Pothole season is coming, and while it may cause concern for your daily commute, it could also mean trouble for your home. The same freeze-thaw cycle that puts asphalt at risk can cause structural damage to your home’s foundation. Frost heaving – the term used for soil movement caused by the freeze-thaw cycle – can leave cracks in your basement walls and floor. If left unchecked, this problem could pave the way for water seepage.
Although you may never see it, the foundation of a home is a vital aspect to its strength and stability. A proper foundation does more than keep your house above ground: It should also keep out moisture, insulate against the cold and resist movement of the ground surrounding it. There are many factors to consider, such as drainage around your house and soil condition, to help avoid a cracked foundation. The type of soil can have a big impact on the quality and lifespan of your home’s foundation.
Winter here in the Midwest means cold weather, ice, and snow. While this can be great for winter sports like skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling, those dropping temperatures outside generally create dropping humidity levels inside.
The joys of being a homeowner can quickly turn sour when you have moisture problems. Between water damage costs and the risks of mold, you need to keep your basement dry! To diagnose your basement moisture issue, you should start by investigating for the most common sources of water in basement areas.
Let’s face it; even though your basement is the foundation of your home, it is not always the first thing on your mind when it comes to repairs. Things like broken appliances, peeling paint, and worn carpet are things that homeowners – or their guests – see on a regular basis; so they are more likely to be the things that get addressed.
It’s not good when a boat is sinking. When you have that foreboding or sinking feeling, something’s not good. It’s also not good when the foundation of your home is sinking!
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.
What Is a Cove Joint?
This joint, where your basement wall and floor meet, is known as a cove joint. It exists due to the way that a home’s foundation is poured. After your foundation footings are built, your basement walls are poured so that they slot into a keyway. This helps keep them properly aligned.
When your walls have cured, the basement floor itself is then poured. This leaves a small gap between the floor and the walls – known as the cove joint.
Why Does the Cove Joint Leak?
Following a heavy rain, ground water around your home will rise. It begins to push into any potential openings in your foundation. Because the cove joint is a necessary part of structuring your foundation, it’s a common entry point for water. As prolonged rains or heavy rains continue, they’ll begin to force their way in through these gaps. This is typically referred to as hydrostatic pressure.
Why You Can’t Just Seal the Gap Between Your Basement Floor and Wall
It may seem like an obvious solution to simply seal the cove joint to prevent water from breaching into your home. However, it’s not that simple. In the short term, a sealant applied along this gap between your basement floor and wall may prevent leakage. However, it will eventually fail in one of two ways:
#1. The water being blocked by the sealant will find another gap in your foundation to enter the home. Typically, this will be cracks in your foundation.
#2. The sealant you used will be forced off or penetrated by the water. Once this happens, all the water will leak through the opening in your sealant, rendering it useless.
Either of these events will happen due to the strength of the hydrostatic pressure. It’s not easy for water to push into your home. When it meets with resistance, such as a sealant, it will work its way through or around that resistance.
The Best Solutions to Protect Your Cove Joint
While sealing the gap isn’t recommended, you do have options to help protect your home from potential water damage. There are
multiple approaches to keep this water from leaking into your basement
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