Foundation Crack Repair, Basement Waterproofing Blog

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Strange Coincidences with Lally Columns

Joseph Coupal - Monday, February 04, 2019

In this episode, Richard Comeras (aks “The Crackman”) shares some interesting vignettes on the history of lally columns along with some weird stuff he runs into as he inspects, repairs, and replaces them.

My history with lally colums goes way back. My daughter and son-in-law used to work with me in the business. They were at a party in Hudson Mass. Some of their friends were there, also from Hudson, and my daughter heard a conversation involving on of her friends about lally columns. She piped in and said my great-great grandfather invented them and has a patent on them. What are the chances of that happening? It’s about nothing. His mother’s maiden name was “Lally” and that’s how it all came to be. What he had seen was in house fires, the whole house falls right in because they did not have these lally columns to provide more of a permanent structure.

He came up with the idea of putting these structures up from the basement floor through the main supporting beam. So the lally column is a supporting column underneath the house that supports the main beams going across the floor to prevent dipping caused by natural settling and caving due to fire disaster.

They’re a big issue now with home inspections. You don’t want to have those that are screw-jacked top, or those that are hollow. Today, they must be concrete filled and supported by steel on the exterior. We put a thick steel plate on the top that is welded to the column. In our repair journey, we’ve come across some strange lally column configurations.

We were just in Lexington Mass where we were doing a “repointing” job and the gentleman wanted more lally columns because he was putting in new granite and he was rightfully concerned about the weight. So we went down below to inspect the lally columns that were there and some of them you could actually twist. They were great, they had a footing, a concrete pad underneath, but you could turn them. So we looked up and noticed what they had was aluminum flashing between the main beam and the lally column. It wasn’t cut to size properly. We had to fix those by placing a thick plate at the top. We had to dig new footings to support new lally columns for the guy. Clearly the lesson here is you don’t use flashing at the top of lally columns.

If you have a basement water problem or if you think you need a professional or want more information on foundation crack repair and basement water proofing, please visit a1foundationcrackrepair.com or call Rich at (866) 929-3171.

Can Basement Wall Cracks Lead to Termite Problems?

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Basement wall cracks are somewhat common and you don't always need to panic when you see them. But, is there a concern with cracks that are wide enough that they can allow termites to infest your home?

I just attended a conference of pest control companies and what they were talking about was that cracks that are less than 1/64th of an inch (that's really small) can allow termites and carpenter ants in. They crawl into these cracks because they like dark and moist and they are looking for something to eat and the silt plate right there. This can cause a lot of damage to your home overtime.

A1 Foundation Crack Repair - Termite tunnel  on stone foundation

Termite tunnel on stone foundation


The pest control industry recommends that these cracks get fixed to help stop these critters from getting in. A tell-tale sign is a trail of hardened wood dust, this is a sign of termite problems.

Most of the time the calls we get are because these cracks are leaking water. During this winter season you also have cold air coming right through. Also, you can get Radon coming in as well. If you are at the stage where you are selling your house these cracks can cause problems in the sale. For sellers and buyers, when the home appraisers come in the report of cracks in the foundation can hold up the whole sale.

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

Everything you Needed and Wanted to Know about Basement Floor Cracks

Joseph Coupal - Monday, January 07, 2019

We've been fixing basement floor cracks for more than two decades, no one knows more than us.

There are three things in life you can be sure of: death, taxes, and if you have concrete it is going to crack, you just don't know when or where.

With basement floor cracks, oftentimes they crack because concrete is like a piece of raw spaghetti, if you have any movement at all it is going to break. If I ask you to only crack a piece of raw spaghetti part way, it is next to impossible. You have the soil under the concrete that is settling, you may have footings and those settle too, which can cause cracks.

Not only do you have settling issues but heavy equipment going down the street or earthquakes (there was one felt in Gardner, MA a few days ago) can also cause cracking. Blasting can cause cracks, or when the concrete is poured it can have too much water, too much wind going on over it, or it can dry too quickly. Oftentimes when they pour concrete floors, by code they are supposed to put a vapor barrier or plastic down. They poke holes in that plastic so the water can penetrate more quickly. This can speed up the time that it takes concrete to cure which can also cause cracking.

You may notice in big box stores, some garages, or even in sidewalks that made with concrete that there are lines every so often. These are expansion joints, or basically controlled cracks. These often help concrete from cracking; not a guarantee, but they help. But, in residential construction they don't often put these expansion joints in.

Those are some of the reasons that concrete cracks in basement floors. But, while cracks are unsightly and can cause homeowners concern, most often they are not structural issue. But, basement floor cracks do let a lot of cold air and organic odors up, they also let moisture and radon up. Also, if you want to sell your house, buyers get nervous about basement cracks.

To repair a crack we have to clean it out and sometimes we have to put a specialty sand or gravel down to where the ground is under the concrete because there can be a 3" gap between the soil and the concrete because that material has compacted over-time. So we bring the sand up to the bottom of the floor and then we put a hybrid 2-part epoxy material or a urethane type material into it which actually welds the concrete together and helps stop the moisture, air, or odors from coming in; and it looks a lot better too.

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

Why am I getting So Many Leaks Around the Pipe Penetrations in My Stone Foundation?

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Just recently in Cambridge, MA, there was water coming into the home from around a new water pipe. The water company dug out in front of the house a little bit. Once you dig you disturb the soil which has been getting compacted for what could be around 100 years or for as few as five years. Either way, the rain compacts the soil which helps keep the water from coming into your home. But utility companies put fluffy soil on top of a pipe or conduit and they don't compact it at all. Then in the basement, they will use hydraulic cement, put it around the pipe and call it finished. Hydraulic cement is to be used in an emergency to try to stop water, but it doesn't expand or contract. Soil and stones move because of the freezing cycle in Massachusetts. That's why we have so much water coming in around water pipes, electrical conduits, irrigation cable, and other wall penetrations. We see this all the time.

If a utility company is digging down into the yard to install a pipe that is going to run through the wall, and they don't compact the soil, that soil can even act as a sponge and pull the water right to the wall. If the utility company has not done a good job to seal it, that is where the problem lies. To fix this, we'll work from the inside. We will clean out in between the stones and hydraulic cement that they put in. We use oakum, which is like rope. We'll soak that in a polymer resin material and work it into the foundation. That will expand and we then put a specialty mortar over that. These materials will expand and move with the stones and soil, but it will always stop the water.

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

Panicked New Homeowner Finds Basement Water from Leaky Chimney

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, December 26, 2018

These homeowners had just come home from the closing and thought the water in their basement was coming in from the chimney.

They had a plumber come out because the water was right near the furnace and water heater which goes into the chimney.

A1 Foundation Crack Repair

The plumber said everything was okay. So, I further explored with them over the phone on that Friday night. I asked if the water was coming in from where the floor and wall meet. They tried vacuuming it up, and it was not coming in from that area.

By process of elimination I asked them if there was a "shoe box looking thing" near the furnace. They said there is. That is a condensate pump. When the furnace works, it creates moisture and it goes into this condensate pump and then there is a little pipe that pumps it out when it fills with water.

I had them stick their finger in the condensate pump and see if the little hole was near the top. It is.

I told them to get a glass of water and pour it in until the water reaches the top. There is a float in there that is supposed to go on and pump the water out once it fills. Well, it didn't pump the water out. What was happening was the water from that condensate pump was leaking out onto the floor. Because it was raining outside, they thought there was a leak.

We diagnosed all of this over the phone because we want to be sure it is something we can help customers with and we are happy to help homeowners with their basement water problems.

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

Worcester Firefighter Fights Basement Water Problem with a Pickaxe

Joseph Coupal - Friday, December 14, 2018

I had a Worcester firefighter call us up. He lives in Hudson, MA and he had water coming into his finished basement. He couldn't figure out how it was coming in.

We told him to go outside and take a look at the wall where it seemed to be coming in from. As you know there can be anywhere from 3" of concrete to feet of concrete showing.

He went outside and sure enough he saw a hairline crack. We told him to go inside and open up that area in the Sheetrock where the crack was.

He opened it up, and sure enough, there was water coming in from that little crack. He was amazed that so much water could come in through a crack that small. He was also amazed that we diagnosed his problem over the phone. We went out and fixed the crack in the foundation and gave him a full-warranty. As a result, we have fixed a few more basement and foundation problems for some other Worcester Firemen.

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

Water Leakage in Concrete Wall

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The leakage is coming in through a hole to the right of the stairs at the back wall of the garage. We believe the areas adjacent to the hole are wet from the single leakage source. Below is the photo and video of the leakage observed last week.




 

Common Basement Water Problems during Heavy Rains in Massachusetts

Joseph Coupal - Monday, December 03, 2018

We are smack dab in the middle of Fall and during this tumultuous time of year, every day can bring it's own exciting conditions from heavy rain, to freezing conditions, and even snow. We try to always help our customers and others out there who have basement water problems. We've had some really heavy rains recently. One call that comes to mind was at 9:30pm on a Friday night. We got a call from a homeowner in Worcester. His sump pump wasn't working. I directed him to the sump pump and had him ensure that the outlet was working; it was. I then had him take the lid off of the sump pump basin, which was full of water and overflowing. I had him simply take the float, raise it and see if the pump went on, it did. The float had gotten stuck with minerals from the water. By just raising the float up and down a few times it got freed up and the pump started working again.

We are like a basement hotline. We'll talk folks through a lot of issues to save homeowners time and money. Another call was from a woman that had a stone foundation which was leaking. I asked her if it was flooding in from the corner, and it was. I had her go outside and check to see if there was a downspout from the gutter that got kicked off. There was, and she put it back on so the water was directed away from the home to stop the leaking.

However, because the water was coming in through the stones she wanted us to come out at a later date and fix it. The man with the sump pump called the next day, he was so grateful. But, he was also concerned that it may happen again, so he asked us to install a new sump pump and he would keep the existing one as back up.

For more information on basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair, and keep that basement dry.

How do I get rid of Cold Air and Mice in my Basement?

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Winter is fast approaching and we are starting to get calls from homeowners with stone foundations about cold air and mice in the basement. The typical issue there is that these stone foundations are pretty old, usually 80 to 100 years old. Mortar, kind of like the glue, is what holds these stones together. Well, if we were that old, we'd get a little decrepit and so does the mortar in between the stones. When that mortar ages it crumbles and you'll see a white powdery material on the floor; or if you drag your finger on the mortar it crumbles or has already crumbled. Once it crumbles it creates voids which allows in cold air. Think about all the stones in a stone foundation and the amount of mortar that can crumble. That's not like having a window open, it is probably more like having a sliding door wide open letting in cold air. But, it's not only letting cold air in, it can also let in furry friends like mice and rats, and even snakes.

To fix a stone foundation, we go in there and take out the mortar that has crumbled, is loose, or is non-existent. Then we put that mortar back in. This is called re-pointing a foundation. Right now in MA, RI and CT we are getting a lot of calls for this.

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

Why Does My Concrete Look So Rough and Pitted? Boston, MA

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, November 13, 2018

We take good care of concrete. Concrete can start to look rough and pitted, we see this in New England all the time. This happens because water penetrates the concrete because concrete is porous. When the water penetrates, and then the concrete freezes, it can pop some of the concrete a little bit. That's when you see that rough spalling going on. We also use salts or materials that melt the ice, and the water penetrates the concrete and freezes again. We see this quite often. Spalling is concrete that absorbs some of the moisture, freezes, and then it basically pops, breaks, and chips off.

To fix it, we have to get any concrete off that is loose or not solid. We clean it out and then put in what we call a "milk," which is an adhesive. Then we put some specialty masonry material back on it. I then recommend spraying it with a crystallized quartz based material that goes into the pores of the concrete. We don't only spay it on the space we repaired, but also on the steps or on the side of the foundation, or in the garage on the sides. This does not let the water penetrate.

We can fix this concrete that does not look so great and get it back in great condition. If you have basement water proofing issues, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.


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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.