Frequently Asked Questions

See below for our frequently asked questions. If you find that we have not covered your topic, feel free to contact us!

  • What is Hydrostatic pressure ?

    One critical component of any waterproofing system is removing water that accumulates around the footing and foundation. Otherwise, the water builds up, and under the pressure of its own weight, will penetrate through the cracks  and pores in the concrete walls and up through the floor slab. If there are any flaws in the waterproofing, hydrostatic pressure will ensure they leak.

    The solution, of course, is to remove the water. Sump pumps, sheet drains, perforated pipe, and other products are designed specifically for this purpose, but they must work together to ensure the system performs as designed. In new construction, some sort of drainage system is required by code, and when properly designed and installed, might last the life of the structure. With existing homes, drainage systems sometimes need remediation and repair due to clogs, inadequate sizing, or other issues.


    Joseph Boccia or Boccia Inc., a waterproofing company in Long Island, New York, has devoted his 40 year career to keeping homes and buildings dry. He explains hydrostatic pressure using an example of pushing a beach ball into the water and feeling the resistance. he says "This is an example of hydrostatic pressure exerted on the ball. Without this phenomenon the overwhelming force on water is gravity which is forcing it down into the ground where there would be no reason for it to make a right turn into the basement is surrounded by saturated soil, hydrostatic pressure is created which forces the water into the basement envelope. The trick is to drain the sub-soil so the basement isn't sitting in water and the hydrostatic pressure isn't a pesky problem" This Pressure can exert enormous forces. Four feet of water exerts nearly 300 pounds of pressure per square foot. Don Williams, vise-president of engineering at Blue Angel Pumps, say "its physics, it's like taking a bucket and forcing it into a swimming pool. If there's a hole in the bucket, the water will find its way in. It's the same with houses and bigger basement, the more hydrostatic pressure there may be. It will find cracks in foundations, it will find gaps in expansion joints, it can exploit the porosity in concrete." A waterproofing membrane, under these conditions, is typically inadequate. Under pressure water will find a way through poorly sealed seams in sheet membranes and areas of inadequate millage in spray-applied products. Says Williams, "rather than seal a basement against hydrostatic pressure, its more efficient and more cost effective to relieve that pressure." He continues, "The larger the structure, the more difficult it would be to seal it up completely. Rather than fight the pressure, it's almost always better to relieve, control, and manage.


    The standard tools used to relieve hydrostatic pressure are some sort of drainage board or sheet drain to allow water to quickly make its way to the footing, footing tile (usually clay or perforated plastic pipe ) that collects water and channels it to a sup pit, and a sump pump that will discharge that water well away from the structure. There are factors, of course. Builders and landscapers should ensure the ground surrounding the structure is sloped away from the building, and that gutters and downspouts discharge storm water well away from the foundation. With Existing construction, its often extremely expensive to inspect, repair or replace drainage components on the outside of the wall, so other specialized products are available to relieve hydrostatic pressure from the interior of the basement.


    Dwight Walker, technical specialist at DMX Plastics, says, "The system really needs to have and effective drainage system to channel the water where it needs to go. Site conditions and contractor preferences dictate which drainage system one should use." For centuries, builders have used gravel for this purpose. It's cheap and readily available, but can sometimes clog with solid. Today, dimple sheet drains and foam protection boards are more commonly used, and are available in a wide range of sizes. compressive strengths, flow rates. filtration capabilities. and chemical resistance to suit virtually any drainage application. DMX is one of a half-dozen makers of dimple sheet drains. They're installed with the dimples facing the concrete, and mechanically fastened at the top. "Dimple membranes create an air space, creating a way for water to drain to the footing tile, and diffuse hydrostatic pressure," Walker says. "You want to alleviate water as quickly as possible. Under standard conditions, a standard dimple sheet will work."

    Normally, the sheet is terminated at the top of the footing. Sometimes contractors run it to the base of the footing, but Walker says care must be taken to ensure the perforated pipe or drain installed outside of the dimple sheet, or the system will not function. Best practice is to terminate the sheet just above the level of the drain tile. SuperSeal, Delta MS by Cosella Doerken and MiraDrain by Carlisle Coatings & Waterproofing are similar systems. Many of these companies also manufacture dimple membranes with a bonded geotextile face for more demanding applications.


    Those who design and size drainage systems needs to be familiar with the soil they're dealing with. "Different soils drain differently," says walker. "Some will hold tons and tons of water, and other will let water filter tight through it." Similarly, some solid has extremely fine particles, which can wash out and plug the pipe. In these cases, and extra layer of geotextile around the pope could make the difference between a system that performs as intended and one that is clogged beyond repair in just a few short years.  DMX makes a different dimple product with geotextile bonded to the bottom of the dimples. Designed for sandy soil s and other soil types with lots of "fines" it's installed with the dimple facing away fro the wall, with the geocomposite in contact with the solid to prevent the fines from washing down and clogging the drain.  When using these types of drains (termed geocomposites), one should also consider the use of footing tile with filter cloth over the tile since the purpose of these boards is to filter out fines, which can also render a drainage system inadequate in short period of time if not properly considered for the soil conditions. Other factors, such as location (side of hill vs., in s a small hollow), climate, perched water table, and depth and foundation, may also necessitate drainage modifications. Walker says "Choose the right product for the right applications." He adds "It should go without saying that they have to be installed correctly if you expect them to function. Follow the manufacturer's installation guidelines."  He recommends communicating directly with the manufacturers as it's sometimes hard to get the right information, especially in a big-box type outlets. "The floor help can't be an expert on everything," he says. "Building supply centers ten to be better for these types of products, largely because they're not as large, tend to have better training and experience, and the range of products they carry is not as broad, allowing them to be more specialized."


    Walker says, "For decades, the standard footing drain or French drain has been gravel and perforated pipe. it's cost-effective and generally works very well. However, any system that reliably removes the water from the soils around the footing and directs it to a sump pit will work." Building codes specify at least four types of acceptable footing drains, including perforated pipe, gravel in a trench, proprietary systems like Form A-Drain, and loose-fill EPS foam chips in a mesh sleeve. The size of the building and the type of soil surrounding it need to be considered in determining the appropriate drain tile. One sump pump expert know advises, "Know what type of soil you're dealing with, and calculate for the heaviest 15-minute rainfall. That's what we go back to for design." With this data, the waterproofer can calculate how many gallons per minute need to be picked up. Walker says, "Some guys with throw down a four-inch pipe and assume it's good. It's true that it will handle typical conditions, but it needs to be checked for suitability and capacity." He adds, "As long as [the product] can handle water and meet the requirement specified in the code its acceptable."


    Water from the footing drain is directed to a sump pit, which should be below the lowest point in the structure. While sizing the pit and the pump is beyond the scope of this article, the general idea is to install a system that can cope with the volume of water delivered during a 15-minute peak flow event calculated in the section above. In some of the larger homes, multiple sump pits may be needed. "Size and location of the basin are based on the region of the country and the water table." says Williams. "If people are cost conscious, they may go with a lower horsepower motor, others may want top of the line, but they should never select product that inadequate for peak flow events." Similarly, waterproofers and contractors should strongly encourage homeowners to install a better-powered back-up pump that will automatically take over if the continuous duty A/C pump goes out. Williams says. "Typically when the power goes out, it's in the middle of a rainstorm, and just when you need a pump the most, it's gone. " He continues, "Most homes being built are not high-end custom homes. An Additional few hundred dollars spent on drainage and pumps make a world of difference. Owners wont hesitate to put that much into countertops, cabinets or lighting, but they should also think of upgrading the systems that protect their home. Put in a worry-free system from the beginning and give the homeowner peace of mind."


    If the sheet drain and/or drain tile is no longer functioning adequately, remediation is needed. Williams points out that occasionally, remediation is needed because designers didn't plan for the life of the structure. "Subdivisions are typically built in phases," he explains, "and sometimes, a drainage system that is adequate when the home is new will not be able to keep up with the peak flow evens when the neighbourhood is built out with pavement where trees and grass once stood. Remediation may also be needed if the system was installed poorly, improperly sized, or has gotten clogged with silt. Historically, this has meant the costly, time-consuming and messy process of digging the outside of the basement to replace the drain tile. Occasionally this may be needed, but there are usually better options. Boccia markets a "hollow kick molding" drainage system that is installed on the inside of the basement at the joint between the floor slab and the foundation wall. The water is then directed to the sump pit and doesn't have an opportunity to rise up around the floor and walls and create hydrostatic pressure. The company claims it is "the most effective, affordable method to eliminate wet basements." Of course, the size and style of sump pump-and backup- may also need to be upgraded, but this can typically be accomplished with minimal hassle and zero excavation. With quality products, good craftsmanship, and a correct understanding of water, hydrostatic pressure can be eliminated, allowing the waterproofing membrane to perform as intended and leaving basements clean, dry and mold free.


    Waterproof ! Magazine Fall 2015 Issue

    "Relieving Hydrostatic pressure"

  • What is Mold Remediation?

    Many professionals have every good intention of helping rid homes and commercial buildings of mold infestations, but they may not be equipped to remediate and abate them permanently. The complications continue to increase with the addition of red tape from various agencies, legislation, and insurance carriers who do not have access to reliable resources and current information. 

    Certified Mold Specialists are dedicated to keeping informed about reputable products, resources, and methods for mold abatement/remediation. Environment-friendly products are also available that are rather effective. Often, these products can be applied relatively without hassle to deal with most mold and mildew infestations. Because the products are environmentally friendly, there is no need to worry about your family members or pets suffering from fumes. 

    Because mold is often undetected until its advanced stages, it can be an advantage to seek testing from a certified inspector or expert. These professionals are equipped to handle these types of problems and keep current with new procedures, products, and regulations. 

    From the outset, a certified mold specialist should clearly communicate their policy for dealing with mold throughout the entire process. It is a good idea to get a written copy of their policies before hiring their services. Ask specifically about the following issues: 

    • Mold Testing/Mold Inspection
    • Mold Identification
    • Mold Abatement/Remediation/Correction
    • Customer Maintenance Responsibilities.

    Health concerns from mold are well-publicized. It is important to take immediate measures at the first sign of concern. Two elements of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) are humidity and temperature. 

    When moisture is present at the ideal temperature in combination with the proper amounts of oxygen and food, mold begins growing. Home environments are filled with virtually an infinite supply of food sources: dust and dirt, drywall, and even wallpaper paste are just a few food source examples. Once a growth is suspected, it is often too late to take preventive measures. Time is of the essence to ensure your good health. 

  • What are the solutions for Radon Gas?

    Airborne Radon Reduction 
    Most airborne reduction systems require the mitigator to follow three stages to effectively reduce radon levels: diagnostic evaluation, sealing of the foundation or crawl space, and installation of the system. The radon contractor will use their knowledge and skills to design the most cost-effective and correct system for your home.

    Airborne radon systems work by altering air pressure beneath your home and drawing out radon gas through one or more pipes to the exterior of the home with a specially designed radon fan. The systems are usually routed through the interior of the home, through the garage, or to the exterior, often venting above the roofline. 

    The most popular type of installed system was formerly called sub-slab depressurization or SSD. It has been renamed to active soil depressurization or ASD. Another emerging method involves the installation of a heat recovery ventilator designed to ensure the optimal indoor air quality. 

    Waterborne Radon Reduction 
    Experienced mitigators will require the following for waterborne radon reduction prior to recommending the best system and location: assessment of the waterborne radon level; complete water analysis, identifying the presence of other contaminants; and measurement of the water flow rate. Your preferences should be taken into consideration along with the plumbing, electrical, and venting requirements. 

    The two most common types of waterborne radon reduction systems are aeration and granular-activated carbon or GAC. The key factor in selecting the most appropriate system is the radon level. 

    The EPA does not recommend GAC for radon levels above 5,000 pCi/L. The aeration method is rated by the EPA as the best available technology or BAT. Other methods, such as GAC, may pose the threat of waste buildup. The design of aeration systems allows radon gas isolation from the well water, venting the contaminants safely above the roofline. 

    GAC systems require more meticulous maintenance, or problems with radioactivity or ineffectiveness may result. GAC systems use one, two, or three carbon beds or tanks where the radon is adsorbed. If the tanks are left in place too long, the carbon becomes ineffective and possibly contaminated. 

    When properly installed and serviced, they are effective. Therefore, it is necessary to service GAC systems by ensuring the tanks are changed in a timely manner. Usually annual replacement suffices, but may differ according to the well water quality and levels of contamination. 

    Radon Mitigation Services 
    Considering the serious health risks and difficulty in detecting radon gas, it is highly recommended that homeowners and business owners consult the services of a certified radon contractor/mitigator when radon levels have been confirmed to be elevated.

    These professionals have been trained, tested, and certified in effective radon concern resolution according to the standards set by the National Radon Proficiency Program or the National Radon Safety Board. They will address radon concerns and most will provide a free estimate for the design and installation of an effective radon reduction system for your home. 

    Time for Action 
    Do not delay making a decision about assessing radon risk in your home You and your loved ones cannot afford to take any chances in ignoring the recognized health risks of radon gas!

  • How does Radon become present in homes?

    Presence of Radon in Homes 
    Because there are no overt signs or symptoms of radon exposure until cancer is diagnosed, hoemowners are unaware of the importance for radon measurement and radon mitigation. Radon can enter any home or new construction despite the overall condition of the building structure. 

    Radon tends to alter drastically depending upon soil conditions, mineral content, ventilation, and the structural integrity of the home. It is not uncommon for neighboring properties and structures to have completely different radon measurements. The items listed below are the most common radon gas entry points: 

    • Water Seepage Entry Points
    • Dirt Crawl Spaces
    • Foundation Cracks and Basement Wall Cracks
    • Floor Drains
    • Pipes
    • Sump Pump Pits or Basins
    • Well Water

    Wet or moist crawl spaces can contribute between 10 to 15 gallons of water in the form of vapor throughout the home each day. Water vapor enters the crawl space through concrete walls, slabs, foundation blocks, vents, and the soil. After entering the structure, the water vapor travels upward throughout the home and eventually deposits as water condensation upon encountering the cooler surfaces of walls and ceilings. 

    This water vapor is an ideal conductor for dispersing radon gas and other pollutants throughout the home. Often this water vapor is so fine that the average homeowner would not detect it. Even closed crawl spaces, which are effective at increasing the overall indoor air quality, may collect radon in the enclosed space. 

    Radon can enter any existing home or newly constructed one, even those with no visible cracks. The ground elements and architectural components of each residence affect every property differently. Because of the earth surrounding the water supply, radon can leach into well water and disperse through the air from a number of sources: 

    • Showers 60 - 70 percent
    • Toilets 20 - 30 percent
    • Drinking and Cleaning 10 - 50 percent
    • Laundry 90 - 100 percent
    • Dishwashers 90 - 100 percent

    As seen above, radon can be dispersed in the home through the faucets and drains. Stomach cancers resulting from radon ingestion of well water is much lower than lung cancers from airborne radon, but any undue risks are unacceptable. The only assurance of getting an accurate radon level inside your home is to measure it or hire a certified radon mitigator for the task. 

  • What is Radon Gas and what are the health risks?

    Radon gas is a serious health risk and the primary environmental hazard in Canada. Because radon is a colorless and odorless gas, many homeowners do not feel compelled to ensure radon infiltrations are eliminated from their homes. 

    While radon gas is a common element found in soil and rocks, it is only considered harmless when released into unconfined air such as in crawl spaces, basements, and buildings. Radon is a natural radioactive decay byproduct of uranium, contained in soil and rocks. 

    Health Risks 
    The sources attributing radon exposure to lung cancer are numerous. They have conducted studies to support findings that estimate 20,000+ deaths per year are from lung cancer caused by radon gas inhalation or radon gas ingestion. Deaths from radon exposure in lung cancer patients are second only to deaths from lung cancer caused by smoking. 

    The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists provides biological and epidemiological data resourses, connecting radon exposure to lung cancer. When radon is inhaled into the lungs, a radioactive decay process begins. Alpha particles are released and destroy lung tissue by compromising DNA. The following organizations and agencies have classified radon as a Class A human carcinogen: 

    • US Department of Health and Human Services
    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
    • World Health Organization
    • National Academy of Sciences
  • How to check for Street Creep?

    Luckily, street creep doesn’t happen overnight. You can catch the signs of it with simple tests before it ruins your foundation. 

    Conduct a basic test of your own driveway and foundation for signs of street creep like this:

    Check expansion joints: If the joints seem unusually tight or compressed -- you might say, "squeezed" or "crushed" -- you may have a problem. Take a screwdriver or flat kitchen butter knife, and trying to tamp it down between the expansion joint and the concrete. You should be able to drive the screwdriver or knife blade down a good 4-5 inches. But, if you're hitting concrete at just 2 or 3 inches, your might have "creep."

    Check garage floor/foundation: If there are cracks in the foundation, outside or in, or if the garage floor slab is pulling away from your garage wall (foundation) then you may have a problem. 

    Remember, these are just possible indicators of creep. If you have real concerns consider paying either a structural engineer or a professional foundation repair contractor to come out and take a look.

  • Will Homeowner Insurance cover Street Creep?

    Street Creep repairs are not cheap. It can range from $2,400 to $50,000 depending on the extent of the damage and the repairs involved. Sadly, homeowners can't expect any help covering that bill. 

    Most homeowner insurance companies indemnify themselves with what is called "Earth Movement Exclusion." Earth Movement is defined as: earthquake, landslide, mudflow, earth sinking, rising or shifting, or mine subsidence. This exclusion is usually part of your homeowner's coverage and it allows your insurance to deny you a claim for the extreme costs of repairing your foundation walls and driveway damaged by Street Creep.

    Municipalities own the road. So, why aren’t they responsible? 
    Most municipalities have a policy handling Street Creep claims. Their policy normally is that when there is "visible proof" of Street Creep they will make the necessary repairs to your driveway and decrease the potential for any future Street Creep problems. The municipality will not cover any damages to your home. The "visible proof" could be a cracked foundation causing thousands of dollars in damage. 

    Some city and community officials are taking preventative actions to minimize the occurrence of Street Creep in new developments. Some area officials require driveways constructed in areas prone to Street Creep have a four-inch expansion joint at the back of the curb, a one-inch expansion joint at the back of the sidewalk or near the property line and a two-inch expansion joint adjacent to the garage floor.

  • What are expansion joints?

    According to the Portland Cement Association's definition, expansion joints, also called isolation joints, are used to relieve flexural stresses due to vertical movement of slab-on-grade applications. An expansion joint is simply a buffer (usually made of wood, rubber or other material) inserted between two slabs of concrete. Properly installed, it will shrink and expand as the concrete moves, absorbing the pressure and stress of the movement before it starts cracking and crumbling the walls in your home. 

    Your driveway may already have an expansion joint but Street Creep may still occur if it not installed properly. Most contractors will pour the entire driveway and then while the concrete is still wet insert the expansion joint material into the wet concrete. If the depth of the concrete exceeds the width of the expansion material, there can be inches of concrete beneath the expansion material that renders the expansion joint useless. When the slab expands it will push the inches of concrete underneath the expansion material and in time push into your foundation wall causing damage to your home. 

  • What is Street Creep?

    Street Creep, also called Concrete Creep, occurs as a result of the unpredictable movement, shift and expansion of concrete streets. Extreme pressure, due to traffic and natural settlement, pushes the concrete street against the driveway moving it into the home's foundation producing serious cracks in foundation walls. 

    This problem affects homes with concrete driveways and attached garages. Homes located at the end of "T" intersections, at the end of cul-de-sacs, and on the outside of a curve are especially susceptible to Street Creep damage. 

    Homes built on hills are more susceptible to creep because gravity will induce concrete streets and driveways to "slide" downhill. 

    Although this is a national problem, it is more prominent in wet areas and areas with expansive clay soils. Dry regions experience the downhill slide scenario. Typically, it is not as noticeable in regions without basements but it still occurs. 

    The most common preventative fix for street creep is installing an expansion joint between the slabs to absorb the flex.

  • What are the benefits of a Sump Pump?

    Sump pumps have become essential equipment in preventing basement and crawl space water damage since the Federal Clean Water Act prohibited builders in the majority of municipalities from draining rainwater collected by gutters into sewer systems. Most often, the retaining water basins in new construction communities fail to completely alleviate flooding concerns. 

    Estimates state 90 to 95 percent of all basements will experience some form of water penetration, flooding, or recurrent leaking water concerns. The main source of flooding is usually caused by water not being carried far enough away from the foundation. Rainwater and melted snow saturate the ground near the home then filters in through fissures and cracks in the foundation, drain tiles, walls, and floors. However, there may be other more serious structural problems to consider. 

    Sump pump systems work well when the homeowner is aware of the root causes and concerns for flooding or excess water. If there is a soil settlement or soil saturation concern that has not been properly addressed, the foundation or slab will be at risk for structural damage. Sump pumps function well as the last line of defense against flooding. 

    Sump pumps are designed to expel the water collected in the sump hole or pit before reaching your basement or crawl space floor level. When water reaches the critical level, it is pumped outside through a pipe leading away from your foundation. 

    No one wants to deal with the inconveniences of time-consuming clean-up caused by flooding. As most flooding problems occur following severe weather episodes, sump pump systems have been developed with reliable auxiliary power accessories, ensuring continued operation during power failures. These battery back-ups and extended auxiliary power sources prevent thousands of dollars in financial material losses and structural damages. 

    A recurrent flooding problem decreases home value due to damages of these items: plumbing system, foundation, drain tiles, cracked or bowed walls, cracked floors, electrical systems, carpet, tiles, drywall, and rotted wood, etcetera. A consistent and prevalent water penetration issue is the leading cause to discourage potential homebuyers. 

    Sump Pump Benefits:

    • Maximizes property value.
    • Ensures structural integrity of foundation.
    • Controls dampness and humidity, providing a warmer, drier basement.
    • Inhibits fungus, molds and mildew concerns, resulting in a cleaner and healthier home.
    • Prevents termite and insect infestations.
    • Avoids damaged wall coverings, furniture, and peeling paint.
    • Hinders rust and corrosion of metal appliances, furnishings, and structures.

    Novice installers can be exposed to dangerous situations inherent in sump pump installation and encounter structural difficulties. Therefore, it is highly recommended that only qualified professionals install and/or repair sump pumps. 

    Professional assistance will provide the sump pump system selection, backup battery, auxiliary power supply, and the installation services best suited to your needs. State-of-the-art solutions are available to fit every need and budget. Protect your home investment!

  • What are the benefits of a Window Well?

    With the growing livable basement trend, window wells are serving more purposes than just holding back dirt. They are an escape route for your little ones or a beautiful view from the basement family room. 

    Manufacturers are coming out with more options than ever before to add beauty, safety and function to your basic window well without a whole lot of work to replace them. 

    Decorative window wells can be installed, renovated or added as a liner over your existing window well. Most decorative window well liners are molded to look and feel like real stone. They come in various shapes, materials and colors. Some decorative window well liners are landscape scenes to create window well art. Although liners are usually non-structural many models tout durability - never rusting, rotting or fading in the sun. Some of the more structural decorative window wells also come with built-in stairs and railings to also serve as egress windows. 

    Window wells come with more safety features. Window wells are now equipped with steps, ladders, and hand railings beyond the basic egress window code requirements. They are also making window wells stronger to hold back aggressive backfill. 

    Many manufacturers also make window well covers to protect children or pets from falling into an open well. The window well covers need to be sturdy enough to not let children fall in but light enough for children to lift them to escape from the basement. Covers are often made of a polycarbonate or manufactured plastic. Some covers are made with metal (typically aluminum) framework and clear polycarbonate to let in natural light. Other window well cover models are made of steel grates. Window well covers can also come vented for air circulation and sloped for drainage. 

    Buck-less window systems are simplify the basement window installation process. Many models use the window frame as the stay-in-place buck with a snap-in window. There are several variations to the buck-less window system, but remember when the installation process is simplified it should result in lower labor costs for you as the consumer. 

  • What kind of grading/soil type should I have around the prpoerty?

    The right soil grade can prevent basement leaks before they start by directing the water flow away from or around the house. 

    The first rule to grading is: the soil should always slope away from your home. 

    It sounds like common sense but foundations are often set too deep in the ground during construction causing marshy ground, wet basements or flooded slabs. 

    Many building code officials respond to this problem by requiring that the top of the foundations or slabs sit at least six inches above the highest point of the soil at any location around the house. Also the ground must fall away from the foundation at least six inches within the first 10 feet around the perimeter of the house. Remember, this is just the minimum requirement. When it comes to residential grading - the more slope the better. 

    If you have grade problems for an existing house, you first have to look at the lot to know how to fix it. Look at the overall lot grading and the layout. Understand surface water may enter from adjacent properties. 

    Sloped Lots 
    If you are lucky enough to have a sloped lot, your task of establishing grade can be accomplished. All it will take is a small piece of earth moving equipment like a Bobcat or skid-steer loader. 

    If you have a situation where ground is slopping towards your house (houses built on hillsides), the trick is to slope the ground gently by creating a swale. This swale, or ditch, allows you to do two things. It gets water away from the house and at the same time collects the water which runs downhill towards your house. You direct this swale around a corner of the house and continue until the natural slope of the ground is falling away from your structure. 

    Flat Lots 
    If you have a flat lot you face a more serious challenge. Sometimes the ground is so flat you can’t create a swale or sloping condition. In this case, you will need to pipe roof water as far away from the house as possible. Downspouts that dump water onto the ground near the house can cause serious problems with hydrostatic pressure. 

    You can also consider surrounding your house with a moat, something like the old castles used to have. This moat is simply a ditch that is dug around the problem areas of your house. A two foot wide by two foot deep trench can be very effective. Once this trench is excavated, fill it with large 1-inch washed gravel up to within one inch of the top. This trench acts as a collection area for surface water. As long as your soil can absorb water (even at a slow rate) you will have improved drainage conditions around your house. 

    Soil Types 
    The soil types in your area can determine the effectiveness of your drainage system, or dry well. Soil scientists refer to soil types by texture or by how much sand, silt and clay is present. Many times the topsoil is porous (as would be used for planting) and absorbs the surface water. The sub-layer of clay or similar non-porous soil prevents the water from continuing in a downward movement and directs the water laterally. If non-porous soil next to the foundation slopes toward the house, water will begin to accumulate. 

    It is also important to understand your soil type because expansive soil can cause serious structural problems to your foundation. Your house can move if it is on unstable soil or if the moisture level in the soil changes. Soil movement can cause damage to the foundation and framing, evidenced by cracks in the slab or foundation, cracks in the exterior or interior wall covering, uneven floors and/or misaligned doors and windows. This type of movement is usually associated with slab on grade construction; however, this may also occur in structures with basements and crawlspaces. Expansive soils on slopped lots can also cause a house to creep down hill or even cause a landslide. 

    Although expansive soil is found throughout the United States, it is most commonly seen in Texas, California, Virginia and Colorado. 

    Possible Solutions for Unstable Soil 
    If you already have a home on expansive soils, you can take preventative measures by maintaining a uniform and constant level of moisture in the soil to prevent shrinking and using proper drainage systems and grading techniques to prevent swelling. 

    Proper grading (in conjunction with a gutter and downspout system) is one of the easiest ways to manage surface water, reduce the possibility of water penetration and structural damage from hydrostatic pressure, and control the water content in expansive soils.

  • What methods should I take to maintain my foundation wall?

    A study of failed foundations (ADSC 2000) estimates the cost of foundation repair at over 12.5 billion dollars annually. The most common cause of foundation failure/problems is poor maintenance, which can normally be prevented. Considering that most remedial action will not completely keep a foundation from moving, it becomes even more important that the homeowner complies with the required maintenance procedures to reduce movement and allow the house to function as originally intended. This is just as important after repairs have been complete because the house may move in an area that has not been repaired or is still dependent upon bearing soil stability for continued performance. Since many foundation repair companies require homeowner maintenance as a condition of their warranty agreement, compliance is also good business and one of the best insurance policies available. 

    The following categories of maintenance are the most common problem areas and should be addressed in a scheduled sequence to reduce movement before and after foundation repairs to minimize distress in the foundation and the structure it supports. 

    Slope Maintenance 
    The foundation should have been installed sufficiently above site grades to allow proper post-construction surface drainage. It is the homeowner's responsibility, however, to maintain these positive drainage conditions. The primary function of good drainage is to prevent ponding near, or intrusion of water, under the structure, which would increase seasonal moisture fluctuations, or migration of water. 

    Much of the damage caused by expansive soils is due to lack of timely maintenance by the homeowner and is in some part preventable. Under ideal conditions the slab will maintain its original position. Unfortunately soil is not consistent and the moisture content is seldom at an optimum level in the support soil when the slab is constructed. Many slabs are poured on drier than normal soil that later becomes wet from capillary rise of water from below, causing the thin floors to lift. After repeated drying and re-wetting of the support soil, small amounts of soil are squeezed from the interface of the concrete base and the soil base to lower the wall into the ground, much like a car tire miring into a rut. If the soil has a high amount of clay content, it will also deform under pressure, much like children's putty during the swelling stage. 

    Earth Perimeters 
    The excavated area outside the foundation is usually filled with loose soil fill when a house is constructed. This is usually called the "backfill area". Maintaining a positive slope in the backfill area next to the house is the most critical aspect of slope maintenance. During the first few months or years, this material often settles. In many cases settlement is severe enough to reverse or flatten the slope next to the foundation. Reverse or negative drainage will cause ponding of water during precipitation or heavy irrigation. Ponding allows an excessive amount of water to percolate into the ground" next to the foundation, which may accelerate this settlement. To avoid this, the homeowner should periodically compact the backfill area by tamping with a heavy piece of wood such as a 4 "x 4 ". Hand compaction works best after a rain or snow melt has dampened the ground or with the careful addition of small amounts of water by the homeowner such as with a drip line. Additional soil should be added as necessary to maintain a positive slope away from the foundation. This soil should always be clay, not sand, so moisture can be better maintained and water will run off instead of soaking in spotty high concentrations. 

    The minimum slope requirement should be 5% for the first 5' away from the foundation (3" of drop) and then at a minimum discharge slope of 1% (approximately 1/8" drop for every foot of distance) from that point on. The type of vegetation may dictate a greater slope to avoid over saturation of the critical perimeter soil. Some type of ground cover is recommended, however, to reduce erosion and lower the frequency of slope maintenance work. 

    Flat Work 
    One of the beneficial functions of Hat work {sidewalks and patios that are not part of the foundation) adjacent to foundations is the prevention of evaporation, transportation and fluctuation of water intrusion to the bearing soils. Therefore, every homeowner should conduct a yearly inspection of concrete flat work and do any maintenance necessary to improve drainage and minimize infiltration of water from rain, snow melt and lawn watering This is especially important during the first five years for a newly built house because this is usually the time of most severe adjustment between the new construction and environment The process of inspection and maintenance should continue over the years, but, cracking, settling and other problems should become less common. 

    Because perimeter fill material may not have been compacted in 4" lifts at optimum moisture (as is normally recommended by engineers), settlement is greater along the house A negative slope may occur that will allow ponding This concentration of water will allow permeation through cracks in the concrete and over- saturation of perimeter bearing soils This deeper saturation will often times cause damage to the foundation and/or basement floors Because evaporation is limited by the flat work, the ponded water may dramatically increase moisture levels at the crucial perimeter beams and/or piers. 

    When this tilting of flat work occurs, the concrete should be replaced or mud-jacked to reverse the negative slope If a minimum of 1% slope (again about 1/8" for every foot of distance) is maintained, however, it will only be necessary to seal all cracks and ports of entry to prevent vertical water migration This will include the perimeter joint around the foundation grade beam A urethane or other flexible sealant should be used that will allow some movement but prevent water passing below the slab. 

    Flower Beds 
    Changing the site by the addition of flower beds, patios, fences, swimming pools, etc , may cause water ponding, which will exacerbate the wet cycles. Therefore, proper drainage considerations during such additions must be made. 

    Nurserymen will specify peat, bark, sandy loam and other planting substances, which, in conjunction with bed borders, will increase moisture levels above that desirable Therefore, flower beds must have some provisions for elimination of excess water. This may be in the form of weep holes, drain barriers or other removal systems. The problems created by flower beds are not a popular subject since homeowners will resist good engineering to beautify their house. There should be a balance between vegetation utilized for aesthetic demands and harming the bearing soils. 

    One of the primary problems in flowered design is installation of a concrete or steel barrier that will resist normal water run-off. If these barriers are desired, they should have openings cut to allow water passage and avoid over-saturation. 

    The use of highly permeable materials such as peat, bark, etc., should only be used if topography allows installation of subsurface drainage to collect excess wafer and discharge it away from the foundation. This will also require installation of an impermeable barrier at the bottom of the flower bed to help collect water for removal by the drain medium. 

    Shrubs planted in the flower bed should be chosen for their compatibility to the shallow barrier of the bed. Short and very contained root growth will be a plus to proper health and maintenance of the bed vegetation. 

    In the flower bed, the slope should be a minimum of 5% (5/8" for every foot of distance), unless ample subsurface drainage can be created to discharge water away from the foundation. 

    Gutters And Downspouts 
    Gutters should be inspected twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. All debris should be cleaned out and metal gutters checked for rust. If there are trees near the roof, gutters may have to be cleaned out more often. 

    Check the slope of the gutters, since poor slope causes water to accumulate in low spots, building up debris and accelerating rusting. Slope of the gutters should be a minimum of 1" of fall for each eight feet of length. The gutter can be installed so that it drains in one direction. If, however, any single length of gutter is more than 35' long it should be installed to drain both ways from the center or have downspouts at a spacing of not more than 20' on center. 

    The easiest way to check the slope of a gutter is to use a garden hose or pour a bucket of water into ii and see if the water flows out smoothly or ponds in low spots. The gutter should then be adjusted to remove any high or low spots that prevent the smooth flow of water. 

    Downspouts should be checked for clogging at the same time the gutters are checked. Clogging often occurs at the elbow where downspout and gutter meet. The elbow can be removed for cleaning, but it may be necessary to use a plumber's snake to clean the down- spout. If there is a problem with leaves, a leaf strainer or leaf guard is a good buy as long as neither prevents proper function of the gutter. 

    Splash blocks should be long enough and sloped enough to carryall water well away from the foundation and beyond the backfill area. Water should be discharged no closer than 5' from the foundation. Usually it is necessary to add a downspout extension in order to get the water far away from the foundation. It is possible to purchase extensions that have flexible elbows that can be bent up to make it easier to mow the lawn. The extensions should be left down at all times. Special roll-up type down- spout sheets (plastic tubes) that attach to the end of the downspout are also available. These plastic tubes extend when filled with water and roll up when empty. If erosion is a possibility, splash blocks can be placed at the discharge point to prevent associated problems. 

    Because the materials delineated above are readily accessible at most hardware and do-it- yourself stores in a variety of makes and colors, they can add to the aesthetic qualities of a house. 

    Sub-Surface Drains 
    Subsurface drains will many times be utilized when topography, vegetation or construction does not make it possible to drain at the surface. These may consist of drain inlet basins, trench drains, funnel drains, etc. If correctly installed, subsurface drains should require little maintenance. The most important thing to remember is to avoid covering or obstructing the drain where it discharges and to maintain adequate slope. It may occasionally be necessary to clean out roots, nests or other debris from inlet basins or discharging ends of the pipe. 

    Inlet basins should be inspected every 6 months to ensure these do not become clogged with leaves, grass, soil or other debris, which would negate function. The bottom of these inlets normally has a sedimentation basin that requires removal of dirt as fill adds up over time. It may also be necessary to back wash (main lines when discharge becomes a noticeable problem. If problems persist, running of a (mechanical snake may be necessary to remove the obstruction. 

    Settlement problems in a yard will many times crush piping and reduce the discharge flow, which will cause sedimentation to occur and subsequent closure of the drain lines. Damage may also result from the driving of heavy trucks across the surface. In any case, repair will normally require excavation and replacement of the drain line. This may be an even greater possibility if clay tile is used in lieu of heavy duty PVC. 

    Location of clean-outs and discharge lines will be a plus to locate problems and initiate corrective action. Therefore, a drawing of lines and locations should be made during installation for future reference. 

    Capillary/French Drains 
    Capillary drains are installed to intercept and collect moving subsurface water and discharge it away from the structure. Unless the slope allows, this will many times require installation of a deep sump and pump to collect water and discharge it through a shallow drain line. 

    The pumps utilized in this operation may malfunction and unless an alarm system is installed there will be no warning. Therefore, it is advisable that the home-owner inspect the sump at least every 6 months to make sure trash, debris or pump failure has not occurred. If a solid sump well cover is used, there will be less potential for debris, but the homeowner will not be able to view the sump and determine if it is functioning. Therefore, the addition of an alarm is recommended to provide a warning to the homeowner prior to the onset of other problems, such as upheaval or water intrusion into the structure. 

    Discharge lines should have clean-outs to allow removal of obstructions by use of a snake or by jetting. Because effectiveness of these systems is largely unknown until problems occur, it is wise to also backwash the system from the discharge end and/or at the sump at least every 2 years. The effectiveness of this backwash will normally be seen by a discharge of debris, which may have clogged the system. 

    Capillary drains are many times utilized as moisture barriers along the perimeter of a foundation to shed water and stabilize sub slab moisture. This will include extension of an impermeable barrier drain material under flower pipe beds and up along French Drain grade beams. Therefore, it is important for the home-owner to avoid any planting action that may puncture the barrier material. If this damage occurs, it will be necessary to patch the hole with materials that maintain the integrity of the barrier. 

    Irrigation/Sprinkler Systems 
    Watering of lawns and house perimeters must be regulated to maintain consistent moisture content under the foundation. Therefore, allowances for shrubs, plants and trees must be regulated for each segment of the yard. It is advisable that watering along foundation perimeters should be on a maintenance basis in corroboration with seasonal needs. This should be in conjunction with plant and tree requirements so that added water will not be siphoned from under the foundation. 

    Seasonal monitoring will necessitate different watering for the sides that receive added and hotter sunlight (south and west sides), which increases evaporation. This monitoring will also take into consideration time of day for watering. Most authorities recommend early morning watering so that less evaporation will occur. 

    It must be understood that over watering can be just as damaging to the foundation as under watering. If an electronic sprinkler system is installed, each of the factors listed above must be incorporated into the sequence and timing. Visual observations must also be included in the process to make adjustments beyond the capacity of normal programming. 

    A variety of watering heads and systems are on the market that can be customized to a homeowner's needs. There are bubble sprays, side sprays or angle sprays that discharge from riser heads or pop-ups and can be mixed to provide complete coverage. Where evaporation is a concern, however, a drip system will provide necessary watering very efficiently. A close inspection of the ground surface is necessary to ensure appropriate volumes and consistency. The goal is to keep the soil near and under the foundation a consistent moisture (neither wet and/or muddy nor dry and cracked). 

    An inspection of the sprinkler system should be performed at least twice a year to determine if zones are functioning properly and if heads are improperly discharging/broken or if leaks have occurred that will provide uneven watering. This will, in the case of electronic watering systems, require running through the system to determine if times, duration and frequency have been maintained. 

    Vegetation And Trees 
    Studies from England and the United States have proven conclusively that trees can cause damage to foundation stability and in more severe cases complete foundation failure. Engineering studies map the effect of moisture withdrawal, which can severely damage a slab- on-grade foundation and cause movement in a pier and beam foundation system." Even when the perimeter of slab has been underpinned, the interior slab will often deform as moisture migrates to the perimeter as a result of root capillary action. 

    Planting of shrubs, flowers and trees should be with the understanding of mature growth. Since additional moisture withdrawal will occur, distance and watering patterns must be planned. If distance away from the foundation cannot be maintained, root barriers may be necessary to reduce and/or eliminate penetration under the slab and subsequent moisture withdrawal during times of drought. The depth of this barrier may vary according to tree or plant root expectations. These barriers, if properly constructed, can also serve as a moisture barrier, which will add stability to moisture contents under the foundation. Several agriculture agencies have material available which provides projected root and moisture requirements for different types of vegetation. 

    Trees should not be planted closer to the foundation than approximately the mature height of the tree. Some studies also indicate the tree limbs should not invade the footprint of the house at maturity. There is a variance with different types of trees that will necessitate their planting even further away. If the proper distance cannot be maintained, it may be necessary to install a root barrier to reduce the risk of future problems. Pruning of tree branches so that they do not extend over the structure can also be an effective way to limit root growth under the foundation. 

    The plants should fit the environment. In areas where droughts frequently occur, it may be necessary to substitute drought resistant plants and trees to incur less action on the foundation and provide easier maintenance of the foliage. 

    Plumbing Leaks 
    Leaks in water and sewer lines will change the soil equilibrium under a foundation and can lead to differential movement/damage. Therefore, it is necessary to recognize signs that indicate problems exist. 

    If sewer lines are frequently stopped-up and roots are observed when clean-out rooters are used, a sewer test should be conducted to determine the presence and location of the break. Repair of a break should be made immediately to avoid damage and future problems. 

    If abnormally high water bills indicate a sudden surge in water usage, wet spots occur that cannot be explained or the owner should hear the sound of water running in a bathroom (note: The bathroom nearest the water supply line will provide the best indication of a water leak), a test of the pressure Sines should be conducted. If leaks are found, they should be repaired immediately. 

    If hot spots occur in the floor or unexplained water should pool, it is a good idea to call a plumber. Catching leaks early will many times avoid extensive foundation damage that may be very difficult to repair. 

    Plumbing Leak Repairs 
    Leaks will often occur under a slab-on-grade foundation that require breakout of a segment of the slab to gain entry and repair the plumbing. Care should be taken to perform proper compaction of the soil when repairs have been completed. This will require adequate moisture in the utilized soil and compaction of layers no thicker than 3" to restore soil bearing to as it existed prior to excavation The vapor barrier should be repaired with plastic and a bonding material to provide a vertical moisture stop from vertical capillary action or water migration that may enter the living space. 

    Even in the case of post tensioned slabs, a minimum of #3 reinforcing steel bars, at a spacing of 12" on center, should be utilized by drilling into the existing slab horizontally and epoxying the reinforcing steel bars to provide integrity. A bonding agent should be utilized at the edges to provide the necessary bonded joint between existing and newly placed concrete It is normally advisable to install a moisture shield at the surface to prevent migration of water through the concrete This same procedure should be employed if it was necessary to break through a grade beam to repair a plumbing line except that non-shrink grout or epoxy concrete should be used to remold the beam. 

    Reinforcing Steel Exposure 
    Many times concrete will blister or peel along the grade beam and reveal post tensioning cable ends or conventional reinforcing steel bars If left unprotected, corrosion will slowly reduce the originally intended strength of these reinforcing steel members Therefore, it may be necessary to properly clean the steel and remove all bond and then install an epoxy grout or non-shrink grout to build back the beam and protect reinforcement In more severe situations, it may be necessary to drill and epoxy reinforcement dowels/ stirrups to build out the grade beam and provide adequate coverage of the reinforcing steel. 

    Brick, Rock Or Cladding Cracks 
    Movement weathering and freeze damage will often times create cracking in the brick veneer or mortar that will allow passage of moisture into the vulnerable wall material Because this will often lead to deterioration of wood members, it is advisable to seal these cracks with a urethane. mortar or caulk that will prohibit weathering problems Where obvious structural problems are visible such a lateral displacement of veneer, lateral shields Of other retainers will be required to prevent additional movement damage. 

    Vent Covers 
    The original purpose of vent covers is to provide adequate circulation of air under the floor of a pier and beam foundation so that moisture will not build up and cause deterioration of wood members Although coverage of these vents will save money in reducing heating bills, it will often provide the unwanted environment for wood rot Therefore, it is not advised that these covers be utilized unless other means of air circulation are available such as a sub floor vent fan(s). 

    Recent revelations of houses where the growth of bacteria was so invasive and so deadly that the houses could not be salvaged, have led to a new examination of detection and prevention of such growth. 

    Animal Damage 
    Dogs, skunks, armadillos, snakes etc will many times burrow under a slab or pier and beam foundation This will undermine the bearing soil and may provide entry for water that was not possible prior to the excavation Therefore, it is necessary to back fill the segment and/or place an impenetrable shield to prevent further entry It is also important to restore positive drainage to prevent foundation moisture instability 

    Termite Damage 
    Wood should not touch the ground at any place near a foundation This will only invite termites and provide avenues for their passage to more appetizing segments of the structure Therefore, the homeowner should take care to avoid laying, placing or constructing wood that engages the ground This includes removal of any wood pieces that may exist in the crawl space of a pier and beam foundation When you add moisture to wood on the ground, you provide a perfect environment for growth of termites and other wood eating insects. 

    Interior Doors 
    It is a known fact that most slab-on-grade foundations will move differentially, which can cause misalignment of interior doors Therefore, some flexibility in the fit of the doors will reduce the inconvenience of this movement. 

    Interior doors should have a minimum 1/8" to 3/16" clearance between the top and side with the frame This will allow some seasonal movement prior to sticking It is also a good idea to provide adequate clearance off the carpet or floor to further buffer movement and allow for different heights of carpet and/or flooring.

  • What are the common misconceptions about flood insurance?

    We have all heard many different things about Flood Insurance, but do we know the real facts? Not knowing if you really need it, or if your policy covers flood damage can end up in costly repairs. 

    You may assume you don’t need flood insurance if your lender didn’t ask for it. If you are in a special flood hazard area, the lender will normally require it. Many of the claims made each year come from low-risk areas due to ice dams in nearby rivers, melting snow, and improper drainage issues. Floodwaters don't stop at a line. You can live on high land and still get hit by water damage. 

    Don’t rely on flood damages being covered by Federal Disaster Assistance. The fact is that a community must be declared a federal disaster area before it is eligible for disaster assistance. You cannot count on this to cover your damages. Less than 50% of flooding incidents are awarded Federal disaster assistance. 

    Flood insurance is not expensive when compared to the cost of cleanup and replacing your belongings. In actuality, premiums covering the building and personal belongings in fairly low-risk areas can start as low as $112 per year. The nationwide average for flood insurance coverage is less than $500 annually. Often times this is less than even the interest on a federal disaster loan, plus you don't have to repay the money. 

    Make sure flood insurance policies cover the entire house, as well as the basement and your belongings. Be sure that your comprehensive flood coverage includes two policies, one for the structure and one for the contents. Normally the policy covers only the washer and dryer in your basement and not the finished walls, floors, furniture or personal belongings. Be sure to include items of value in your contents portion of the policy. It is always wise to keep receipts whenever possible for the valuables, remodeling upgrades (basement finishing), etc. 

    Take time to check into the cost of Flood Insurance for your area to save costly damage expenses later. It will be well worth your time.

  • How do I clean-up a flood in the basement?

    Flood cleanup is never fun - especially after you start tallying up the damages to your home and personal belongings. Even just an inch of water can cost you new carpet, wallboard, appliances, and furniture. If you are cleaning up after a more devastating storm with deeper flood water, then you may be replacing items such as duct, heating and air conditioning systems, roofing, septic tanks, utilities, and even your homes' foundation. 

    It may sound extreme when we say a flood can destroy your home's foundation but it is actually very common even in moderate floods. It happens when your basement is completely or nearly full of water. When you drain the basement too quickly the pressure outside the walls will be greater than the inside of the walls. That pressure can make your basement walls crack or even collapse. Instead, slowly pump out just two or three feet of water each day. You may want to call a professional to pump the water out and fix your basement's drainage and waterproofing system. 

    Document Flood Cleanup
    But before you start any major flood cleanup call your insurance company. If your insurance covers the damage, you will work with an adjuster to estimate to the costs of repairs. Make sure you list the damage and take photos or videotape as you clean. You will need complete records for insurance claims, applications for disaster assistance, and income tax deductions. 

    Protect Yourself 
    Flood water not only destroys nearly everything in its path but also it is often full of infectious organisms such as E. Coli, Salmonella, and Shigella; Hepatitis A Virus; and agents of typhoid, paratyphoid and tetanus. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, muscle aches and fever. Most cases are causes by ingesting contaminated food or water. 

    Tetanus, however, is an infectious disease that affects the nervous system. Tetanus can be acquired from contaminated soil or water entering your body through broken areas of the skin such as cuts or abrasions. Symptoms may appear weeks after exposure and may begin with a headache but later develop into difficulty swallowing or opening your jaw. 

    Stagnant flood water also brings mosquitoes and the diseases they carry such as encephalitis and the West Nile Virus. Wear long sleeved shirts and pants and inspect-repellant to avoid mosquito bites. Protect yourself from the infectious diseases in flood waters by washing your hands with soap and water that has been disinfected or boiled. To disinfect water, use a half cup of liquid household bleach to each gallon of water and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. That is what the Department of Health recommends especially if you are dealing with sewage-contaminated floodwaters. 

    Clean and Disinfect EVERYTHING
    Now that you know the hazards of the flood water itself, you understand how important it is to disinfect anything the flood water touches. Even the mud can be contaminated with the infectious diseases we talked about earlier. Shovel as much mud out as possible and then use a garden sprayer or hose to wash mud from hard surfaces. Scrub surfaces with hot water and a heavy duty cleaner then disinfect to kill the germs. After you disinfect then rinse in clean water. 

    Flood Cleanup In the Kitchen
    Immerse glass, porcelain, china, plastic and enamel dinnerware for 10 minutes in the bleach solution. Disinfect silverware, metal utensils and pots and pans in boiling water for 10 minutes. In this case, don't use chlorine bleach because it reacts with many metals and causes them to darken. 

    Salvaging the Furniture and other Household Items
    Take furniture, rugs, bedding and clothing outside to dry as soon as possible to avoid harboring mold and mildew. Upholstered furniture can be cleaned but only by a professional. Wood veneered furniture is usually not worth the cost and effort to repair but solid wood furniture can usually be restored unless the damage is too severe. 

    Mattresses, toys and stuffed animals contaminated with floodwater should be thrown away. But your photos and important papers you would think are gone for good can be saved if you freeze them. Wash the mud off and store the articles in plastic bags and put them in a frost-free freezer to protect them from mildew or other additional damage. When you have time, thaw the photos or documents and you can either clean them yourself or take them to a professional. 

    Saving the Flooring: Carpet, Vinyl and Wood 
    If you have wood subflooring, the vinyl, tile floor and carpeting must be removed so the subfloor can completely dry. The problem is: it may take months for the wooden subfloor to dry thoroughly. Open windows and doors to expose the boards to as much air as possible. 

    You can save your carpet and rugs if you get them cleaned and dried quickly. If that icky sewage-contaminated floodwater saturated the rugs it is just better to throw them out then to try to salvage them. To clean, drape carpets and rugs outdoors and hose them down. Work in the disinfecting carpet cleaner with a broom and rinse with your bleach/water solution. Completely dry the carpet and the subfloor before replacing the carpet. Plan to replace the underlay padding because it is nearly impossible to clean. 

    Dry out wooden floors gradually. If you try to dry the floors too quickly you could end up with a warped, cracked or split floor. Some restoration companies accelerate drying time by forcing air through the fluted underside of hardwood floorboards. You may also want to remove the floorboards or a board every few feet to reduce the risk of buckling caused by swelling. 

    Ceilings and Walls
    Wallboard acts like a sponge when it's wet so you are going to have to remove wallboard, plaster and paneling to at least the flood level. If it was only soaked by clean rainwater you may want to consider cutting a 4- to 12-inch-high section from the bottom and top of walls. This creates a chimney effect of air flow for faster drying. This will help dry out the studs and sills. 

    The three kinds of insulation must be treated differently. Styrofoam might only need to be hosed off. While fiberglass batt should be thrown away if muddy but may be reused if it is clean and dried thoroughly. Loose or blown-in cellulose should be replaced whether muddy or not. Cellulose holds water for a long time and can lose its antifungal and fire retardant abilities. 

    Avoid the Shock: Protocol for Electrical System, Appliances, and Electronics
    Shut off the electrical system. It must be repaired and inspected by an electrician before it can be turned back on. Wiring must be completely dried out- even behind the walls. Switches, convenience outlets, light outlets, entrance panel, and junction boxes that have been underwater may be filled with mud. 

    Do not run electronics or appliances before they are properly cleaned. All metallic appliances that have been flooded should be properly grounded to prevent electrical shock. Mud and dirt in a grounded outlet or adapter may prevent the grounded system from working and you could be electrocuted. Professionally clean electronics, TVs and radios, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners. 

  • How do I check my sump pump?

    It is important to check your sump pump regularly to make sure that it is in proper working condition. Remove the cover and slowly pour water into the sump tank. Watch for the "float" to rise and trigger the pump. Once the pump is engaged, the water level will quickly lower and the float will shut off the pump. This is what is called "a normal sump cycle". 

    Homeowners insurance usually does not cover basement flooding caused by ground water. And if they do, they may charge extra premiums, impose higher deductibles, or strictly limit the coverage. Once you've claimed this type of damage, the insurance company may exclude you from future coverage or even raise the price and deductibles to a very high rate. 

    If your basement depends on a sump pump, you need a backup sump pump! For a small one-time investment, you get basement flood protection and peace of mind. The back-up sump pump is inexpensive flood insurance.

  • Why does a sump pump fail?

    Power Failure: In most cases, a sump pump fails because of a loss of power. There are several reasons you could lose power. There could be a storm causing a local power outage, a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse; a damaged power feed line or even something as simple as an unplugged pump. 

    Mechanical Failure: Another common reason for sump pump failure is a mechanical problem, such as a faulty part or an aging pump. The pump may be burned out or jammed with mud or a stone. It could have a broken impeller, drive shaft or the float switch could be stuck or broken. A back up pump isn't going to protect you from mechanical failure so it is wise to purchase a separate alarm that will alert you to a system failure in addition to your backup pump. 

    Most mechanical problems with the sump pump are float related. If the pump does not start, the float may be hanging on something in the tank. A simple repositioning of the pump should solve the problem. If this fails, the float may need replacement. If the pump fails to shut off when the water level drops to the bottom of the sump tank, this indicates you need a new float.

    Pump Overload: Pump overload usually occurs when an excess of water flows into the sump pump. When this happens the pump is unable to handle all of the incoming water and it malfunctions. Also, a pump will overload if foreign matter becomes trapped, partially clogging the pump. This will cause the motor to start to run slower and eventually the sump pump will stop working.

  • What types of back-up sump pumps are their?

    There are two kinds of backup sump pumps: one that runs on a rechargeable battery and one that is water powered. 

    Battery Back-up Pump: A 12 volt battery back-up sump pump provides extra protection if the primary pump fails. Typical battery systems can operate at least 6 hours without being recharged. A lot of homeowners use this system with an electric generator in an emergency. Most battery charged sump pumps have a controller/charger that monitors the battery condition and frequently recharges the battery. It also alerts you when the back up pump is activated. 

    Water Powered Back-up Pump: Like fighting fire with fire, you can pump water with water. Water-powered back-up sump pumps are connected to your main water supply. They require no batteries at all. It starts automatically and has an unlimited run-time. With the ability to remove a quantity of up to 1,324 gallons of water per hour, these types of pumps are the only kind that are compatible with your 3/4" municipal water supply pipes. Typically, water pressure backup pumps mount on the ceiling above your primary sump pump system.

  • What is Efflorescence?

    Efflorescence is a common problem in concrete and masonry block foundations. The white fuzzy stuff you see along the inside and outside of your basement wall is efflorescence. Don't worry this annoying build up isn't hazardous; efflorescence is simply salt and can be easily removed with efflorescence removers and other cleaning techniques. More than anything, if you see efflorescence it means you have a moisture problem and if gone untreated can cause deterioration. 

    What happens is, water infiltrates the block or the concrete wall and dissolves minerals. As water evaporates from the surface of the unit the mineral deposits are left behind, thus efflorescence crystals can grow. Although efflorescence is generally a visual problem, if the efflorescence crystals grow inside the surface of the unit, it can cause spalling, which is when the surface peels, pops out or flakes off. The salt pushes from the inside out and can eventually cause crumbling and deterioration. 

    If the efflorescence is removed, but then returns, it is a sign that water is entering the wall and driving the salts out. If it does not return, then the cause was initial moisture and salts from when the concrete was placed. 

    Three conditions must exist before efflorescence will occur:

    • First: There must be water-soluble salts present somewhere in the wall.
    • Second: There must be sufficient moisture in the wall to render the salts into a soluble solution.
    • Third: There must be a path for the soluble salts to migrate through to the surface where the moisture can evaporate, thus depositing the salts which then crystallize and cause efflorescence.

    All three conditions must exist. If any one of these conditions is not present, then efflorescence cannot occur. 

    Preventing Efflorescence 
    The best way to prevent the problem is to prevent water from infiltrating the wall. If you see efflorescence crystals it usually means there is a leak somewhere letting outside water in. Once, the source of the water infiltration has been located and stopped then the walls can be cleaned with an efflorescence remover. 

    While inside systems can divert the water, it may not solve the problem of efflorescence and other moisture-related mineral build-ups. Regardless of what is done on the inside, water is still entering through the wall from the outside. 

    The salt that ends up as efflorescence crystals on your walls, can come from salt laden soils or the Portland cement in the mortar and grout. The soluble salts could come from the sand or from contaminated water used to make the concrete, grout or mortar. 

    Another culprit is, of course, the clay brick itself. The natural clays used in the manufacture of brick often contain soluble alkali sulfates. Most modern fired clay brick have balanced chemical additives to immobilize the sulfates and render them insoluble. This prevents the salts from being dissolved into a solution that could migrate through the wall to the surface. Most fired clay brick do not greatly contribute towards the efflorescence problem. 

    How to Clean Efflorescence? 
    The traditional method of cleaning efflorescence has been sandblasting, which, of course, works. Unfortunately it removes just about everything else, too. The abrasive action of the sand erodes the surface of the brick and the tooled mortar joints along with any deposited salts. This increases the porous qualities of the masonry and the water absorptive nature of the wall. Sandblasting should be used with caution and afterwards the masonry should be sealed with a waterproofing material. 

    An alternative to sandblasting, which has shown good success when done properly is the use of special chemical cleaners. Generally, thorough presoaking and post washing with clean potable water is required. Presoaking is done to saturate the wall, reducing its natural porous tendencies and limiting the depth of penetration of the cleaning solution. After the cleaning solution has been used, the wall must be thoroughly washed with clean water to remove any of the cleaning chemicals. This is very important since most cleaning agents are acidic in nature and cannot be permitted to remain in the wall where they will continue to react with and erode the masonry itself. 

    A conventional chemical cleaner that has been used for removing efflorescence is muriatic acid in a mild solution, usually one part muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid, HC1) to 12 parts water. Several mild individual applications are better than one overpowering dose. Again, care must be taken to thoroughly presoak the wall with clean water and to thoroughly flush the wall of all remaining acids with clean water. 

    Remember, cleaning efflorescence from masonry walls does not cure the problem; it only removes the symptoms. After cleaning, the efflorescence will reappear unless the natural efflorescent chain is broken. 

    The presence of efflorescence shows that the salts are already in the wall, have sufficient water to be made soluble, and that migratory paths exist for the salt solution to travel through to the surface. 

    Efflorescence is a controllable condition that should not be a problem in modern masonry. Breaking the chain of conditions necessary for efflorescence can be done with good details, the correct materials and quality construction. 

  • What is a drain tile type and what are its functions?

    A drain tile system, also called a French Drain, is designed to collect and redirect water seepage away from the house. 

    Drain tiles can be installed either on the interior perimeter of the foundation or along the exterior as a house is being built. 

    Drain tiles basically consist of a perforated pipe (typically a PVC pipe with weep holes along one side) set in a trench and covered with gravel. Some contractors cover the pipe with a nylon filter sock to prevent the pipe from filling with debris. Usually the water that enters the pipe is then redirected to the sump pump or away from the foundation by gravity flow. 

    Most drain tile systems are designed from the same concept. The differences come in the materials, shape of the pipe, and placement. 

    Differences in Materials and Shape 
    Before the 1950s, drain tiles were made of a red or orange clay material. The original drain tiles had no holes in the pipe, but instead the sections were laid with a quarter-inch space between them to let in water. Now, drain tiles are made with plastic or PVC perforated pipes. 

    Manufacturers have designed drain tile pipes in various shapes from round, rectangle, and square to oblong variations or pipes vents with multiple openings for increased flow. 

    Differences in Placement: 
    While the main difference in placement is outside versus inside the basement, there are mainly three different placement options for interior drain tile systems. 

    Interior Drain Tiles: 
    Interior drain tile systems can be placed either above the concrete slab, within the slab edge or under the concrete slab. 

    The most common placement for drain tile systems in existing homes is below the concrete slab. To install this option, a portion of the basement floor is removed (approximately 12-24 inches from the concrete floor). Then, a trench is dug and the pipe is set in place and covered with washed gravel. Usually contractors install a waterproofing product to direct water that enters through the foundation wall to the drain tile. The concrete is then replaced.

    Exterior Drain Tiles:
    Exterior drain tiles, more commonly know as footing drains, are usually installed during construction. The drain tile around the outside of a foundation acts as a piping system to collect and redirect subsurface water that moves down into and through the soil. 

    Installing an exterior drainage system at an existing building is the most costly, but also the most effective water control approach. This requires digging up the area around the foundation and rebuilding it similar to a new house installation. It also requires digging up shrubs and other obstacles around the house. 

    Exterior drain tiles can be placed beside or on top of the footing. All exterior drainage systems must drain to a sump that can be pumped out.

  • What are the benefits of Epoxy and Polyurethane-Based injection materials?

    Epoxy and polyurethane-based injection materials are effectively used for concrete crack injection repair and waterproofing of basement leaks. Supporting materials such as dispensing equipment, surface ports, corner ports, grout injection packers, and assorted essential tools aid efficient injection for fast-reacting dual component polymers. 

    Low-pressure concrete crack injection (20 to 40 psi) permanently fills the entire length and depth of the crack, preventing water from further deteriorating concrete. Epoxy and polyurethane-based materials are superior for this purpose because they adhere to the concrete, water cannot erode the concrete any further, and the materials allow for slight concrete expansion and contraction while maintaining a seal. 

    Concrete crack injection has been the accepted method for these types of repairs for many years in the Midwest. The technique is being adopted by an increasing amount of nationwide foundation repair contractors because it is cost-effective, reliable, and permanent. Materials with differing viscosities are manufactured to ensure that contractors can offer homeowners an effective repair for only hundreds of dollars as opposed to thousands of dollars on more extensive structural solutions. 

    Low-pressure crack injection techniques are not suitable for repairs on larger structures such as, dams and bridges. These require the high-pressure techniques. Epoxy crack filler materials are most useful for repairing concrete block walls, large cracks in concrete slabs, and filling holes left by tie rod forms. Polyurethane materials are very useful for filling gaps around pipes through concrete walls because they adhere well to plastic or metal materials.

    Avoid Superficial Repairs
    Many homeowners may be tempted to use caulk or hydraulic cement to patch concrete cracks. It would be much more expensive, but better to go to the trouble of a structural excavation repair. 

    Caulk is superficial and will allow water to continue seeping behind the patch material, resulting in efflorescence, and eventually the caulk will peel off exposing an enlarged crack. Hydraulic cement does not bond well, also leading to efflorescence. Eventually, the water seepage will dislodge the cement plug. 

    Waterproofing and foundation repair specialists insist they have nearly a 100 percent success rate for crack repair work. Most contractors offer lifetime warranties for the injection repairs because they are confident in the product quality and the training received from the chosen manufacturer. 

    It is possible for a concrete contractor to perform multiple concrete repairs per day. The cost and minimal investment result in a profitable bottom line due to the manufacturers dedication to improving the materials and techniques offered. 

    Injection products create a win-win situation for the contractors, homeowners, and business owners. Contractors can reliably fix an inconvenience, while saving their residential and commercial consumers thousands of dollars for more extensive repair work and avoiding the inconvenience of excavation. 

  • What can I choose for a basement floor system?

    When choosing a basement floor system, you must keep in mind that the natural properties of the basement living space are significantly different from the main living area space. Because basement flooring systems must be placed over the top of a cement slab on grade, preparing the basement properly is of key importance. 

    Even with a great waterproofing system and drainage system, there is no guarantee that the smallest amount of dampness will not evaporate from the groundwater through the porous cement and subsequently permeate your flooring system and basement. Backups of floor drains and plumbing pipes can cause flooring disasters.

    Selecting the basement floor system prior to construction allows the homeowner to consult with a certified waterproofing contractor, the homebuilder, and basement finishing experts to take measures that minimize water vapor penetration and dampness. However, in an existing structure, it could get costly to prepare the basement for flooring, but the price is well worth the investment. 

    Prior to investing in a basement flooring system, the homeowner will want to ensure that the foundation, basement walls, and concrete slab are structurally sound. Foundation insulation and an exterior vapor barrier are recommended to increase energy efficiency in the basement and the entire home. The choice between an exterior or interior basement drainage system should be chosen to minimize water seepage, along with the proper grading and sump pump selection. 

    If the homeowner is in the building process, the basement concrete slab can be poured taking the basement flooring choice into consideration. A request should be made for porous fill to be used in the aggregate bed. 

    This porous fill allows for better drainage of groundwater that can either be directed underground away from the home or into a sump pump basin. Another example is that a hydronic basement floor radiant heating system will require flexible tubing to be looped and tied in place prior to pouring the slab. 

    The concrete slab should cure for a minimum of 30 days before installing any subfloor elements. Whether the home is a new construction or an existing structure, concrete floors, walls, and foundations should be inspected for cracks, structural damage, and obvious water seepage. Further details can be examined in the following sections: Concrete Crack Repair or Repairing Bowed Walls. 

    Insulation and Vapor Barriers
    Water seepage from groundwater beneath the concrete floor slab can play havoc with any floor choice, but especially with wood. Damage is evidenced by swelling, cupping, and warping. Precautions can be taken to minimize any premature flooring damage and replacement costs with one of several vapor barriers: 

    • PVC applied over the slab with a multipurpose adhesive.
    • 6 mil polyethylene sheets embedded into a skim coat of asphaltic mastic on top of the aggregate bed.
    • 15-pound roofing felt embedded into a skim coat of asphaltic mastic on top of the aggregate bed.

    A layer of insulation laid on top of the vapor barrier and along the foundation wall edges is beneficial to prevent leaching of heat through the cooler outside wall edges. This is the most crucial recommendation in the process. The insulation layer should be from one to two inches in thickness, according to the climate conditions. 

    Colder climates should start with two inches of insulation at the outside foundation wall and taper down to an inch toward the center of the basement. The length of the insulated area is recommended at roughly 12 feet from the perimeter toward the center of the basement. 

    In addition, ensuring proper foundation insulation increases the entire energy-consumption efficiency of a home. Insulating will minimize dampness and heat loss from the concrete slab making contact with the exterior basement wall. 

    Air-gap membranes of special high-density polyethylene resin or floor matting are newer types of plastic vapor barriers, designed specifically to control moisture penetration in slab-on-grade floors. The durability of the material is evidenced by its impact resistance and capability to withstand heavy loads. 

    Mold, fungus, and mildew will not develop on this material. The membrane is applied between the concrete and the subfloor. Air-gap membranes and floor matting may be able to suffice as a subfloor, depending on your choice of flooring material. Any type of flooring material is compatible with this vapor barrier material, but adhesives will need to be cleared with the manufacturer recommendations. 

    • Tile
    • Linoleum (on top of multi-ply board)
    • Peel-and-Stick Tiles
    • Laminate Floors (floating directly on top)
    • Carpeting with Rubber Underlay
    • Garage and Basement Epoxy Paint Coating
    • Hardwood Flooring

    Advantages of using this type of vapor barrier involve the dimples on the underside of the material that equalize the pressure from water vapor above and below the concrete slab. The loss of ceiling clearance is minimal at nearly a half inch, depending upon the manufacturer. 

    This air space or gap allows a healthy humidity level throughout the living area. A thermal break is produced, providing greater comfort and warmth to the entire basement. 

    Flooring Material Choices
    Many homeowners are investing the time and money to make basement living space practical, comfortable, and attractive. It is wise to take the precautions in preventing water seepage, leaking, and flooding. With the number of available materials, most flooring materials are available in mold-resistant compositions. 

    > With tile, it is necessary to be careful of the subfloor preparation. If not using an air-gap membrane or floor matting, water vapor can permeate the tile. Cold, damp, and possibly slippery floors will result. Adhesives need to be chosen with care because of the subfloor preparation and because of the water vapor seepage. 

    Linoleum is an inexpensive vinyl flooring material that has the advantage of offering a number of colors, patterns, and textures. Because it is plastic, the material is resistant to mold. The installation is usually quick because of the length of the sheets. Linoleum should be installed over the top of multi-ply board. 

    Peel-and-Stick Tiles 
    These vinyl tiles are another inexpensive option. They are available in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures. The homeowner will have to be very conscientious about verifying that the adhesive used is resistant to dampness, or tiles will come loose prematurely. The advantage to peel-and-stick tiles over linoleum is that extra replacement tiles take little storage space. 

    Laminate Flooring 
    These tiles can be found specifically for mold and moisture-prone areas. Laminate flooring is a bit more expensive than vinyl flooring, but it is a bit higher-end with a variety of gloss levels. The advantage over linoleum and peel-and-stick tiles is that the patterns available attractively resemble many popular textures and patterns available in cork, stone, slate, marble, and industrial tiles. 

    The tiles are also available in every type of woodgrain imaginable. Laminate flooring can be installed with adhesives, by floating, or interlocking systems. Floorboards are also available with some manufacturers, making installation a bit quicker because of the larger size of the panels. 

    Carpet may not be the best option for the basement. However, if you have taken the precautions to prevent water vapor penetration, leakage, and flooding, it could be worth the investment. Carpet manufacturers have developed carpeting options that are eco-friendly, mold-resistant, recycled, and in a larger variety of textures and patterns. 

    Musty smells and premature wearing will result if water vapor penetration is not controlled. The relative humidity will seep through the backing and saturate the carpet fibers, harboring mold and mildew growths. Even if the carpet appears dry on the surface, moisture can get trapped between the backing and subfloor. 

    Bamboo fiber is a popular choice for areas at risk for moisture and mold. The bamboo materials are plentiful, affordable, and have been used worldwide in tropical climates for centuries. The choices in carpeting may be a bit limited in patterns. 

    When using carpeting in combination with a basement floor radiant heating system, keep the following in mind. Carpeting over the top of a concrete slab radiant heat will delay the heat-transfer into the basement living space. 

    Because the carpeting acts as an insulator, the warmth from the concrete slab will initially remain trapped between the concrete slab and the carpeting. Once the carpeting is fully warmed, the heat will be absorbed by the surroundings, just as effectively as without the carpet. 

    Garage and Basement Floor Epoxy Coating 
    Full details are available on the section about basement floor coatings. The epoxy and hybrid coatings are relatively expensive in comparison with traditional sealers and paints. 

    However, the long-term benefits of replacement costs compared with the other available choices, makes the initial price well worthwhile. If the homeowner ever experiences water leakage, seepage, or flooding, the resulting mess is easily cleaned up. 

    The coatings are very durable and impact-resistant. It creates a seal, is resistant to water vapor penetration, and may be used as a vapor barrier layer for other flooring options. A variety of colors, finishes, and glosses are available, allowing homeowners to customize the look of the basement living space. 

    When unable to completely eliminate the threat of water concerns, this basement floor epoxy coating makes the most suitable long-term solution. The flooring is very easy to clean and maintain. The coatings are nonporous and will not harbor mildew, fungus, or mold. 

    Hardwood Flooring 
    Professional contractors and industry manufacturers hold mixed reviews on the use of hardwood flooring in basements. If you choose to contemplate hardwood flooring as an option, please read the more detailed section on Hardwood Flooring. Options such as engineered hardwood and bamboo fiber woodgrain-patterned flooring may be the best choice for the homeowner determined to choose hardwood flooring. 

    A few key points to consider involve damage to the hardwood and damage to the adhesives. The flexible PEX tubing or rubber tubing that pumps the heated fluid in hydronic radiant heat systems through the concrete slab, generates enough heat that it can damage the glue bonding the wood flooring to the basement slab. Wood laminate is recommended by most of the radiant heating manufacturers. 

    Laminates allow more effective relief of expansion and contraction associated with radiant system heat cycles. Constant heat from the concrete slab can lead to excessive drying of the hardwood. Homeowners wish to spend their money for good value. With the lack of long-term endurance, constant maintenance, and high replacement costs, homeowners may agree hardwood is not the premium choice. 

    Making the Choice
    The above information will help lead the homeowner to making an informed basement flooring material choice. No matter which type of flooring material is chosen, it is of utmost importance to properly prevent water infiltration and adequately prepare the subfloor. Attention to detail will lead to the most satisfactory choice because the long-term investment can be maximized and enjoyed for years to come! 

  • My basement is finished, should I be worried?

    Unless proper measures are taken with maintenance and repairs, most basements will experience either water penetration or outright flooding. Keeping the basement dry is the most important objective. 

    Consulting with a waterproofing and foundation repair specialist to prepare the basement will ensure that homeowners are fully aware of any existing structural concerns prior to the project launch. Even if there have not been any water seepage concerns in the past, it is most likely worth taking the precaution to at least have an evaluation. 

    Water seepage, moisture, and flooding can cause inconveniences and catastrophic expenses. Water penetration can be caused from cosmetic issues or a structural problem with the foundation. It can cause indoor air quality issues, mold, mildew, and fungus infestations, and damage to mechanical, decorative, and personal belongings. Recommendations may include 

    • Waterproofing system
    • Drainage system
    • Vapor barrier behind walls connected to a drainage system
    • Sump Pump with backup power supplies
    • Grading Correction
    • Foundation Repairs
    • Mold-, mildew-, and fungus-resistant materials, flooring, wall treatments, building materials
    • Mechanical ventilation system
    • Easy-access panels to plumbing, electrical, heating, water heater, and laundry equipment
    • Lighting and safety features: recessed lighting, egress windows, doors, and outside entries

    While dedication to customer service may not always be easy to assess, there are indications of contractors dedicated to customer satisfaction. A fully transferable lifetime warranty offers 100 percent guaranteed satisfaction and ensures the company is confident of the technical abilities of their crews. Other indications may be reflected in the breadth of service promises offered: 

    • Comprehensive solutions to your concerns
    • Free residential inspections and estimates (for the homeowners)
    • Top-quality brands
    • Affordable prices
    • No changes to service or price without a detailed explanation and your signature
  • What is a egress door?

    The benefits of a basement door can be preferable to egress windows or a nice addition to them. Most local building codes require both a door and a window as emergency egress or escape in order for the basement to be considered safe enough to be used as a living area. Additionally, building codes may require an emergency egress be placed in every bedroom. 

    Egress doors are a more involved project than windows. Expect the costs to be significantly higher because the foundation structure will be modified. During new home construction, this process is much easier to plan and execute than for a basement remodeling project. Be certain to use a qualified foundation contractor to assist with your selection, preparation, and installation. As the structure of your foundation will be affected, you will want to avoid costly errors compromising the structural integrity of your home. 

    Many older homes lack adequate escape opportunities for the basement because in the past they were used for storage. Now a number of people are realizing that utilizing the basement area for living space is a less costly option than a full-scale addition. The last thing anyone wants is to place their loved ones in jeopardy. Because many older homes do not have egress escape windows or doors, at least one of these options should be the first item considered during a basement remodeling project. 

    There are a number of door options available through several manufacturers. The end result of the outside entry appearance will most likely hinge on whether the door is used for emergency purposes only or on a more regular basis. Again, a qualified foundation contractor can assist in the selection process. Whether the choice is a bulkhead, permentry, precast, access, access hatch, fire-rated, sidewalk or a vault door; the contractor is best suited for adhering to the local building ordinances, IRC 2003, and other important regulations. 

    For existing homes, the foundation will have to be reviewed for the optimal exit points in relation to the integrity of the structure. This will require extensive digging to expose and cut the foundation for the entry. Adequate ceiling clearance will be needed for the door height, as well as proper framing for the door unit. The pitch and height of the stairs is usually best handled by installing a precast stairway or precast runners. Often, the precast options afford the best cost savings. 

    By adding all of the necessary emergency egress requirements to your basement, you are essentially turning an otherwise unsafe area of your home into a safe one and adding the benefits of natural sunlight to a previously darkened area. This is an investment that will allow you to add living space to your home without the complications of a full-scale addition.

  • What is egress windows and wells? And what does it do?

    Basement remodeling can be the most affordable option for increasing your living space. Years ago, there were no building codes regarding egress windows and doors. Please do not chance that your loved ones will be aroused quickly enough by the smoke detectors or alarms to escape up the stairs and out the main floor exits during an emergency. 

    Basement egress windows and wells are not only a priority safety feature but also an invaluable investment that should be carefully planned, selected, and installed for any living space remodeling project. Besides escape, egress windows and wells allow emergency personnel easy access to assist any trapped inhabitant.

    Egress windows and wells are offered in attractive colors that will blend with the exterior of any home and complement the chosen interior decoration theme. Added features include windows with terraced steps molded in the wells, ensuring ease of escape, instead of contending with the traditional ladders. Because these egress systems allow a good deal of natural light to filter in through the windows, they decrease your energy cost savings and double as an outdoor planter. 

    Both the windows and wells come either as separate or inclusive units depending upon the chosen materials and engineering of each manufacturer. Some units are offered with added strength and rigidity that is especially evident when backfilling. 

    Panels in some of the egress windows and wells are UV stabilized for low maintenance. Having to choose an egress well with an unsightly ladder, or corrugated steps as opposed to the molded terraced steps is no longer mandatory with the variety of products carried by competing manufacturers. 

    Installers love egress window wells with the components that snap together onsite. The windows and wells can be purchased separately and with optional polycarbonate covers or metal grates. This makes it possible to find a compatible replacement to older wells, where the window is still in great shape. 

  • How do cracks form on foundation walls?

    Bowed and cracked basement walls can be a very serious sign of structural damage to the foundation. Traditional methods of addressing these issues include using wall anchors systems, steel I-beams, tiebacks, piering, and excavation. 

    Usually bows, cracks, bulges, and buckling basement and foundation walls happen most frequently in more established structures. However, newer constructed buildings are not immune to quickly developing settling concerns. As soil settles outside foundation walls at differing rates, it expands and contracts with seasonal freezing and thawing processes because of hydrostatic pressure in the water table. 

    There are several warning signs that should prompt a call to a professional for an inspection besides a bowed or cracked basement wall. The sooner a repair is made, the lower the repair expenses. The most common warning signs include: 

    Cracked Block Foundation - Indicates lateral pressure on the walls. Serious movement is evidenced in stair step and horizontal cracks in mortar joints.

    Cracks in Poured Concrete - Typically occurs within 30 days of the concrete curing process. Usually a very simple repair. However, in combination with other signs could be a more serious sign of settlement.

    Cracks in Brick Facing - Cracks can be a symptom of foundation movement. Refrain from cosmetic repairs until a professional foundation repair specialist determines the cause to minimize future expenditures and hassles.

    Chimney Cracking or Leaning - Often, chimneys are built on independent footers. Therefore, cracking and leaning usually indicate movement in this particular footer. A more severe problem would be foundation movement disturbing this independent footer. A professional can determine the extent of the concern.

    Drywall Cracks - Shifts in the foundation often cause other cosmetic damage inside the building. Drywall cracks around windows, doorframes, and in corners are common symptoms of significant foundation movement.

    Uneven Doors and Windows - Another typical indication of foundation shifting. Shifting could cause framework to contort out of square, leading to windows and doors sticking or not opening and closing properly.

    Sinking Foundation - Perhaps the most serious sign of settlement. The foundation sinks because it is separating from the building structure. This must be taken care of as soon as possible or may lead to wall collapse.

  • Whats the difference between foundation dampproofing and waterproofing?

    Foundation dampproofing is usually done during construction to meet minimal building code standards. If a basement is unfinished, most building codes only require dampproofing. Unfortunately, many of the builders do not realize the difference between the two processes. 

    Only foundation waterproofing will correct moisture seepage involving hydrostatic pressure bearing against the external foundation. Dampproofing involves using a hot liquid asphalt and rubber coating with an insulating panel. Dampproofing only deters penetration because they are applied internally and the water is still able to penetrate the foundation externally. Foundation waterproofing systems are applied externally to the foundation, effectively preventing water penetration from seeping through the foundation. 

  • How does water come from over the top of the wall?

    The most common source of this type of leak is from one of these two below-grade causes. Either the soil grade was improperly performed or homeowners attempted to build the dirt level higher than the concrete wall, causing the seepage through below-grade brick or siding. 

    Above-grade water penetration can also occur due to improper caulking or tuckpointing of finishing materials such as siding. Very similar to a shower curtain hanging out on the wrong side of the ledge, moisture penetrating the veneer of the foundation can run down the back side of finishing materials and spill over through the sill-plate juncture. Another example would be improperly directed downspouts. If the water from the roof is not directed far enough away from the foundation, then the soil becomes too saturated and leaks through the same juncture. 

    To determine whether there is a below-grade or above-grade foundation concern, saturate the ground at the foundation. If water penetrates into the basement, the issue is a below-grade concern. The grading will need to be corrected. If the water does not penetrate, the concern is above-grade and will require the correctional repairs to waterproofing of foundation. 

    Stone, block, and tile foundations will require specialized waterproofing systems. It is best to consult a foundation waterproofing specialist. The quickest resolution involving a poured concrete foundation water seepage concerns would also be to seek professional analysis. Contractors carrying waterproofing systems are specifically trained in resolving these matters with these premium top-of-the-line products. 

  • How does water comes through the floor or floor/wall joint?

    Drain tile systems are placed around the footings of a home to direct water away from the foundation wall and to assist in waterproofing. The absence or failure of a drain tile system creates hydrostatic pressure against the floor of floor/wall joint area. Revised building codes no longer allow drain tile systems to direct water into the city storm sewers. 

    Sump pumps have become very common for waterproofing and directing the water out of the sump pits to a place on the property away from the foundation walls. If the sump pump is functioning properly, the usual source for leaks are a compromised drain tile system. 

  • How does water come through the walls?

    Poured concrete foundation walls are usually subject to water penetration through wall cracks. About 98 percent of foundation cracks form during the first 30 days after the walls have been poured. These types of cracks are not the result of a structural foundation flaw, but usually due to shrinkage or construction practices. Not all cracks will be readily noticeable, but will be detected once the cement inside the crack deteriorates. 

    The seepage will worsen over time, making the home susceptible to a variety of financial inconveniences, time-consuming cleanups, damaged possessions, poor indoor air quality, and the need of waterproofing a foundation. Other causes of wall leaks may result from tie rod ends, honeycombed concrete and pipe penetrations.

  • What to know about Basement Drainage?

    Leaks involving the drainage system are characterized by water entering through the floor or the cove area, the joint where the floor and wall meet. A foundation and waterproofing repair specialist will be familiar with the necessary methods and equipment to resolve the matter. Common maintenance issues to inspect before contacting a professional include: 

    Check the grading: Dirt around the home must slope away from the foundation.
    Gutters: Keep gutters free from leaves and debris. Downspouts may need to have added extensions. Placing them at least four feet away from the foundation ensures minimal water saturation.
    Window wells: Poorly draining window wells will lead to leaks.
    Driveway: Patch all cracks to prevent misdirected water.

    Floor and Drain System Leaks

    For leaks entering through the floor or drain system, the cause is often related to the structure sitting on a high water table. Interior sub-floor drainage systems in combination with a sump pump system are usually ideal to resolve the constant presence of water. The advantage offered is that these drainage systems are less costly and easier to install than the traditional exterior systems requiring excavation. 

    French drains also work well in getting rid of excessive underground water. The surface inlets remove the water and are pumped away from the structure foundation. Backwater valves deter water overflow from the main sewer drain from backing up into other outlets in the basement: sinks, tubs, showers, floor drains. 

    Localized leaks do not always indicate drain tile failure. These types of leaks can be caused from localized water saturation or soil settlement. Drain tiles fail because they are damaged from either soil settlement or foundation shifting. In older homes, decaying drain tiles can cause problems depending on the material that had been used. This is quite common with the clay drain tiles that were in standard use some years ago.

    Cove Area or Floor/Wall Joint Leaks

    Water penetration from the cove area is often attributed to water pooling at the foundation perimeter. This condition causes soil displacement, and the swelling lifts the building structure, allowing water to move under the foundation. If there is still water moving under the foundation approximately a year after modifying the source of the drainage problem, a moisture barrier placed several feet below the surface is necessary. 

    Because the soil composition and footing wall floor construction are not standardized from one home to another, it is much more reliable to analyze soil and footing configurations with the floor open. The key factor to installing a lasting and effective waterproofing and drainage system is in accurately identifying the footing configuration in relation to the floor/slab and the foundation wall. 

  • What to know about Foundation Waterproofing?

    Many inexperienced foundation waterproofing contractors operate from the misconception that waterproofing results from keeping water away from the foundation. The truth is that the key to determining the source of penetrations is to keep the foundation dry regardless of the water present around it. 

    Determining the location of water seepage is essential to choosing the appropriate solution or the necessary structural repairs to achieve waterproofing of foundation. Moisture seeps through the walls, through the floor or floor/wall joint, or over the top of the wall. Marking the source while the seepage is active will ensure proper identification by the professional foundation waterproofing contractor.

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