The big box stores do a great job of hyping crack repair products but they don’t really seem to do the job as advertised. Why is that? Adam explains why a DIY crack repair using hydraulic cement doesn’t always work.
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: Why isn’t my DIY crack repair using hydraulic cement working?
Narrator: So Adam, the big box stores do a great job of hyping these products but they don’t really seem to do the job as advertised. Why is that?
Adam: You’re right on that one. What we see on the label even on these products is typically a spout of water coming out of a foundation with somebody putting on material to stop the water, in fact, they’re usually called the hydraulic cement or leak stopper. The most common repair, whether it’s done by a handyman or potentially a builder or most homeowners will get some hydraulic cement and use it to repair foundation cracks.
What happens with a hydraulic cement and what it is, hydraulic cement is a very, very strong cement based product. Concrete is a cement based product, mortar is a cement based product, but what happens with hydraulic cement is it has very, very, very high strength, not a lot of aggregates, so things like rocks and sand in there, and it’s used to plug holes in foundations, usually as a quick stop for water issues. Where it’s most appropriate is typically in areas where you have, maybe a flaw in the foundation where there’s maybe a pinhole, or maybe it’s an old pipe penetration, when they fill that in, it will stop immediate water from coming through.
So, a lot of times people use this product as a stopgap or what they think is the final solution to a water issue. And what happens is, because it’s such a strong substance and it’s extremely rigid, it doesn’t move with the foundation. So, if we think about a foundation crack, foundation crack will typically go from the top of a foundation down to the floor, so you’re talking anywhere from a four-foot to an eight-foot line that goes from top to bottom, may go off at a slight angle, but usually it’s a mostly vertical crack. But that crack isn’t just what we see on the inside, more often than not you’ll see it on the exterior as well.
So, you have a slab of concrete up your wall that’s just 8 to 10 inches thick and is broken all the way through from the inside to the outside. So if you go online you might see somebody telling you, chisel out the crack, make it a little bit wider and then pack the hydraulic cement in there, it’s a somewhat liquid amount, not super stiff, and having it go all the way from the top to the bottom, so that usually will stop the water from immediately coming in for a couple months. But we literally see this every single day and we re-repair this every single day, so why did it fail? Well, I have a piece of hydraulic cement here, and hydraulic cement is extremely rigid and it will not bend or flex or move at all.
So as the foundation is basically broken into 2 even though it’s not really moving a ton, with temperatures, humidity changes, freezing and thawing cycles, that wall is going to slightly move back and forth, side to side, imperceptible to our eyes but it will actually move a little bit. So what you’ve done now is you channeled out the foundation, made it a little bit wider, packed in a material that’s extremely rigid and won’t actually allow any sort of movement.
So what happens over a couple rain cycles or even really quickly, is that as the foundation begins to move a little bit, side to side, top to bottom, front to back, it actually will reopen that crack that you’ve spent so much time chiseling ang putting material in there. Now a lot of builders use this as a stopgap because that’s kind of what they know, and one of the reasons why it doesn’t work for a long term is because it will open back up again. So if you’re looking at a house, looking at buying a house and you see something that has been repaired, usually it’s characterized by a darker patch that goes down the foundation wall. And it may look like it’s pretty good and it may look like you’re not seeing the crack anymore, but over time that will open back up.
So why do we use the materials that we do? Hydraulic cement, like I’ve mentioned many times here, does not move. It stays there, it will re-crack, but it will not flex with the foundation. When we either inject the foundation with a polymer resin, or use a carbon fiber approach, the base waterproofing binding material that holds it all together has some flexibility to it. So as the material, or as the foundation begins to separate slightly just with normal, everyday movement of a house through a winter cycle or temperature changes, it will move very slightly but this material has enough elasticity in it where it can actually stretch and compact with the walls so that you’re not getting any sort of additional cracking.
Sometimes when we do repair, you have to put a skim coat of Hydrolock over the outside just to keep the material from working in, but the base material that’s actually chemically binding the walls together will move with the foundation. So that’s why it’s a superior choice to run off the shelf products because there’s a lot of shelf products, while it may stop it right there and then, but we know with certainty that it’s going to open back up over time. So, in reality what we really want to do is we want to make sure we match the right materials to this construction type here, and in this case the hydraulic cement is just really not going to cut it.
Narrator: Well, excellent information Adam, as always. And thank you for explaining why DIY crack repair using hydraulic cement doesn’t always work.
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 A1FoundationCrackRepair.com or call Rich at (866) 929-3171. Or you can email Rich at email@example.com. Thanks for listening and keep that basement dry.