leakage cracks, it is necessary first to investigate the source and the point from which the leakage originates.

There may be other reasons for concrete foundations to crumble. Soil may lose its moisture content in summer. There may be underground roots which may wither and die. Such natural causes make the soil shrink and hence the foundation may move. Though this movement is gradual, overtime it will cause cracks to occur. These cracks will be large gaping ones, running across the entire length of the foundation. They may even be in the form of tiny holes in certain places.

Whatever be the reason, cracks in the foundation are very perilous if ignored. Repair must be done as soon as possible. Difficulties involved in the repair process are influenced by how big the cracks are.

For tiny moisture created cracks, the repair is relatively simple and can be done by almost anyone. These cracks must first be brushed clean with a wire brush. A jet of water may be passed to remove any loose concrete particles within the crack. The crack is then allowed to dry completely and filled with concrete caulk. If the crack is large, then it is packed with patching materials that are specifically available for concrete. These patching materials must be wet when applied. They are limestone based, and they expand as they dry, filling up the crack completely. The finishing touch is to apply a sealant to the repaired crack.

But if the crack is sinister and not the do-it-yourself kind, then it is most prudent to shell out a few dollars and hire some good repairmen. Such cracks occur due to rods which may have rusted inside and snapped or because of deterioration of the materials present within the concrete. Some leakage cracks when ignored can also reach dangerous levels. Such cracks are more found in poured concrete.

Contractors treat the concrete foundation with urethane injections to extract the embedded water. They may even excavate the area around the foundation and replace the faulty tile or construct a provision for the water to lose contact with the foundation.

Foundation Repair

The principal function of a foundation of a home is to transfer the weight of a structure to its underlying soil and rocks. One of the factors that bring about the need for foundation repairs is improper foundation settling. Foundation settlement can devalue structures and also render them unsafe. Building on expansive clay, compressive or improperly contracted fill soils and improper maintenance in and around foundations are some of the major reasons of improper foundation settling. Another reason for improper foundation settlement is undetected or unsuspected air pockets in the ground below the area of construction. These may cave in and cause the integrity of the foundation to be compromised.

General symptoms of a structure needing foundation repairs are bulging or cracked walls and doors that don’t close properly. Building on expansive soils is the main culprit for foundation settlement. When only one part of the foundation either settles or heaves, cracks are formed in the foundation. The exterior warning signs of improper floor settling are rotation of walls, displaced moldings, cracked bricks and foundation and separation around doors and windows from the walls. Interior warning signs of improper floor settling are cracks on the floor, sheet rock and misalignment in doors and windows.

There are many ways of doing foundation repair. Cement, stone, steel or wood were used extensively in past techniques. They would be forced into the ground in a bid to salvage the strength of these foundations. However, this type of repair work has been known to be futile. Two of the most successful ways of foundation repairs are slab jacking and the Piering method. Piering is also known as hydraulic jacking.

Slab jacking is the process of adding grout beneath a slab or beam. This produces a lifting force and restores the said beam or slab to almost its original elevation and adds to its strength. Care should be taken that the amount of sand should be perfect while adding grout.

During Piering, steel posts are driven through unstable soil. Hydraulic jacks are used to stabilize concrete slabs which are weakened due to the changes taking place in the underlying soil. Steel beams are used in the Piering method because concrete has great compressive strength. Though Piers are able to transfer huge downward loads without the help of reinforcing steel, steel is used in the piers for prevention of the pier from being pulled apart or sheared by forces of the expansive soils. The repairs normally take 21 to 30 days, however this time frame can vary depending on soil conditions and weather delays.

This article is for general knowledge only, always consult with an expert regarding any structural design issues or faults.

 

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Fix Your Damp Basements

A wet basement can be obvious – water trickling across the floor or standing several inches deep at the base of the stairs. But there also are less obvious signs.

A wet basement may just feel humid and have a damp, stuffy smell. If so, wood in contact with concrete may be wet or decaying. Efflorescence, a chalky white substance left by the evaporation of water, may be seen on the walls. Basement floor tiles may be loose or popped. A carpeted floor may smell musty.

Find the Water
Fixing a wet basement begins with finding the cause. Infiltration of surface water, infiltration of groundwater, presence of outside humidity, and presence of indoor humidity are common causes of wet basements.

Surface water intrusion is when water runs toward the foundation and finds an entry. Groundwater enters through the walls and floor by wicking action or by hydrostatic pressure when the surrounding soil is saturated or the water table is high.

Warm, moist summer air can enter a house and condense on the basement’s cooler floor or walls. Indoor activities,like an improperly vented dryer, can create humidity that settles in the basement.

Fix the Problem
To avoid ongoing problems with mold or mildew, get rid of any water-damaged furnishings and possessions unless they can be properly cleaned. Then identify and treat the source of the problem.

Surface Water
If surface water is the culprit, watch how the roof drainage system works and where rain water flows during a rainstorm.

A gutter or downspout plugged with debris may be sending rainwater over the gutter, down along the foundation, and into the house. Regular cleaning or installing a product that prevents debris from getting into the trough will end that problem.

If there is no debris but rainwater is still overflowing, the downspouts may be clogged, incorrectly sized for the roof area, or insufficient for the size of the house. Consider getting larger gutters, adding another downspout, or increasing the downspout size and its corresponding gutter opening.

Downspout extensions that direct rainwater away from the house may be improperly placed or not long enough to protect the home from surface water. Experts suggest extensions of at least 10 feet to get the discharge away from the house without sending water into a neighbor’s yard.

Help keep your basement dry by maintaining a good gutter system to direct surface water away from the house.

Check the grade to see if it has been improperly set or has settled in spots, sending water toward the foundation. Check paved areas, driveways, and walkways that may be directing water toward the house. Proper slope has to be regained and may mean replacing pavement.

Basement window wells and stairwells can collect water, causing leaks into the basement. For a window well, put a drain system underneath, cover it with a clear plastic cover and be sure the well has a raised-lip edge to repel water. For a stairwell, consider a raised-lip edge and a roof to cover the area.

Groundwater
Groundwater is difficult to control. The ground surrounding a basement may become saturated with rainwater or an underground spring, especially if the soil is a heavy clay. Water pressure from saturated soil will push water through tiny cracks in the foundation. If groundwater levels rise above the basement floor, water will leak in.

If the problem is small, a homeowner may try patching cracks from the inside. Interior crack repair does not prevent water from getting into the exterior section of the wall. Water trapped inside the basement wall can weaken the foundation. After pinpointing the source, a homeowner might dig down along the foundation to see if outer wall repairs are small or large before making a repair decision.

Large cracks may require a structural engineer or basement specialist to fix any cracks, seal the outside, and install a drain around the perimeter of the house.

Humidity
Warm moist air, from inside activities or the outside, can condense on cooler basement walls and floors. Install energy-efficient windows, use a dehumidifier or air conditioner, and circulate household air to prevent moisture buildup.

Indoor humidity can have several sources. A working sump pump can produce unwanted humidity, but can be easily controlled. Put a tight-sealing cover on the sump pump and install a floor drain with a trap so that water can get to the sump.

A dirt floor or crawlspace may also emit moisture. One possibility is to pour a concrete floor over a sealed polyethylene moisture barrier on the floor. For crawlspaces, a ground cover will reduce the moisture coming up through the earth. Insulate perimeter walls if water pipes or heating ducts are in that area. Insulate cold-water pipes and walls. Install proper dryer exhausts and vent basement showers directly outside. Don’t hang wet laundry in the basement.

Fixing a wet basement may mean replacing decaying wood. If wood supports or framing appear water damaged, check with a professional to see if there are structural problems.

This article is provided by the “Barrie Home Inspector” as information only, always consult with an expert or contractor prior to commencing any projects. Read other articles by the “Barrie Home Inspector” at http://diy.napoleon.cc

Eaves Maintenance Essentials for Every Homeowner

 

Eaves Maintenance Essentials for Every Homeowner

Eaves trough a.k.a. Rain gutters, are an essential but often overlooked component of homes. Eaves trough prevent water damage to outdoor property, roofs, foundation, and landscaping, and also help protect against leaks, which is why regular gutter maintenance is absolutely essential. Although eaves replacement and repair is best left in the hands of a professional, most homeowners can take care of maintenance on their own with a little know-how.


Eaves Trough: Slope is Essential

When eaves trough are installed by a contractor, they are positioned in such a way that they are slightly sloped towards the downspout. This allows water to be expelled efficiently. An important part of regular gutter maintenance is checking the slope of rain gutters. An easy way to do this is to climb up on a ladder and spray water into the gutters with a hose. The water should flow smoothly towards the downspout. If it simply sits there, the slope probably has to be adjusted. There are different opinions about the ideal slope of rain gutters, but a one inch slope for every 20 feet of gutter is a common suggestion.

Using a line level, locate and mark the high point and low point for your gutter. Then, readjust your eaves trough by repositioning the hangers. Replace any rusted or damaged hangers and screws.

Eaves Maintenance: Fixing Leaks

Again, use a ladder to access your eaves and spray water into them using a hose. Then, look to see whether any sections of your eaves are leaking. Most leaks in sectional rain gutters will occur at the seams, and this problem is relatively easy to fix. Simply apply silicone or caulking along the seams. Be sure to seal both the inside and outside of the trough.


Eaves Maintenance: Repairing Holes

Eaves trough can develop small or large holes over time. Small holes can be easily repaired with roofing cement. Simply use a putty knife to distribute the cement evenly and fill in the hole. Bigger holes can also be repaired, although it will take some extra effort. In addition to roofing cement and a putty knife, a sheet metal patch large enough to cover the hole is also necessary. Set the sheet metal patch into a generous quantity of cement. Then, place the metal and cement (cement on bottom) over the hole. Finally, place more cement over the sheet metal using the putty knife.


Eaves Maintenance: Downspouts

The downspouts in any eaves trough system are crucial because they direct water away from your home’s foundation. The is essential. Inspect downspouts for leaks and signs of wear. If your downspouts are joined to fascia boards, ensure that they are firmly attached. Check the boards for signs of wear and rot and, if necessary, replace them.

Eaves Maintenance: When to Consult a Professional

Most homeowners can take care of basic rain eaves maintenance on their own. Adjusting the slope, repairing leaks and holes, and replacing fascia boards are manageable tasks. However, for significant structural problems and repairs, it is best to call a professional. The same is true if you are thinking about having new eaves trough installed.

Brought to you by the Alliston Home Inspector

 

Improve Your Lot Drainage

 

How much water do you think comes off your roof in a heavy rain storm?  Take a typical 1500 sq ft home and a rain storm that drops one inch of rain, this is equal to over 900 gallons of water. This water, all 900 gallons, leaves your roof by following your gutter system and down through downspouts to the ground. This is where most homes are sadly lacking.

 

Many homes have missing elbows on downspouts, which would allow water to run straight down your foundation.  If you have a basement, this can lead to damp walls or even water entry into basement. Once water has created a path it will tend to follow the same path unless remedial methods are used to re-direct it.

 

Every downspout should have an elbow and extension directing water away from your home. Water is the worst enemy of your home. Concrete pads are great; just remember to install them with the open end pointing away from your home.  Unbelievable, but I have come across numerous cases where these run off pads were installed like a dam, with the open side butted against the wall.  Wrong way; turn it around!

 

Small holes and depressions around your foundation should be filled and soil levelled to slope away from house. If installing patio stones or walkways along side of home, ensure that the y slope away from house. If a new house, increase slope away slightly to compensate for disturbed soil along side of house. This is very important because improper slope of soil around your home will direct water towards foundation year round. Eventually this will cause water damage to your home, spalling of concrete or water entry into your home.

 

Some homes have eaves troughs that discharge water across driveways and sidewalks. This can be dangerous to occupants and visitors in the winter season with ice being a problem. Diverting your run off underground is one solution to this dilemma. Ensure you run your drain lines deep enough not to freeze and that you have an adequate low spot to drain to.  Another good tip is to install a tee above drainpipe connect which allows the water to flow  out if drain line freezes. French drains are another option. This is just a barrel full of stone or gravel buried underground into which you water is directed.

 

Water is the number one enemy to your home, so ensure that is moved away from your home as quickly and efficiency as possible.

 

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Roger Frost is a professional home inspector for Napoleon Home Inspections and has many Do It Yourself

Articles.

 

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Spring Maintenance for Your Home

Spring is just around the corner and it is time to start planning those maintenance jobs that will prevent damage from occurring around your home.  This is known as preventive maintenance and is a yearly event.

A good way to start is to go out to the curb and take a good look at your home once the snow is gone.  Is there any noticeable items that stand out.  Look closely at your shingles, are they damaged, curling or missing anywhere?  Take a good look at your flashing, any pieces popped up or cracking of sealant?  If you have a chimney ensure it is still straight, if brick, look for obvious signs of brick spalling, cracked brick or concrete and missing chimney caps.

Check your eavestroughs to ensure that extensions are still in place and that splash pads are still directing water away from your home. Is the water from your roof draining away from your foundation, this is a major cause of damp basements and can even lead to water penetrating your basement. Is the water from your sump pump draining away from your house? You would be amazed at the amount of homes I come across that have their sump pump draining right beside their foundation.  This then goes down your wall into the weeping tile around your home and right back into your sump hole… a  continuous cycle…ensure this in not happening in your home.

Be sure to check back next week when we deal with other issues concerning the Spring Maintenance of your home.

Brought to your by the Alliston Home Inspector