Foundation Crack Repair, Basement Waterproofing Blog

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My Bulkhead is Leaking. What should I do?

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Here in MA, RI, CT and NH, most houses have basements. A bulkhead is usually metal, you can open this door that is on an angle from the outside and then go down some stairs into the basement.

When a bulkhead is leaking you'll often see a puddle at the bottom of the stairs in the basement. The puddle is just where the water gathers, that doesn't mean that is where it is leaking. You want to try to see where it comes from. Take a look at the stairs, if they are concrete you may be able to see water lines. It could be coming from the metal doors themselves, or where the metal door is attached to the concrete. If you can see any of that, you may want to go into the basement and have someone spray the metal door with the garden hose. You'll see if it is coming in through there.

Another spot where water can come in is if it is a pre-cast bulkhead, meaning the stairs are made somewhere else and bolted onto the foundations.

Put the hose where the stairs and foudation meet. Let the water run for about 45 minutes, turn it off for 15, and do that a few times. You'll see water come in where the bulkhead set of stairs are bolted to the house.

So, to recap you'll see water come in through the doors, where the door is attached to the foundation or at the seams where hte pre-cast stairs meet the house.

If you run your water you are going to see exactly where the leak is coming from.

For more information on bulkhead repair and basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

What is that Rusty Thing Sticking out of my Foundation Wall?

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Homeowners are complaining about the rusty things sticking out of their foundation walls. People can get hurt by them and they can let water in.

A1 Foundation Crack Repair - Tie Rods These "rusty things" are called tie rods or snap-ties. They are used during the construction phase. Builders take two pieces of wood and use the rods to separate them, they then pour the concrete between the wood. Once the concrete is dried, they remove the wood and are also supposed to snap the ties off on the outside and on the inside of the foundation. They should be removed from the outside because they are a good source for letting water into the basement. Some contractors don't. We are getting calls because these tie rods have not been snapped off. We go in and cut them off, but they often leak. Often they are leaking before we snap them off. They leak because they are made of metal, metal rusts, and when they rust they get smaller, when they get smaller water can come in.

We work from the inside. We drill next to the tie-rod, put our ports in, and then inject the ports with closed polymer resin which stops the water and cold air from coming in. For those that are not leaking, we snap them off and put in a certain caulking as preventative maintenance. This stops the potential for both water and cold air from coming in.

For more information on basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

How Much Water is in Concrete?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, November 02, 2017

It's common knowledge that concrete begins with water and a dry cement substance that are mixed together, poured into a mold that then becomes very hard. But that is probably the end of most people's knowledge on the subject.

But there is also aggregate and other chemicals that are put into it. Cement has a lot of weight. Think of a square yard. That square yard of concrete weighs 3,700 pounds coming down the chute of the cement truck. If that yard is poured and then dried, it then weighs 3,500 pounds. And that's just for a yard. Think of how many yards a basement floor and walls has. Now the difference in one yard of wet and then dried concrete is 200lbs. The concrete is missing 200lbs which equals about 38 gallons of water. They are supposed to vibrate the concrete in most cases to get the air pockets out, but you are always going to have some minor air pockets. When the water evaporates, you'll have air pockets.

You need to know what you are doing with the concrete or you will get yourself in trouble. You need to choose a contractor that is aware of the nuances of concrete if it dries too quickly or in the cold you'll have foundation problems.

For more information, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

Home Inspection Saves Home Seller from Lally Column Disaster

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, October 26, 2017

I was called to take a look at some lally columns at a beautiful house in South Yarmouth that had been in the family for many many years, a second generation home. It was right on the water, it has a swimming pool and next to the swimming pool is a private beach on the ocean.

The seller had a pre-inspection done by a home inspector that I know. The homeowner said that "some of the floors seem a little soft, like if you jump they move a little bit." The inspector went downstairs, it was a crawl space. He discovered a whole history of lally column there. There were temporary ones, those have a screw jack on them and they were rusted. In fact, if I kicked them, they would fall right off. There were some which were on footings that were steel filled with concrete, but they were sitting on sand. There were some that did have footings but they were rusted on the bottom because of all the humidity in the basement. This was the big problem. We had to go in there and address the lally column replacement. Not only that, but there were a lot of cracks which were letting the humid sea air in.

This was all caused by moisture. It was a good thing that these folks had a pre-inspection. The solution: We installed new lally columns, we fixed the cracks, and next we are putting in a real good, high-end dehumidifier in to take the moisture away.

For more information, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

Are the Downspouts in your House Properly Installed?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, October 20, 2017

We are seeing, especially in new construction, that the downspout ends about 6" from the foundation. This is a problem because when they excavate for a cellar hole, they excavate about 6' to 8' larger than they need because guys have to get in there and work.

They fill that soil back in, but they don't compact it. When the soil is not compacted, the water can peculate through it. This means that the water can saturate it, then freeze and cause lateral pressure which will push against the foundation and can cause cracking.

You want the downspouts and the soil to be pointing away from the house. That 6'-10' area is known as the "zone of failure" because that soil often alows the water to peculate through, it "fails" to have the water run away.

We recommend that homeowners move the downspouts to about 6' to 10' away from the house. You also want to be sure that your gutters and downspouts are free of debris so that water can easily flow.

For more information on basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

The Top 3 Most Common Problems with Stone Foundations

Joseph Coupal - Monday, October 16, 2017

We see stone foundations all over New England, from MA to RI, CT, it doesn't matter. From Hartford to Boston we see these stone foundations. There are 3 primary problems that we see.

The first is that there is mortar missing or crumbling from in between the stones. That's when you go in the basement and you see a powdery material on the floor, or when you touch it it just comes off. The mortar is put there to keep the stones in place. You want to keep the structural integrity intact, so we "re-point" or "put-back" the mortar that is missing. This is a maintenance issue, if you let it go, eventually you are going to have structural issues.

The second common problem with stone foundations is if the stone seems to be wet, deteriorating, or has excessive moisture. In this case there are a couple things to be checked. Make sure your gutters are clean and the downspouts run away from the foundation and be sure the soil is pitched away from the foundation. Also, put a true dehumidifier in your basement, not just a little one, but one that removes about 105 pints of water a day.

The third most common problem is when there is parging over the stone years ago or paint over the parging that appears to be trapping water or loose. You need to remove all the loose cement or paint and let the rest flake off over-time. This allows the stones to breathe.

For more information on basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundatoin Crack Repair.

Three Inexpensive Ways to Keep your Basement Dry - Boston, MA

Joseph Coupal - Friday, October 06, 2017

Everyone likes saving a buck when possible and most homeowners have a DIY instinct when it comes to home repairs. So we have a few tips today for keeping your basement dry.

The first tip is to take care of your gutters and downspouts. By that we mean make sure your gutters are clean, that there are no trees growing out of them, and that downspouts are clear. Also, you want to be sure they are far enough away from the house that the water runs away from your house and not toward it. Oftentimes, you have to put a gutter extension on them to be sure.

The second tip is inside the basement. You want to get rid of excess humidity. There are three areas to work on, very inexpensively, to take care of that. Be sure your dryer vent is hooked up and sealed. Also, by code you want to be sure that the pipe is solid, not plastic or foil. You want to make sure it is aluminum and that all the sections are sealed with aluminum tape. Drying clothes removed about 1 1/2 gallons of water, so if that pipe is not sealed, that water is entering the basement.

If you have a bathroom in the basement, you want to be sure that the bathroom is vented outside. You also want to be sure that the vent is insulated. If you have warm air going through the pipe and cold air outside, you have condensation. Speaking of pipes, you want to be sure your cold water pipes are insulated too.

The last tip would be to keep you cold, below-grade walls insulated. Styrofoam insulation boards work well for this.

For more information on basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

Case Study - Old Lally Column Threatens to Kill Home Sale

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, September 28, 2017
A1 Foundation Crack Repair, Nashua, NC

We got a call because the home inspector said the Lally column should be ok, but the homeowner called in the building inspector for a small town outside Nashua, NH.

The lally column was an old granite post cut about 10” going up to the beam, and supporting it. The basement did have a poured concrete floor. However, the building inspector said that in order to approve the granite post, he had to see if it was sitting on a solid surface, and he didn’t only mean the 3” of poured concrete. If it is only on 3” of concrete it is not going to support.

So I had to break the floor near the granite lally column. We saw that it went through the concrete floor and was sitting on a very big bolder. The building inspector saw that and said it was going to pass because the lally column is solid and it is sitting on a solid bolder.

Today, you would have a filled steel pole sitting on a big slab or footing of concrete below the floor. So it was interesting that the building inspector and the home inspector both passed the lally column.

This shows that you need to have a solid lally column that sits on a very solid footing and you building inspector will be happy.

For more information on basement waterproofing or crack repair, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

What's that White Fuzzy Stuff on my Basement Walls?

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

George in Waltham, MA writes:

“I have recently found a white fuzzy substance on my basement foundation walls, what in the world could it be?”

Well, this is not an unusual situation. It can be on a basement foundation wall that is made out of concrete, block or stone. This is efflorescence. This is caused because concrete and mortar is porous. Water and water vapors are pushing inward on these structures. It is bringing the salt, minerals, and lime and bringing it forward. We see it quite often. Real estate brokers recommend getting that off only because it is unsightly. It is more of an aesthetics thing, it does not affect the structure of the house. But it should be taken off so that it looks better and doesn’t get hard and crystallized.

There are ways to get it off. If it isn’t too bad, you can brush it off. If it’s a little advanced you may need to use a wire brush to get it off. If it is really bad, you may have to sand blast, but that’s rare. There are chemicals we use that I don’t recommend homeowners using. But we do this all the time. It does make the foundation 100% better for those who are looking to buy your house.

For more information, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

Is It a Good Idea to Paint Concrete Floors?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, September 15, 2017

Most painters say that concrete floors are the highest risk surface to paint. The reason being is because it will often peel. It's a great idea to paint it because it will look nice. The real question is how long it will last.

There are some things to consider when painting concrete floors. The first, is it a new floor? If it is new concrete, you want to give it time to fully cure.

The second is the preparation of the concrete. If the floor is in a garage or basement, it can be stained with other materials. It can be mechanically ground or etched so that the concrete is accepting to a paint-like material. It is quite a job to mechanically grind the concrete with diamond blades which create a lot of dust. You can also do it with chemicals, you use an acid to open up the pours, but it is a tough material to work with. It can cause burns and it is not good to inhale. But the prep-work needs to be done very well.

Some of that prep-work entails cracks in the floors and leaks. Cracks need to be repaired with the right material because concrete does expand and contract so it will just crack again.

The third thing to consider is what product to use. You can use a paint-based material to coat the floor, but this tends to peel. You could use a stain which stains the concrete, but what people don't like about stain is that you may pick a color, but once applied it can be a different shade, similar to wood stain. The third material you can use is two-part epoxy which gets very expensive, but it is supposed to last longer, it does have a high odor level and you have to be very careful working with it to get the type of finish that you want.

There are also specific considerations for the painting process itself. When painting the garage or basement there is going to be humidity and moisture. Then you are going to get peeling. We advise, if you are going to do it, do it before you sell the house.

Given all of the considerations to the preparation and the painting itself, I would not recommend painting concrete floors. In fact, even as a professional, I would not paint a concrete floor at all. I'd repair the cracks, but that is it.

If you want more information on concrete floors or basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

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