Crumbling Concrete Foundation...a cautionary tale in Quincy MA

- Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Not all foundations are created equally and as A1’s Civil Engineer, Adam Tracy has seen some bad ones .  In this episode, Adam shares a cautionary tale with our listeners about a crumbling foundation.

Narrator: It’s time once again for the “Crack Man Podcast” hosted by A1 Foundation Crack Repair. I’m Darren Kincaid here with the Crack Daddy himself, Adam Tracy. Adam and The Crack Man Rich have over 30 years’ experience in the construction industry. Rich as over 25 years as the president and founder of A1 Foundation Crack Repair. This podcasts provides expert basement waterproofing, concrete repair, and preventative maintenance tips for homeowners and businesses. A1 Foundation’s valuable insight will help avert a disastrous flood within the basement, health problems associated with water infiltration, and protect your biggest investment….your home. The topic of today’s podcast: Crumbling concrete foundation...a cautionary tale in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Narrator: The topic of today’s podcast: I have a hairline crack in my foundation wall, how big of an issue is it? So Adam not all foundations are created equally and you’ve probably seen some bad ones as A1’s civil engineer on staff. You have a cautionary tale to share with our listeners about a crumbling foundation, right?

Adam: I do. And this is a very interesting case that we had come up recently here out of Quincy, Mass. This is an early generation foundation. As we’ve talked about in the past, there’s a lot of different types of foundations. They have three main categories. You have a fieldstone foundation, which is typically built anything prior to 1925 and earlier and then you have block and concrete foundations. Block and concrete foundations started, kind of taking over from the older fieldstone foundations somewhere in the 20s, pretty common, and then 30s and 40s, it was mostly concrete and block. So, what’s interesting is that the early version concrete foundations tend to be unique in that they’re more like a hybrid type of foundation. The reason why is that you had all these tradesmen who were used to building mortar-type of foundations with stone, now changing trades into the concrete industry as that took --- as the primary building construction type. And the issue that we had in this particular case is a result I think of that transition. So, this house was built in the early 30s and when we find these older homes that were built in the late 20s and 30s with concrete, we find that the concrete is just very soft, and what we found is that most of the reason why is that there’s a lot of fine aggregate in the concrete mix.

So, with most concrete mixes that we see, you see large aggregate like stones that can be as big as your thumb and then everything down to sand, and part of that mixture creates a nice strong foundation mixed with Portland cement and water, etc. So what we find is that these older foundations are built more like a stone foundation in the mix that they used, so they used far more sand which would be more like a mortar. So as a hundred years passes by, give or take, this foundation acts much more like a real stone foundation than it does a concrete foundation. So, usually when we deal with these types of foundations, they’re still substantially strong and structurally sound, and cracks that are developed in them can be repaired, the same methods that we typically use. But this particular case was an exception.

We had a home inspection that was being done and we worked with our local home inspectors to help guide them through some things that might be tricky and not out of the book and he had sent over an inquiry to us and said, geez, I’ve never seen something this bad. Which immediately got my interest level up quite a bit, so when he sent over the video, we then went out and saw it. The actual foundation was just absolutely crumbling apart, so much so that you could stick a screwdriver directly into the concrete wall and then basically just remove all the aggregate concrete right out of there. In this particular case the actual large size aggregate stones that are mixed into the concrete, which like I said, are most of the time the size of about your thumb. They looked like they dug through the yard and found any side of the size potato rock they could find and mixed it in there. So it was quite unusual where the stones that were mixed into this concrete pour are larger than average. There was way more sand than is typical for this time, and so the Portland concrete cement that actually holds and binds all this stuff together, the glue of the concrete, just never had enough of it to really survive.

But on further investigation on this one, the previous homeowners from way long time ago, made the situation much worse unintentionally, they actually took roofing tar, which was, you know, to tar a roof and waterproof the roof, because I’m sure they have water issues based on the fact that the concrete wasn’t the greatest. And somebody had dug out the entire foundation and tarred the entire foundation with roofing tar, in an effort to hopefully try to keep the water from going through. The problem with doing that happened, is that it trapped the moisture inside the concrete. All foundations naturally have water pass through, you know, most times it’s not active water leaking, but just water vapor. So you do have water transferring in from the outside, to the inside and vice versa. When they put this roofing tar on there, it trapped it and all of that water now accelerated the decay of the concrete. It’s probably one of the worst foundations that we’ve seen in a long time and unfortunately, for this homeowner, they have some major cost to repair it, and potentially remove and replace certain sections that were affected worse than others.

But it’s a cautionary tale that when you see an older foundation, to get a thorough evaluation of it to make sure that it’s strong because they’re not built to today’s standards. Today’s standards are very robust. There’s a lot of rules and regulations around them. There’s plenty of testing standards to make sure that it complies with everything that they’re trying to comply with. Back in the 30s, 40s, it was a little looser. So, when we come into these foundations, we want to make sure when homeowners are buying the home, they know what they’re getting. And for repairs that might need to be needed, the shift is a little bit different because we want to make sure that we match the right repairs to that type of foundation. Because even simple repairs could potentially damage them because they’re not quite to the standard of what we built with today. So, it was a very interesting case, and unfortunately, the homeowners got a little bit of homework to get their foundation up to par to today’s standards. But certainly something that could be resolved, it’s just a matter of time and materials and money.

Narrator: Wow. That’s always very educational Adam, and thanks for sharing this painful story, hopefully help somebody from buying a real money pit in the future.

Narrator: If you have a basement water problem and think you need a professional, or, if you’d like more information on foundation crack repair and basement waterproofing topics, please visit or call Rich at (866) 929-3171. Or you can email Rich at Thanks for listening and keep that basement dry.

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A-1 Foundation Crack Repair, Inc. is a fully registered home improvement contractor. Contact us today to talk to a knowledgeable, master waterproofing professional.

Toll Free: 866-929-3171

Call Us Today at 866-929-3171

A-1 Foundation Crack Repair, Inc. is a fully registered home improvement contractor. Contact us today to talk to a knowledgeable, master waterproofing professional.