Foundation Crack Repair, Basement Waterproofing Blog

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Should I Hire a Structural Engineer for a Foundation Crack?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, June 28, 2018

We got a call from a woman in Needham, MA who bought a house a month or two ago. She had a crack off the foundation window in the basement. I asked her all the normal questions that I ask in order to get a good idea if it is structural or not:

Does it leak? How wide is it? Does it go at a great angle or a slight angle? Upstairs are there any windows in that area that are hard to open or close? Is the molding at the miter joints pulled apart? Are there any cracks in he wall? Is the flooring level? The answer to all the questions was no. I told her it is probably just a settlement crack.

She said, I wish I spoke to you sooner. I asked her why.

She had a home inspection and they told her to speak to a structural engineer. She wanted to make sure the house didn't have an issue so she hired one for about $700 or $800 dollars. He wrote up a nice report and at the end of the report, probably to protect themselves from liability, he wrote a statement that said "it depends on how the soils are underneath there if the house is going to settle anymore or not."

This is essentially true, but the house has been there for over 20 years and there have not been any more signs of settling. To protect himself even more he suggested that she talk to a geologist who does boring samples of the soil. After spending $6,000 on a geologist, the geologist report essentially said "it seems to be OK, but we can't say 100% for sure."

When I told her how much it would be under $700 to get the crack repaired she said, "Boy, I wish I had talked to you first. You said exactly what they said and I would have saved almost $7,000".

About two days later I got another structural engineer report from a customer who bought a house, and it said essentially the same thing. I can't say they are ripping people off, they've been hired to do a job. But, as a homeowner, you have options to look at it in a sensible way.

For a second opinion on foundation cracks, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

Damage from the Winter Storms

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, June 07, 2018

Foundation needing repair at 25 Perkins Ave. in Hampton Beach New Hampshire. There are two main areas and then touch up needed on the side of the foundation.


Can Irrigation Systems Cause Water in the Basement?

Joseph Coupal - Monday, June 04, 2018

It's warm outside and people are watering their lawns on a regular basis. Can a rigorous watering cycle cause water in the basement? Well, sometimes it doesn't even have to be rigorous. We have already gotten a couple of calls, one from Dedham and one from Shrewsbury, where people are turning on their irrigation systems, it hadn't rained, and people are calling and saying they have water coming in the basement.

There are pre-existing conditions. One was a crack in the poured concrete foundation and water was coming in through that. The other was a leak around the sewer pipe, between the sewer pipe and the concrete, and water was coming in through that. One home had the sprinkler going up against the crack anc the other there was a line that was broken in the soil and the water was coming in around the sewer pipe.

So to answer the question, these sprinkler systems can help you to identify where water is coming in through a basement. One of the first things I asked people who have water coming in the basement when it is dry out is if they have a sprinkler system.

To fix the problem, if it is a crack in the foundation we can do all the work from the inside. Or, a leak in the sewer pipe, we'll drill into the foundation at angles and put ports into the small holes we drill and fill it with closed polymer resin. Or, we will put another material in the crack and then a weave carbon fiber blanket on top of that. Then we can give them a written warrantly against water coming in the basement.

If you need more information on basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

How do I Fix Damp or Wet Corners in my Basement?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, May 24, 2018

Spring is here after a very long winter, but while the flowers are blooming and birds are chirping there can still be hidden water problems in your basement. Especially in the spring and summer when there hasn't been any rain. We get calls from homeowners who tell us that the corners of their basement are damp or there are little puddles of water. They want us to fix the problem.

There are two things that could be going on. One is condensation because concrete never dries. Condensation is when a cold surface, the concrete, hits a warmer surface that has moisture in it, the air. This makes condensation. Why a corner? Because you have the left, right, and floor of the corners that are all made of concrete. So, these areas tend to get condensation.

Or, is there water coming through? We know outside a lot of times in the corners of a home there are downspouts and they could be letting water in. So, you run a hose outside on the ground for about 45 minutes turn it off for 15, do it a couple times. If no water comes in, it's condensation.

Homeowners can eliminate or reduce condensation in the basement by installing a dehumidifier that will take the moist air out for less condensation. But, some people make the mistake, on a nice spring day, of opening up a window to get some air in the basement. Well, they are getting nice fresh air in, but they are also getting more condensation. Don't open your basement windows.

Clothes dryers also let out a gallon and a half of moisture into the air when they are drying clothes. So, it is important to be sure your dryer is properly vented to the outside.

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

What is the Purpose of a Sump Pump?

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Before we get into the purpose of a sump pump first we should talk about why you need one. We see a lot of basements where a sump pump should be installed. When you have cracks in the basement floor and water is coming up, or if you have water coming in from all around from all four sides you might consider putting a sump pump in. Or, if your ground is all clay, there may be a reason to put one in as well.

The purpose of the sump pump is to take water from underneath your cement floor, from below. That way as the water rises it doesn't reach the bottom of your cement floor.

Essentially with a sump pump you have a basin at the bottom of your floor that water drains into. The sump pump is designed to suck that water out and put it someplace else. The water wants to take the path of least resistance, and that least resistance is in the hole that we have dug in your foundation from which the water is then pumped out.

To install one, you need to break the concrete by jack hammering or cutting it. What is very interesting is that what we find when we cut the concrete is that there is no soil directly underneath. There is usually 3 or 4 inches of air space. This is because the soil or gravel compacts down and creates this gap which is a place where water can flow to with least resistance.

Once the floor is cut we have to dig down, often 2 or 3 feet. This depends on the type of soil or what the water lines show us. Then we put a basin in and that basin has holes so the water can get into it. We put landscape paper around the basin and maybe some gravel so that when the water comes to it and brings along soil the holes in the basin don't just clog. We then put the sump pump in. I prefer a submersible sump pump rather than one that stands up out of the basin because those can fall over and become inoperable.

Then, there needs to be PVC pipe coming out with a check-valve, which is a valve that does not allow water to flow back into the basin. That pipe is plumbed outside. We recommend PVC because it won't break with the freeze/thaw cycle like black flexible pipe will. A cover is then installed for safety reasons. Often people choose a sealed cover so that radon or moisture can't get into the home.

More often than not, this is not a DIY task because it involves jack hammering, plumbing and knowledge of the water levels. For more information on basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

Water Leak in Leicester MA

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Here's a video of the water leak in 169a Chapel Street Leicester MA. You can see the floor behind it. For quality basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

Why Does My Basement Look Like a Murder Scene?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, May 11, 2018

It almost looked like a murder scene. They took pictures, and they were so great I posted them. The homeowners were telling me they had water coming in from little dimples in the foundation walls; I knew they were the tie rods. They sent me pictures and the leaking water looked almost red, like blood. But, it was really the tie-rods that were leaking.

Tie-rods are metal rods that go right through the foundation. Water gets to the metal and they rust; in this case the leaking water was red! We were able to stop the water leaking in through the tie-rods by injecting them with a polymer resin using an electric pump. Now those tie rods are all sealed up.

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

How does Frozen Soil Affect Foundations?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, May 04, 2018

With all this wacky weather we've had this year in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, the soil has done a lot of freezing and thawing that doesn't bode too well for concrete. But it doesn't just affect concrete, but block and stone walls as well.

You have to remember that most soils retains water to begin with, they're moist. But then we have the rain, snow, melt, and freeze. Then the rain, snow, melt and freeze again. We all know water freezes, and when it freezes it expands.

Well, concrete and block are very strong when you push down on them. But, when you push in on them, they're not quite as strong. In residential construction there is no requirement to put re-bar in it. So, when you have this freeze thaw cycle happening and it pushes against the foundation you are going to get cracks.

These foundation cracks are caused by the freeze thaw, but it is also caused by the pipes running through the foundation walls. If the pipes are not located below the 4' freeze line, and we have a deeper freeze than that, those pipes are going to push up on the concrete. This can cause cracks too.

We see a lot of do-it-yourself situations where people try to fix foundation cracks with Flex Seal that they see on TV or with hydraulic cement. With the weather, concrete expands and contracts itself and hydraulic cement does not. So we get calls from homeowners who have tried to fix the cracks but it just doesn't work.

This cycle is a natural thing that happens, but there are some preventative steps you can take. Make sure the gutters are clean and the downspouts run away from the house. Make sure the landscaping is pitched away from the house. If you have a crack, the water gets in there and freezes and expands the crack, or the soil pushes against the crack and expands it and you are going to have water come in.

What we do is we either inject the with a closed polymer resin by drilling at angles to the crack every six to eight inches, putting ports in, and then injecting the resin. Or we may look at it and use another method where we put another material into the crack and then a weave carbon fiber blanket on top of that. Then the customer gets a transferable warranty on that.

For any questions about basement waterproofing, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

Reflections of the Crackman - Why He Loves this Business

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, April 26, 2018

I used to be a school teacher, and how I got into basement crack repair wasn't a straight line for me. As a kid I always loved having a business going, may it be lawn mowing jobs. I got too many jobs and had kids mowing lawns for me. That was when I was about 11.

I started buying apartment buildings and started doing flips before the word even came into play. We bought a house that had a fire and we knocked the house down but kept the foundation. The people wanted a finished basement, but the basement foundation had cracks in it. So, I talked to chemists, suppliers, and engineers and I fixed it. I had breakfast with a friend of mine who builds houses and he said, he had a bunch of homes that had cracks in the foundations and he asked if I could fix them. I said yes.

It dawned on me: there are a lot of homes with cracks in the foundations that no one is really addressing. So that is how I started. Then I started marketing it and it blossomed to MA, NH, CT and RI.

I love this business. What I think I love about this business is that I can see this business grow. I enjoy making the relationships with my customers, with other businesses that refer business to me. I enjoy solving a problem and getting it fixed. Problems that are annoying to people and that can also be a health issue. Not only that, I have seen my employees flourish with me in their personal lives and financial lives. It strikes me as unusual to see people who have a passion about this business like I have, fixing foundation cracks. Now I have second generation people working for me, which brings me a whole other avenue of enjoyment.

I have nurtured relationships in other industries. I start out marketing to realtors and other industries that deal with houses like pest control companies. We get referred to them by their customers. We always find out how people have heard of us, we do a survey about "how did we do" and we get back to those people. Then they have more faith in referring business to us.

We have done seminars to educate realtors and structural engineers so they can have an expert on their team who can deal with these problems. Everything is about service today. one thing that makes us different is that we answer the phone so you get to talk to a live person.

I also like to give back to the community. We do a lot with Habitat with Humanity. I'm asked to go into high schools and talk to kids who are taking business management courses or entrepreneurial course and we talk about success, what is success. I talk about my story. One thing I see is that a lot of these young adults have no idea that they can open their eyes, see an opportunity and take action to have a career out of solving somebody else's problems. There is also a huge need for people going into the trades. With supply and demand, labor rates going up, if someone wants to start a business in the trades they can be the next blue collar millionaire. I've had lots of kids shadow me and I have a great time doing that.

Landlords, Will Your Lally Columns Pass Section 8 Inspection?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, April 20, 2018

I recently got a call from a landlord who had his yearly inspection for his section 8 tenants. For the first time in all these years the inspector picked on the temporary lally columns. This is a Boston Section 8 apartment and they had to change them.

First of all, what a lally column looks like is a piece of metal that is hollow and it usually has a screw jack on top. Being hollow, it is not as strong. If there is a fire, it can bend on you. The inspectors want solid lally columns. They are metal and filled with concrete, with a thick metal plate on top. They also don't want it just sitting on a 2" or 3" inch cement floor. We have to actually break the floor, dig down, pour a footing, come back and cut the lally column to the right size. We did that, the inspector was happy, and the landlord can continue his section 8 rentals.

Landlords beware, take care of your temporary lally columns. If you need more information, contact A1 Foundation Crack Repair.

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