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Foundation Types and What to Do When Your Foundation Leaks

forming a concrete foundation

Every residential or commercial structure has a foundation of some sort.

The type of foundation you have in your space can depend on when the structure was built, building codes in your area, the soil type and water table depth. These factors typically make the decision about what kind of foundation you get.

For first-time homeowners in particular, this can be a confusing topic, especially when you add in foundation terminology.

So what is the difference between a foundation, crawl space and basement, or is there a difference? Do different foundation types need different maintenance? What if your foundation starts leaking? Does the repair depend on the type of foundation you have? What if you don’t know what kind of foundation you have?

These are just a few of the customer questions we have fielded over the years about foundations.

In this article, learn essential foundation basics and find out how to fix a leaky foundation from the inside, regardless of what type of foundation you are trying to fix.

What Is a Foundation’s Job?

The basic job of a foundation is to support the structure above it. At its most fundamental, the foundation gives all the walls a common point of contact so they don’t separate.

What is particularly interesting here is that the original term used to describe a foundation was “footings," meaning, to give the basic structure a foothold in the ever-shifting earth.

So here, you can see that even small cracks or leaks—the simple presence of moisture that wasn’t present before—can and should be deeply concerning!

Figuring Out What Type of Foundation You Have

While you may find some natural variation between these, especially with the ongoing evolution in the building industry, essentially there are four basic types of structural foundations.

Slab

Perhaps the best-known type of foundation is the simple slab. Typically created from poured (wet) concrete, the slab type foundation seems simple at first glance. But it can be oh-so-complicated to lay properly and evenly, as any building contractor will tell you!

Slab foundations are more common in more temperate climates that are less vulnerable to the natural expansion and contraction of the earth that can arise with extreme seasonal temperature shifts.

Pier and Beam

The pier and beam type of foundation can be easily confused with the crawl space (which we will look at next here). A pier and beam (or post and beam) foundation uses inset posts with horizontal beams, usually made from concrete or wood, to stabilize the structure.

A pier and beam foundation can make it easier to make repairs by providing easy access to utility lines and pipes installed underneath. This foundation can also be smart in flood-prone areas because it elevates the structure off the ground by a foot or more.

However, this type of foundation is both pricier and more complicated to construct than the typical slab. It is best used for smaller structures built on relatively stable soil.

Crawl Space

A crawl space type of foundation is similar to a pier and beam in that both elevate the structure off of the surface of the soil. A crawl space generally uses a higher elevation—2 feet or more. Elevation is achieved with the help of cinder blocks rather than poured concrete or wood.

This is an especially smart foundation choice in tropical climates, since a crawl space foundation also helps protect the space above in flood-prone areas. However, the catch-22 is that crawl spaces are also prone to mould and mildew because the area is slow to dry out.

Basement

The basement foundation type is quite common in colder climates such as what we have here in Canada. Many people don’t at first realize that a basement is actually a type of foundation as well as a method for adding extra usable square footage to a space!

There are different ways to construct a basement. The two most common types are poured concrete and cinder blocks (a mixture of sand, cement and cinders that are like large yet relatively lightweight bricks). A basement will have walls and then a poured slab floor in between the walls. The rest of the structure then sits on top of this.

Because of the extra planning and labour involved, basements are more expensive than other foundation types.

Basements are generally contraindicated in geographic areas where the water table is high, underground springs are present or the soil is inherently less stable. This can cause ongoing structural issues that make basements more challenging to maintain.

Foundation Fixes for Any Type of Leak

Discovering your foundation is letting in moisture can be so distressing! Where is it coming from? How much of it is there? Has standing water or persistent dampness already caused damage? How can you tell for sure?

These are questions for a professional to answer. Diagnosing the cause of moisture is the most common issue that triggers a call to our office. The customer on the other end of the phone has picked up on signs that moisture is there. They just don’t know what to do about it!

The good news is, whatever type of leak you have, there is a way to resolve it to prevent any further damage from being done.

From installing wall anchors or braces to reinforcing and stabilizing walls or installing additional piers or jacks to prop up a sagging crawl space, we have plenty of time-tested repair options to suit any issue or budget.

Fixing a Leaky Foundation from the Inside

Once your foundation has cracked to the point at which moisture is seeping in, the smartest solution can be to simply waterproof your foundation from the inside out.

Get in Touch

Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664 if you suspect your foundation may have a leak!

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