A foundation, by definition, is the basis or groundwork of anything. Whether it’s a skyscraper or math skills, if you don’t have a solid foundation, the rest will eventually crumble. Nothing, including your home, will last for long with a shoddy or damaged foundation. Additionally, even well-designed foundations are at risk if not cared for. Your home is only as sound as your foundation, so house foundation protection is one of the best investments you can possibly make. Here are some tips on protecting your home’s foundation.
Who doesn’t love the feeling of accomplishment? The pride, money savings and bragging rights at the completion of a successful DIY project are just a few of the reasons Americans just love to “do it themselves.” However, not every job around the house – or under it – is best tackled by a fix-it minded homeowner. Is DIY foundation repair right for you?
Just like there’s a difference between installing a new light fixture and rewiring an entire home, sealing a hairline crack and waterproofing the exterior of a home’s foundation are quite different tasks to undertake. Know your limits and trust your gut (or your spouse’s gut!) Don’t put your health or your property at risk.
Foundation wall failure typically happens slowly over time, and there are signs that you can see. But only if you know what to look for! Learn how to spot the signs and identify what’s going wrong with your wall before it fails completely.
How Do You Know If Your Foundation Wall is Leaning, Bowed or Bulging?
Fortunately, there are several indicators that can help you identify when your basement foundation wall is compromised. When looking for structural issues, they can present themselves differently depending on the type of inward movement your walls are experiencing.
Here are some of the most common signs of problems with your basement foundation wall:
- Cracks in your walls more than 1/8 inch wide
- Angled cracks from the corners of the wall or across the center
- Unleveled flooring
- Water seepage
- Walls sliding inward at the bottom or leaning in at the top
Distinguishing Between Types of Basement Foundation Inward Movement
Not all foundation damage is the same. If you think you’ve identified the early signs of failure, it can help to distinguish between leaning walls or bulging walls. The difference may not seem important, but it can help with locating the source of the problem and deciding on a solution.
Bulging walls often have horizontal cracks, as the pressure is closer to the center of the wall and will cause it to fold in from the center. You can measure for a bulged wall by using a plumb string attached to the ceiling and measuring the distance of the wall, bottom to top. If the wall measures longer than the plumb line, it indicates a failing wall that is likely to be bulging.
Leaning foundation walls will angle slightly. Most homeowners expect leaning walls to lean in from the top. In some cases, the inward movement comes from the bottom instead. Make sure to look for both.
What Can Cause a Foundation Wall to Fail?
Inadequate drainage is one of the most common ways that foundations suffer damage. As moisture drains into the foundation, it builds up against the side of your home and can cause soil heaving. Hydrostatic pressure is also a typical cause of water leaking into your basement.
You can prevent drainage problems from occurring. In addition to ensuring your home’s grading provides moisture with a path away from your foundation, gutters and spouts that direct water far away from your foundation is important.
If your gutters are damaged or clogged
Causes of Basement Concrete Cracks
The two primary parts of concrete are cement and water. After it’s poured, it cures to become solid. As the concrete dries, it will shrink. The degree of shrinkage is largely affected by temperature. If temperatures drop while your basement cures, that can cause cracks. Likewise, sweltering heat will rapidly dry your concrete – and curing too quickly also causes cracks. Even in perfect conditions, over time, your basement concrete will experience some degree of shrinkage.
While there are some ways to help mitigate shrinkage, such as controlled cracks in specific areas, it’s impossible to prevent them. There are certain areas that are more likely to develop these cracks than others, such as around doors or other sharp corners.
On the bright side, cracks in your basement floor due to shrinkage rarely result in any structural problems. However, they still open the doors for other problems like water or pests. That means they should be repaired and sealed whenever you identify them. While you should consider every crack a potential risk, most cracks under one-eighth of an inch wide aren’t a cause to be concerned.
Another common cause of cracks in basement floors is when the concrete slab begins to settle. Typically, settlement occurs when the
soil beneath your foundation is too unstable to support the weight of your home
That means you need to allergy proof your basement, and you’ll need to know where to start. EverDry Toledo can help! Read this list to learn the steps you can take to reduce your chances developing mold in the basement.
#1. Use a Dehumidifier
Excessive moisture creates the ideal environment for mold in the basement and dust mites. By reducing the moisture levels, you can make it difficult for them to thrive in your basement. When using your dehumidifier, you’ll want to aim for 35-45% relative humidity. Higher humidity is what promotes molds and dust mites, but if the humidity is too low it can promote viruses.
#2. Improve Ventiliation with the E-Z Breathe System
The E-Z- Breathe System can improve your air quality with no regular maintenance required. Once installed, this unit protects your home from poor air quality, as well as molds, toxins, and allergies. Learn more about improving your home’s atmosphere with the E-Z- Breathe System.
#3. Immediately Remove Mold in the Basement
This may seem obvious, but even the tiniest bit of mold needs to be removed as soon as possible. Never let the problem get out of hand and you can save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
While some people believe musty smells are typical for basements, they’re not – they’re only a strong indicator of mold or mildew. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there! The moment you think you notice the smell of mildew or mold in the basement, identify the source and remove it.
#4. Replace Carpeting
Wall-to-wall carpeting may look nice in your basement, but it can absorb a lot of moisture over time. To prevent allergens, consider basement floor options like cement, slate, or linoleum. There are plenty of ways to keep your floor looking great without the need for carpet – and almost any other option reduces your risk of promoting mold in the basement.
#5. Fix Plumbing Leaks as Soon as Possible
Small leaks can be dealt with on your own with the right DIY knowledge, but sometimes the small problems are indicators of a bigger issue. It’s always best to call a professional to safely deal with any plumbing issues before they become disasters. Take every leak or break seriously, as water can quickly cause damage that requires costly repairs.
#6. Fix Cracks in the Foundation Immediately
It’s critical that you keep the foundation secure. A small crack inside of the foundation often means more cracks on the outside – and these all lead to water seepage that can not only foster basement allergens, but also cause severe damage to your home or property. If you notice cracks, contact us and we may be able to help prevent further leaks with
foundation crack injections
Types of Soil
Soil shifts and moves over time often as a result of how it handles moisture and the climate — including the freeze / thaw cycle. As soil shifts, it changes the support around your foundation, which can lead to cracks. And it’s those cracks that can allow in moisture and maybe even some pests.
Each type of soil is comprised of different properties that have various effects on the bedrock of a home. Soil with good structure is going to be more stable. The way in which soil handles wetting and drying cycles is also an important consideration, as expanding soil can put unwanted pressure on foundations and soil that retains too much moisture can cause the foundation to weaken.
Here are the most common types of soil and how they measure up:
Peat: Usually dark in color, peat is easily compactable because it holds a great deal of water, which makes it prone to shifting. This is not ideal soil for a foundation.
Clay: Because it’s made up of tiny particles, clay shrinks significantly when dry and expands when it’s moist. The extreme changes can put pressure on the foundation, which opens the door to potential cracks.
Silt: Usually smooth to the touch, this type of soil tends to retain water longer and drains poorly. This can push against and weaken foundations when wet.
Sand / Gravel: A better choice than peat, clay or silt, sand / gravel drains easily and does not retain moisture because it’s made up of larger particles. However, when wet, these particles can be washed away leaving gaps around the foundation.
Loam: Typically, a combination of sand, silt and clay, loam is an ideal soil type for supporting foundations, as it is able to maintain water at a balanced rate.
Rock: The strength and stability of rock makes it a great choice for foundations. However, it can be difficult to dig into, and homeowners should be sure the rock is level before constructing the foundation.
Improving Drainage Around Your House
Whether your home is resting on stable or not-so-stable soil, water drainage is an important part of maintaining the life of a foundation. Poor drainage can cause problems like water in the basement or structural damage, while proper surface drainage can lead moisture away from your home ultimately protecting the precious foundation. Here are some things you can do to ensure better drainage.
Roof gutters and downspouts: Gutters should be kept free of debris and direct water to downspouts that carry it away from the foundation. Be sure they’re draining at least six feet away from the home — downspout extensions can help!
Sufficient grading: Check to see if dirt is graded away from the home. Housing codes have various requirements, but it’s helpful if the ground slopes away from the foundation for a distance of eight feet or more.
Basement windows: Sometimes debris and water can collect near basement windows, so be sure to provide adequate drainage to the foundation drain.
Sump pumps remove excess water from around your basement and are best for minor amounts of groundwater. Ensure your sump pump is in good, working condition and consider a battery back-up.
Install foundation drains: This repair consists of removing portions of existing basement slab, installing new drains directing water to a sump pump and then installing new slab. Learn more about basement waterproofing options from EverDry Toledo.
Schedule a Free 20-Point Inspection
If you have questions about your foundation or would like to schedule an inspection to ensure the base of your home is in good shape, EverDry Toledo can help with a FREE 20-point basement inspection! We’ll help you pinpoint the source of the moisture problem. If it’s foundation-related, our waterproofing solutions can make your basement dry, healthy, and comfortable.
Contact us online
Where is the Water Located?
1. Fill all exterior holes and cracks.
Did you know that mice can squeeze through a crack as small as a nickel? Before the weather turns cold, inspect your walls, window and door frames, and foundation for cracks. Repair large holes or cracks and fix any damaged or missing weather stripping – you’ll get an added weatherproofing bonus. (If you notice significant foundation cracks, contact a professional. This could indicate serious structural issues.) Small interior holes can be filled with steel wool, which they can’t chew through. Make sure cover both sides of the hole so they can’t simply pull the steel wool out.
2. Don’t forget the garage.
Mice can easily slip under and around garage doors, so if you have an attached garage, check the wall and the door in between your house and garage for gaps and cracks. If you keep grass or birdseed in your garage, store it in a metal garbage can with a securely-fitting lid.
3. Plug around your pipes.
Mice can use your water pipes like interstates, traveling through your house at un-catchable speeds. Inspect the places where pipes enter your house. If there’s any space between the pipe and the house siding, seal it up with steel wool and then cover the steel wool and concrete mortar.
4. Add a mouse-proof screen to your dryer vent.
These have ¼” mesh and prevent mice from entering, yet allow the air and lint to pass through. You can find them at your local hardware store and online. Remember to check the screen from time to time and remove any built-up lint, if necessary.
5. Santa isn’t the only one who uses chimneys.
To a mouse, a chimney seems like a great place to build a nest. Prevent mice from entering your chimney by installing a mesh-covered chimney cap. As an added precaution, close your damper – the metal hatch located above the firebox – anytime there isn’t a lit fire.
6. Clear away your outdoor clutter.
Don’t allow weeds, brush, or other debris near your foundation. This is a natural shelter for curious mice, who’ll keep close to your house, looking for a way in. If you use a fireplace or wood-burning stove, keep your firewood stacked away from the house.
7. Put away the indoor buffet.
Store all food (including pet food) in sealed, mouse-proof containers. Tightly seal all your interior trash cans, empty them frequently, and move your exterior trash cans away from the house, if possible. Wipe off the stove after cooking and wash your dirty dishes as soon as possible. Fix any leaky faucets – those are like non-stop water fountains for mice.
8. Enlist the power of peppermint.
A few drops of peppermint oil on cotton balls and placed at potential entry sites can keep mice away and make your house smell great. You can also add peppermint oil to water and spray in mouse-prone areas.
9. Add an unpleasant sound system.
Inexpensive ultrasonic mouse repellers, which emit ultrasonic beeps or whines, can be used to ward off rodents. But these will only work in if the mice are in close proximity, so they’re best for small, enclosed areas. Note that they may annoy your pets, as well mice.
10. Buy a better mousetrap.
There are all sorts of traps available on the market, including humane traps for catch-and-release jobs. Don’t forget about the furry ones available at your local animal shelter, who can reduce your rodent population and give you plenty of love, too.
Let Us Help with Your Foundation Inspection!
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What is Frost Heaving?
Frost heaving occurs when the soil freezes and thaws. When it freezes, the water contained in the soil expands, causing the soil to expand with it. The expanding soil tends to soak up even more water, and when thaw occurs, the soil shifts and moves, creating uneven pressure on your foundation. The result? An unstable foundation, cracks, and possibly a wet basement.
Most frost heaving occurs in areas with silty soil or soil with a high water capacity. Builders can compensate for these conditions by ensuring the base of a home’s foundation is well below the frost line (in houses with basements), adding drainage tile around the foundation, backfilling the area with porous materials such as gravel for optimum drainage, and properly grading the topsoil to direct water away from the house.
Telltale Signs of Frost-Heave Damage
The biggest clue of damage left by frost heaving is cracks. Often seen in older homes, frost heaving leaves a pattern of cracks around the support columns in a basement floor. You can see a good example of this here.
Another characteristic of frost-heave damage is horizontal cracks along the upper part of a basement wall where it meets the surrounding topsoil – the soil most affected by the freeze-thaw cycle.
Tips for Preventing Frost Heave
- Replace the soil surrounding your foundation with more porous alternatives such as gravel and/or fill sand, which is a blend of sand, soil, and clay.
- Add a drainage system at the base of a foundation, like a French drain, to drain the water away.
- Dig top-level and subterranean reservoirs to redirect water away from your home’s foundation.
- Insulate your home’s foundation to minimize heat loss between the foundation and the surrounding soil. When heat transfers to the surrounding soil through foundation walls, it enhances the freeze-thaw cycle.
- Make sure your gutters are in good working order and drain rainwater at a sufficient distance (at least six to eight feet) away from your house.
Foundation Repairs May Still Be Necessary
Following the above steps are preventative measures that can dramatically reduce the risk of foundation failure due to frost heaving. But even with these precautions, it’s not always possible to reduce the risk 100%.
If you see cracks in your foundation, suspect damage due to frost heaves, or experience a damp basement, contact us online to schedule an appointment or give us a call at (419) 841-6055. We offer a free 20-point basement inspection to any homeowner who wants to make sure their basement is safe, secure, and moisture free.
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Your home’s foundation is one of the most important features and should ideally last a lifetime. In most cases, foundations are built to withstand normal freezing temperatures with only a bit of flaking or cracking to show for it. But when freezing temperatures cause your pipes to leak, over even worse, burst, that’s a game changer – one which can cause permanent damage to your foundation and possibly endanger the structural integrity of your house.
Of course, not all your plumbing is at risk from freezing (unless the house loses significant heat). The pipes which are most likely to cause foundation damage are the ones exposed to the elements, including those:
- Directly exposed to outside temperatures, such as external sinks and washrooms.
- Indirectly exposed to outside temperatures, like those in unprotected crawlspaces under your home.
- Attached to exterior faucets that are not properly turned off during the wintertime.
Prevent Foundation Damage from Frozen Pipes
An ounce of prevention can save you a fortune in foundation repairs.
Fortunately, there are some easy and inexpensive steps you can take to prevent your pipes from freezing. Most of these can be done any time of year, but if you include these steps when winterizing your home, you’ll save the discomfort and panic of trying to do them when the temperatures dips below the comfort zone.
- Shut off all exposed water pipes during the wintertime when you’re not using them. Shut them off tightly, and look for any leakage in the fittings around the faucet handle. Use a wrench to make sure the fittings are snug.
- Seal any leaks around pipes that enter your home to prevent cold air from seeping in. You can find plenty of information about techniques and products from reputable sources online.
- Insulate pipes in crawl space, attics, and outer walls. You can find these products online or at your local home improvement store.
- Make sure your home’s core temperature doesn’t fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit – even when you’re not around. You can also purchase a home monitoring system that sends you an alert when the temperature drops.
Call Team EverDry
You can’t control every situation, but you can call Team EverDry!
Despite your best efforts, sometimes disaster strikes. If you’ve experienced basement flooding and need your foundation fixed, Team EverDry is just a call away. Schedule a free 20-point inspection or give us a call (419) 841-6055 to make this a leak-free, worry-free winter.
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