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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Winter is right around the corner and that often means that your sump pumps will get a workout. We have a quick four step process that people can do at home to ensure their sump pump is ready for action.
The first step is to make sure it is plugged in. Then, raise the float in the sump pump and make sure it turns on.
The second step is to check and make sure that the discharge line outside is not cracked, broken, or clogged.
The third step in the process is to make sure that it flows, that water actually goes out. This may mean that you have to put a garden hose in the sump pump, make sure the float rises, and make sure it is working properly.
The fourth and final step. Make sure there are no leaks in the discharge line. You want to get all the water out of the basement, you don't want the water in the basement.
We got a call because a customer was concerned about the exterior surface of their foundation wall, it showed signs of excessive pitting and spalling. Why does this happen anyway? Is it just poor concrete or is it something else?
It could be poor concrete. It could be how it was mixed, when it was poured, or when they pulled the forms. Concrete is supposed to be vibrated to get the air out, and sometimes they don't do that or maybe the home got the end of the batch.
What normally causes this though, is the water sitting on the concrete and then freezing. It then breaks the concrete a little bit and then it gets these spall or pock marks. More water then sits on it and freezes again, and this can further damage the concrete. You do want to take care of it so that it does not deteriorate the foundation anymore.
So, the questions are: "Should your repair it, and when do you know it is time to repair it?"
It's a preventative maintenance issue. The sooner your repair it the better off you are and the less damage you will have. To answer the second question, to repair it we have to wire brush it and see how much we take off. Then we have to put additional adhesive material on it, called Milk. Then, we put a special masonry material over that which makes it smooth and the rain can't penetrate it. A crystallized quartz based material is then put over that and you're all set.
How do you know it is time to worry about replacing a lally column that shows signs of corrosion. These pictures are from a home in Lexington, MA. They came from a homeowner who had just bought the home and they had the home inspection. The home inspector said the lally columns need to be replaced because of all the rust.
The facts are, according to structural engineers, if a lally column is rusted it loses about 1/3 of its strength. As you can see in these pictures, this lally column has probably lost more strength than that because it is rusted so terribly. This needs to be replaced.
Now, you don't just put a lally column in; you have to make sure there is a footing. A footing is a nice piece of concrete that we pour by breaking the floor, digging down, pouring the concrete and then we come back and cut the lally column to size. The lally columns we use are concrete filled steel with a thick piece of steel top plate that goes against the beam. Then that plate is bolted into the beam.
They rust because in the basement or garage there is humidity. Metal rusts; even though it is coated with a paint it is still going to rust. Oftentimes, the lally column is put into the concrete and not on it. The concrete never fully cures, there is always moisture, so that moisture will wick up and will cause the metal to rust overtime. However, I think the one in the picture has an imperfection because it actually split.
We got called to a home in Beverly, MA. A gentleman was considering buying a house and he wanted me to be there while the home inspection was going on because there were a lot of cracks in the foundation floor. It was a very large house.
There were expansion joints in the floor, those are the lines you see in concrete so that it can expand and contract. Everything looked fine, I didn't see any water or anything like that. But, I noticed he had three high end dehumidifiers running down there. I asked the owner how long those had been running. He told me, "all summer." I then asked him when the cracks started to appear. His response: "midway through the summer."
I asked the home inspector if he had a moisture meter with him, some have them. We checked the moisture level of the concrete and it was the driest concrete that I have every seen. With that information, we figured out that he had dried the concrete out too much to cause cracks in the floor.
This was the first time I had seen this in 20 years.
Check out the video! These people had so much condensation on their basement wall they were using it to play Tic Tac Toe. That much water in the basement...is a bad thing. This can lead to mold, mold can lead to problems with your respiratory system, and it can get into your heating ducts. You want to stop condensation at all costs.
We got a call from a customer whose home is about a year old. They were getting mold on the baseboards of their finished basement. We recommended that they open up the wall a little bit at the bottom. That's what you see in the video.
We need to find out if this is condensation or if there is an actual leak in the foundation. It could be a crack in the foundation wall, we are going to open up the wall even more to find out. We'll run water with a garden hose on the outside of the home to see if it is a crack from higher up, if it is a leaking tie-rod, or if it is condensation.
If it is a crack we have an injection process that we use to repair it. We inject the crack so that the material that goes all the way to the outside or another material goes into the crack and a weave carbon fiber blanket goes over that. Similarly, with a tie-rod that may be leaking we can take care of it the same way.
We won't know if it is one of those two things until we run the water and open up the wall. Or, it could be what we call a "honeycomb" in the concrete. That's where they should vibrate the concrete when it is wet so to get the air pockets out of it. If they don't get the air pockets out of the concrete water can ooze out. We need to determine if it one of those issues above, or if it is condensation.
If it is honeycombs, we need to drill into those holes and inject the polymer resin in them. If it is condensation, what we need to do is get a good dehumidifier. I recommend a dehumidifier that can drain the water from the air to the outside. So, dehumidification can solve the problem or we repair whatever it is by injection or with the carbon fiber method.
Many people worry that with a problem like this they will need to rip out the drywall and do a lot of excavation outside the home to solve the problem. We will have to cut out the areas of the sheet rock where there is mold. If you catch it early, this can be minor, if you let the problem linger then you really get issues. There could be mold behind the wall, in the studs, and going into the floor joists above. My advice is to get it taken care of quickly so you don't have problems with the structure and your health.