What types of bulkheads give homeowners the most headaches?

- Thursday, June 13, 2024

A bulkhead is a structure that provides access to the basement and there are several different types. In this episode, Adam explains the different types of bulkheads and how A1 Foundation Crack Repair maintains and waterproofs them.

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 two5 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: What types of bulkheads give homeowners the most headaches?

Narrator: So, Adam, a bulkhead is a structure that provides access to the basement. Right? So I imagine there are many different types. How do you handle the various problems homeowners face?

Adam: The bulkhead is often a place where we have a lot of water issues amongst all different types of homes. If you think about it, it's your direct access from the outside to the inside, usually with some sort of subgrade structure and then also some door structure up top. There are multiple different types of bulkheads and I kind of want to cover just, kind of the basic ones and where they tend to fail and have water entry. On newer homes, you're going to have a concrete construction type of bulkhead.

Typically, it's either going to be precast where it is something that's manufactured and dropped in place, or they're going to actually be a poured in place bulkhead, which is actually part of the existing foundation. They just bump out a section and pour those four or three walls. Those are the least concerning because it's just typically like a foundation. So you usually see some cracks in there. Sometimes it's where the floor and the wall meet that you have

What happens is that that tends to rock over the years because it's not actually part of the house. So, it's susceptible to how they backfilled it. Any sort of freezing or thawing cycles, and that rocking motion breaks down the sealants between the existing foundation and the precast bulkhead. So when we see basement water problems, a lot of times it's at the bulkhead area and more often than not, it's that sealant that has gone. Now that can be resolved through an injection process, but the problem even with an objection process is that you could still have excessive movement if the compaction of soil wasn't great.

Often that injection will get it, but there are extreme examples where you'd have so much movement that you have to look at doing some drainage around the actual bulkhead. Moving away from the concrete bulkheads, you get into the older homes. So older homes will have either a block structured bulkhead that has been cinder block constructed, or it could be a stone foundation where it's actually a stone bulkhead base with cap on top. Those are very tricky, especially the blocks and the stones because they're dynamic. Right? They're constructed with individual pieces. They're not one pour. They're not one slab. And so you have multiple points of entry.

Often it's about reestablishing the mortar joints, targeting specific areas where the water is coming in. A lot of times, it's water coming up and underneath the bulkhead itself, so some pumps might need to be installed in there. And the ones that give me the most headache and unfortunately, the biggest issue for homeowners is there was a very small period in somewhere between the sixties and mid seventies where metal inserted bulkheads were used. And it would be a metal structure very similar to a precast concrete bulkhead, but the whole metal frame is down below ground. And, unfortunately, with years of exposure to moisture and air on the other side, you have rusting occurring, and that rusting just can't be resolved.

Often it's you're talking about a full replacement. Sometimes you can do some very simple patching, but more often than not, it just finds another weak point in the metal. So, unfortunately, for very few homeowners, but it does happen occasionally, you'll have a metal frame bulkhead that is below ground. The other area where bulkheads leak is that the door is up top. A lot of times that's more about aligning the doors properly or where the actual sealant is where it sits on top of the structure. That's below ground.

A very simple test to give for people is to understand how and where the bulkhead’s leaking because usually you'll go downstairs and you'll just see water on the floor. Not exactly sure how it came in. It's really important to see is it coming down the stairs from the top if that's the case, usually it's the doors being misaligned or the bulkhead structure not being sit perfectly on the actual concrete structure, or is it coming just where the floor and the wall meet at the very bottom where it's attaching to the house?

A simple test is taking a garden hose and letting it run on the corners on the exterior of the bulkhead where it attaches to the house, let it run for 20 minutes on, 10 minutes off, repeat that cycle a couple times. In that way, you can really test to see if it's the joints of the bulkhead or if it's over the top of the bulkhead by just spraying the top doors to see if it comes through the door assembly. So sometimes it involves just minor adjustments to the doors. Sometimes it involves injection processes to see how the water comes in or sometimes it involves a sump pump underneath the stairs. Depending on how the water comes in the whole thing.

When we talk about bulkheads, it is a common point of failure for water coming in, but it's also very important to know what it is how it's constructed and where the failure points typically are because the approach for waterproofing it can vary wildly depending on what specific structure you have and how we need to approach it. So, these are the questions that we will ask. Usually, photos are extremely helpful just so we can see what they did in this particular house because we don't want to put a sump pump in somewhere where an injection process is the right key case, or we don't want to re-point the foundation where an injection process is the right case. So it's really important to know what it is and how we approach it.

Narrator: Well, thanks, Adam, for explaining the various types of bulkheads and how you maintain and waterproof them.

Narrator: If you have a basement water problem, and think you need a professional near Providence, RI, or, if you’d like more information on foundation crack repair and basement waterproofing topics, please visit A1FoundationCrackRepair.com or call Rich at (866) 92 9-3171. Or you can email Rich at info@a1foundationcrackrepair.com. 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.

E-mail: info@a1foundationcrackrepair.com
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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.