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March 2019

There Is Water on the Basement Floor But I Don’t See Any Cracks—Help!

deep basement flood

After so many decades in the foundation repair and waterproofing industry, we are no longer surprised by the many ways water can find its way into a basement.

“If there’s a will, there’s a way” pretty much sums up the ability water has to seep into any crack or crevice and, from there, make its way into your basement.

It certainly doesn’t help that most basements are crafted from either poured concrete or concrete blocks, and concrete is a naturally porous material from day one.

Depending on who you ask and the type of water damage, anywhere from 60 to 98 percent of all basements in North America will eventually develop some type of moisture damage.

This means it is likely not so much a case of if but rather when you finally make that call to ask for a repair estimate for basement waterproofing. In this post, we detail the common ways water enters a basement and what to do when you discover it.

Concrete Micro-Fissures

Concrete is not only naturally porous but it tends to settle and contract somewhat as it dries. This can be a particular issue in poured concrete basements, and especially so if the concrete was not mixed properly and develops “honeycombs,” or air pockets that create tiny pathways where water can seep in.

Basements constructed from concrete blocks are not immune, however. Over time, the mortar that holds the blocks together will start to break down. When this happens, the blocks will shift and often open up other small cracks where water can seep in from outside.

Wall or Floor Cracks

Wall or floor cracks can happen for a variety of reasons. Improperly set walls without sufficient support, settling concrete, shifting soils, extreme drought or flooding that places extra pressure on walls and other issues can cause larger visible cracks to appear and let water in.

Damaged or Blocked Window Wells or Drains

Window wells, weeping tiles and floor drains are all systems designed to keep water out of a newly constructed basement. They tend to do their jobs well at first and less well over time.

Debris and damage can create blockages or total collapse, causing the water that should be flowing out of your basement to flow back in.

Shifting Soil

Shifting soil can be more of a problem in some geographic areas than others. Over time, it is natural for topography to shift somewhat, and changing global weather patterns can worsen this effect.

As soil shifts, pressure against basement walls and flooring becomes uneven, causing cracks to form and widen over time and water to seep inside.

Rising Water Table

As weather patterns become more unpredictable and seasonal storms become more extreme, there is simply more water to deal with and not enough places to put it.

When the soil becomes saturated with moisture, this can cause a rise in the water table that existing drainage systems are not equipped to deal with.

Failing Sump Pump

Sump pumps, like all home maintenance systems, have a useful life. But increasing demands can also cause a sump pump to wear out faster than expected.

A failing sump pump is one of the most common causes of serious water issues in a basement.

Plumbing or Sewer Line Leaks

The network of hidden pipes that delivers water to your home are vulnerable to all kinds of equally hidden perils—from tree limbs to animals to rust and natural wear and tear. Leaking plumbing pipes can easily cause water to enter your basement.

Similarly, over time the seals that connect your home’s sewer pipes to the main sewer lines can wear out due to age and cause a backlog of dirty sewer water to flood into your basement space.

Excessive Water Runoff

Runoff from watering your lawn and garden and from rain storms is especially prone to entering your basement.

Inadequate Exterior Drainage or Grading

Over time, it is normal for an existing system of gutters and downspouts to start aging and develop clogs, leaks or cracks. Sometimes the topography changes and soil sinks or shifts in areas that were previously level.

When this occurs, water may begin to flow back toward your foundation instead of away from it and can then pool and begin to leak into your basement.

Diagnosing and Repairing a Leaking Basement

When you think of the words “basement” and “leak,” you probably think of the words “stressful” and “expensive.”

But in most cases, the repair expense is not going to be as pricey as you think. And what you can absolutely count on is that it will only get more expensive if you decide to ignore the moisture, wait and hope it will all just go away!

The best approach is to move forward to seek an accurate diagnosis so you know what is causing the humidity, efflorescence (white powder), sweating, dampness, strange odours or outright leaks in your basement.

 

Once you know what the problem is, then it becomes much easier to sit down and sort through the options to repair it. In some cases, it is possible to simply install a dehumidifier to control basement humidity for a time while you plan and budget for the necessary repairs.

But you won’t know until you ask and get the facts!

The most common basement repair needs include crack repair, installation of a new or back-up sump pump system, de-clogging and window well repair and drainage systems, gutter cleaning and downspout extensions, wall supports, additional insulation and interior basement waterproofing.

Get in Touch

Affordable basement waterproofing and repair options are just a phone call away. Don’t wait and let your basement moisture issue get worse!

Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.

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Moisture Barrier Versus Interior Waterproofing: Which Do You Need?

exterior basement waterproofing

The moment you notice a moisture or humidity issue with your basement, your learning curve begins.

First, there is a confusing set of new terms to learn. What is the difference between a barrier versus a membrane? Also, what is damp-proofing and is that the same as interior waterproofing?

Is there a better choice to address your specific issue with basement moisture, whether it is seepage or an outright raging leak?

One thing you do know, however: whatever you select, you want it to last. In this post, we discuss important differences between a moisture barrier versus interior waterproofing and the right time to use each.

Damp-Proofing, Vapor Barriers & Moisture Barriers

The best time to discuss protecting your basement space from moisture breaches is before it is even built.

Of course, in most cases this smart conversation doesn’t take place, either because the homeowner doesn’t know (and the contractor doesn’t say) or yours isn’t a new home and you are one in a succession of owners.

The terminology for protective, preventative treatments—often termed “damp-proofing”—can be confusing. Water-resistant membranes, moisture barriers, vapour barriers… they sound quite a bit alike but actually mean different things.

What is most important to know, however, is that none of these products can provide complete protection against basement moisture. If you want full waterproofing protection, you need to find out precisely what type of moisture the product blocks!

Moisture barrier

A water-resistant membrane (also called a moisture barrier) is a sheet of thick plastic that, as its name suggests, blocks moisture from entering through the foundation.

Membranes can be helpful to repel seepage, but they can’t withstand heavy pressure such as that generated by fast leaks and flooding. In this way, to say they are installed for waterproofing is actually inaccurate.

Vapour barrier

A vapour barrier is typically made of polyethylene, a type of plastic sheeting. It is often attached directly to wood or laminate flooring materials to block moisture created by overly humid air.

Unfortunately, this type of barrier is typically effective only until the moisture content in the surrounding air or soil reaches about 75 percent, which makes it ill-equipped for seasonal or storm-generated humidity spikes. And vapour barriers are not the right choice to actively repel water seepage or outright leaks.

Damp-Proofing Versus Interior Waterproofing

In the vast majority of cases, damp-proofing is installed as a preventative, protective measure during new construction or major home renovations. Here, the thought is to provide some type of minimal protection against minor settling or seepage, especially in an unfinished basement space.

In contrast, interior waterproofing is generally recommended as a way to fix an existing issue with moisture seepage or a leak, often with an older home where the basement structure itself is aging and has become compromised in some way.

This is not to say that interior basement waterproofing cannot be done as a preventative approach—and in actuality, this approach is ideal for homeowner peace of mind and for controlling future repair costs.

Interior Waterproofing Versus Exterior Waterproofing

There are two main approaches to basement waterproofing: interior and exterior.

As their names suggest, exterior waterproofing is a treatment applied around the outside of your basement space, while interior waterproofing is applied to the interior of the basement.

Many homeowners do not initially realize there are two different types of treatments—that is, until you start to gather quotes and some quotes are so much pricier than others!

Exterior basement waterproofing

Quotes into the tens of thousands of dollars are typical for exterior basement waterproofing.

This highly invasive treatment is generally only feasible or advisable to do at the same time a new basement is built, since it requires thoroughly displacing the surrounding soil and landscaping, which then creates additional costly repairs.

Interior basement waterproofing

Interior basement waterproofing is a treatment that can be applied to the inside of your basement—walls and flooring—whether your basement is unfinished or finished. If applied to an unfinished basement, the treatment will not prevent you from finishing the basement in the future.

This treatment can be used on its own to treat issues with humidity or slight seepage from micro-cracks. For larger cracks and leaks or standing water, interior waterproofing can be combined with other types of treatments depending on need.

Downspout and gutter repairs or re-routing, window well cleaning and repairs, sump pump backup systems, additional specialized insulation, crack repair, structural supports such as wall joints and braces, ventilation solutions and grading/landscaping can each do their part to provide a comprehensive approach to basement waterproofing.

Which Solution to Choose: Damp-Proofing or Interior Waterproofing

Since no one enjoys spending money to keep moisture or water out of their basement, it can be tempting to just jump at the lowest bid you receive.

But it is important to take a step back and look into the long term—how will the solution you choose today protect you from the unknown in the future and perhaps even impact the resale value of your home?

According to a recent Home Advisor report, prices can range from $600 to $10,590, which is a really wide spread!

What is most important to know here is that whatever you spend now to fix minor issues with humidity or leaks will always be less expensive than what it will cost later if you end up with a major mould and mildew remediation or deep repair job on your hands!

Sometimes it is even possible to control moisture’s impact over the short term by simply installing additional ventilation and/or a dehumidifier to remove airborne moisture and dry out your basement air.

Get in Touch

Are you concerned about an overly humid or damp basement? We can help!

Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.

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Help! My Basement Wall Has a Crack! An Expert’s Take On What To Do First

basement crack what to do first

When you own a home, you never know when the day may come that you walk into your basement and notice one of your walls has developed a crack.

Even though finding a crack in your basement wall is always going to be stressful, it can help to know this is actually quite common.

This is especially the case in older homes and in those built on unstable terrain where soil has a high natural moisture content, such as near the beach. But any home can develop a crack in the basement wall given sufficient time and the right types of pressure.

What is important is not to panic, but to take a deep breath and follow the steps we outline in this post.

4 Types of Basement Walls

There are four basic types of basement walls used in residential construction today.

Poured concrete wall

The most common type is the poured concrete wall. As the name indicates, a poured concrete wall is created by pouring wet concrete into some type of wood or metal frame and allowing it to set.

Concrete block wall

The second most common type of wall is the concrete block wall, also sometimes called the cinder block wall or masonry block wall. The name gives its structure away—these are pre-made stacked blocks held together with mortar.

Solid concrete wall

Another relatively common wall type is the pre-made solid concrete wall. With this type of wall, the concrete is poured to set ahead of time and the drywall is then transported to the building site and set into place.

Brick, stone, clay wall

Brick, clay and stone walls are no longer common, but are still found in vintage and historic homes with basements.

3 Types of Basement Wall Cracks

Basement wall cracks can happen for a variety of reasons. However, there are three main categories of triggers for the majority of basement wall cracks.

Shrinkage

Shrinkage describes what happens when a poured concrete wall starts to dry. Some amount of shrinkage is to be expected as the poured concrete dries, even under optimal weather and “curing” (concrete drying) conditions.

However, a number of variables can interact to create less than optimal conditions for curing a newly poured concrete wall. Dramatic temperature shifts, sub-optimal concrete mixes, super-wet or dry conditions and other factors can impact how much shrinkage occurs and how that shrinkage affects your basement walls.

Settling

Settling is what happens when your basement walls begin to interact with the surrounding soil or water table.

This might happen over time as a result of shifting terrain or changing water table levels or soil composition. Or it could happen more rapidly after a severe weather event such as a major flood.

Movement

Movement can include settling. When the surrounding soil and terrain shifts, this can cause your basement walls and foundation to shift.

Poor drainage, blocked window wells or inadequate landscape grading can also cause hydrostatic pressure against one or more basement walls, causing them to bow inward or outward, lean, tilt or bulge.

3 Steps to Take After Noticing a Basement Wall Crack

First and foremost, what you need to know is that any crack in your basement wall always carries a message with it. Your job is to decode the message your basement is sending you and that will tell you what steps to take next.

1. Call in the pros

Unfortunately, most homeowners know little if anything about deciphering basement wall crack messages. For this, you will want to bring in an expert who can examine the crack in detail, figure out how it may have formed and what, if any, action needs to be taken next.

Some cracks are relatively normal, even unavoidable. Shrinkage-related cracks, for example, will nearly always happen when your basement walls are constructed from poured concrete. The goal here is to minimize the shrinkage, not eradicate it entirely.

But other cracks are more serious, even if they don’t always look serious. Some basement wall cracks are so slight they are almost impossible to see with the naked eye, and you can detect them only when a white material called “efflorescence” starts to form near the crack. Efflorescence is a build-up of mineral salts left behind when seeping moisture evaporates.

2. Evaluate your options

Basement experts have all kinds of wonderful technology that can help diagnose what is causing basement cracks, how serious those cracks may be and the best corrective options.

Many homeowners are quite reluctant to reach out to an expert, thinking it will lead to thousands of dollars in basement repair expenses. The important thing to remember here is that you simply need to know what is wrong. You don’t necessarily need to take action to fix it right away.

Some cracks are relatively minor and may only require the help of a dehumidifier to extract excess moisture to prevent mould and mildew growth. For cracks that do represent significant structural impact, the more you can learn about what has caused the crack, the better you can plan ahead and budget to fix it.

3. Create your corrective plan of action

All kinds of creative options are available today to fix foundation cracks.

Sometimes the simplest option is affordable basement waterproofing, which effectively seals up your basement walls and foundation from the inside against cracks and the resultant leaks.

Sometimes a two-step approach is required—first repairing cracks by installing supportive wall anchors, braces or reinforcers and then applying basement waterproofing to prevent additional moisture from entering your basement space.

Get in Touch

Are you concerned because you have recently found evidence of a basement wall crack or moisture seepage inside your basement? We can help!

Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.

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My Basement Is Always Humid: What Basement Humidity Means & How to Fix It

dehumidifier for humid basement

There are some times when adding humidity to your indoor air is a good thing. A bit of strategically managed humidity can improve your health, ease the signs of aging skin, fight off static and keep home furnishings in good repair.

But too much humidity or humidity in the wrong places can be damaging. Your basement is one of those places where you just don’t want to have overly humid air.

According to the Basement Health Association, overly humid air is the number one cause of mould, mildew and major basement repairs.

If your basement space always seems overly humid compared to your above-ground environment, it’s time to take action. In this post, we discuss what can cause basement humidity, what it means and how to fix it.

Aiming for the Ideal Humidity Range

Natural Resources Canada strongly recommends maintaining an indoor air humidity level of 30 to 50 percent year-round.

When humidity rises above 50 percent, this creates conditions ripe for mould and mildew to colonize and spread. Similarly, when humidity drops below 30 percent, the extreme dryness can cause respiratory distress for you and creaks and cracks for your wood furnishings.

Because outdoor air humidity levels can fluctuate outside of this range seasonally, sometimes it can be difficult at first to diagnose a problem with basement air humidity.

Why Basements Become Chronically Humid

How does a basement become too humid? The most obvious reason is the presence of a water leak. When moisture seeps into your basement, this naturally raises the moisture content inside the space.

Micro-fissures

But what many homeowners don’t realize is that often basement leaks are too small to be easily seen. Most basements are made from poured concrete or concrete blocks. Concrete is a naturally porous material that will continue to settle over time.

With shifting soil, storms, changing water table levels and other natural factors, micro-fissures and tiny cracks can begin to form and let in water.

If you never see standing water in your basement but the air is continually humid, you may have one or several of these tiny micro-fissures allowing water to slowly infiltrate your basement space.

Cracks

Of course, leaks can get much bigger, and sometimes outright cracks will form and you can see water coming in.

Clogs or drainage blocks

Clogged gutters, blocked window wells, malfunctioning downspouts or shifting landscaping can compound the issue and create a situation where water enters with increasing ease.

Sump problems

Another way water come in is when the sump pump system begins to wear out. This can happen due to old age or increasing demand that the sump system was never designed to handle.

What Happens When Your Basement Is Chronically Humid

Why be concerned about a chronically humid basement?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites a number of concerning health and structural issues that can arise when your basement is overly humid or damp.

Over time, a chronically humid basement may cause warped, bowed or sagging walls and floors, mould and mildew, bacteria growth, damage and destruction of stored materials or basement furnishings, windows and doors that won’t open or close and similar structural issues.

Similarly, basement humidity can cause issues with your above-ground structure as well, especially once mould and mildew take hold and begin to spread, leading to extensive and costly remediation work.

How to Fix a Humid Basement

Having a basement can increase your resale value by adding useable space. But it can also become a headache when maintenance needs arise.

There are two ways to approach fixing a chronically humid or damp basement space.

Put a band-aid on it

The first is what we call a “band-aid” approach. You can install a portable dehumidifier to pull moisture out of the air. For minor issues with basement humidity, sometimes this is all that’s needed for a time.

But this isn’t what we recommend for a long-term solution. You can be pretty sure that your basement humidity issues are not going to resolve on their own!

Even if you don’t have any desire to sell your home right now, not properly fixing the issue can be a liability when you do want to put your home on the market. More importantly, ignoring or band-aiding chronic basement moisture issues can cause structural issues with your whole home over time.

Waterproof your basement

Affordable basement waterproofing is one of the hands-down best ways to fix a humid basement permanently. There are two methods for how to fix a leaky basement: exterior waterproofing and interior waterproofing.

From a basement waterproofing cost perspective, we typically recommend the latter.

In fact, waterproofing your basement from the outside is typically financially feasible only as a preventative approach to protect new basement construction. For existing homes with humid or leaking basements, interior basement waterproofing works just as well and is vastly more affordable!

For micro-fissures that are permitting a bit of extra moisture to seep in, interior basement waterproofing alone is often sufficient to solve the problem permanently.

If your basement has developed a larger crack that is letting in more water, or if you have blocked window wells or issues with your above-ground drainage or landscaping, we may recommend a combination approach that includes repairs and interior basement waterproofing to protect your home and basement from humidity over the long term.

The good news is, interior waterproofing can be done on a finished or an unfinished basement space. If your basement is unfinished, the interior waterproofing treatment will not impact the option for finishing your basement at a later date.

Get in Touch

Are you concerned because your basement always seems uncomfortably humid? We can help!

Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.

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