How do I stop getting basement water through my bulkhead?

- Thursday, February 09, 2023
A1 Foundation Crack Repair

In this episode, Adam shares this case study and explains how leaking bulkheads can introduce water into the basement and how to fix it.

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 podcast 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: I'm getting basement water through my bulkhead. How do I stop it?

Narrator: So, Adam, you have a bit of a case study for us today about a customer with a leaking bulkhead. What can you tell me about it?

Adam: Yes. We had a customer call in, just the other day, and they had an issue with the bulkhead where water was coming in through the concrete portion of the bulkhead where it connects into the house, and it's not a very uncommon area for bulkheads to leak. Usually they'll leak around this area or they'll leak around the metal cap up top. And as the customer was describing the issue that he had, he had mentioned off the cuff that there was, you know, a bit of area underneath the bulkhead that the dirt was exposed, and sometimes that's not uncommon where a little bit of the dirt has settled and you get a little bit of like a sinkhole, and so sometimes that needs to be filled to prevent any sort of rocking motion.

I said, you know, why don't you send a photo over so I can get a sense for how bad it is and what's going on here. And what we would see here is a kind of unique installation of a precast bulkhead. So precast bulkheads consist of two different parts – it has the concrete portion which is manufactured in a facility, and it gets bolted onto the foundation; and then you have the doors that go over the top, sometimes they're oriented vertically, other times or more, horizontally, depends on the pitch of your foundation and how you get out. But the most important part of this whole thing is that it's bolted on and not a part of the foundation.

Typically, what happens especially as we get into the winter months where we have freezing and thawing cycles is the ground will push on this bulkhead differently than the house, so you'll get a rocking motion and it puts a lot of stress on the bolts that are actually holding this thing to the foundation. So what comes to play here is that the joints between the house and the foundation at the edge tends to get exposed and the seal that they put in there when they install it tends to fail. But it does rely on having soil in and around there to prevent any sort of extreme rocking motion, and in this case, it was not done properly at all.

There's about 12-18 inches of complete exposure on the underside of the concrete bulkhead wall. So what happens is, now you have no soil support at all and you're getting all the pressure from a very small area, and so this thing has a lot of movement to it. So outside of just actually repairing the bulkhead itself in sealing up the scene, which is a traditional process that we've done for decades now, the recommendation for this particulars to get grading up to this, so that way, the transition is not as hard. What happened here is that they put a standard bulkhead precast in a non standard size, so if we go to the inside view of this, you can see that it has a number of stairs, that would be a typical bulkhead for a full height basement. The problem is, that we only have a 3 foot knee wall on the side here, so you can see the two bolts that are holding this thing on for dear life and reality at the very bottom, which might be tough to see is that this whole door frame has been raised because they couldn't go any lower in this area. This bulkhead was improperly sized, it probably only should have been two or three steps, but they said, ah forget it, we'll just bolt it on as is, and they left an entirely large section unsupported with any soil. So this problem is not going to be resolved by just waterproofing it through the process that we have, it will also include that landscape or somebody who has excavating equipment, redo the grading around this area to give the bulkhead the support it needs to keep it from having extreme rocking motion. Because no matter how much waterproofing material you put on there, if the bulkhead continues to rock in extreme motions, it's going to break down whatever sealant that you put on, you have to kind of approach this with two different ways.

This guy didn't happen to know the issue, in educational process we’re able to discover kind of what needs to happen, we're able to seal off our side and he has somebody coming in to do the other side, putting in the soil underneath there, and that should take care of the issue and you won't have any more water in the basement. But obviously, something that you see in your house, if you're seeing a lot of unsupported bulkhead concrete, it's something that you need to get resolved because it's going to lead to water coming in on all sorts of rain events.

Narrator: Thanks Adam for sharing this case study and explaining how leaking bulkheads can introduce water into the basement.

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.