You have spotted a leak in your basement, and you are worried now. You are rightly concerned about the condition of your house’s foundation. A small leak or crack can be a sign of a big developing problem. It may be the obvious sign of underlying extensive damage. Should you call a contractor for the foundation repairs?
Most homeowners ignore a small leak because they worry about the high cost of an exterior waterproofing project. Should you repair the leaking spot immediately?
The type of repair needed to fix such a leak depends on many factors. Most homeowners lack the skills and knowledge to ascertain what type of solution is best to fix such a leak. There are two
solutions to repair a leaking spot near the foundation. The first is the spot repair, and the second is an extensive foundation repair. A spot repair is not a small project as the term implies. Even this type of repair involves excavating the foundation and reaching the leaking spot from the foundation wall’s other side. A professional foundation contractor never advises patching up a small leaking spot to stop the leakage. It is a temporary solution that never solves the main problem.
Fixing a foundation leakage is not the same as fixing a roof leakage. There is a possibility there are more leaks and cracks near the leaking spot. The affected spot requires proper inspection, excavation, and repair. Once the water has seeped into the wall, it starts weakening the building materials. The concrete and bricks used to build the wall are not completely impervious to water. Once the water seeps into the wall from one spot, it will easily spread to other parts of the wall. If you inspect around the leaking spot, you may find many other leaks. This is the reason you should go for proper foundation repairs and not gamble with a spot repair. An extensive repair is a permanent solution that ensures long term strength and safety of your house structure.
Your first step should be to remove the dirt near the outside wall. Inspect the exposed exterior side of the foundation. The wet side of it will reveal the root cause of the leak. The leakage may be due to pressure from a water source or supply system. It shows the foundation is under pressure and stress.
For the spot repair, a trench measuring 8 x 10 feet is dug down to the level of the footings. Once this is done, the contractor has to inspect several things to find the root cause of the leakage.
1. Is the foundation defective? Is there a hole or crack? Is the foundation under pressure from large rocks or tree roots?
If any of these factors are responsible for the foundation damage, you are on the right course of action. Just fix the root cause and repair the defective part of the foundation. Do not forget to apply a foundation coating and replacing the dimpled membrane. More and deeper excavation may be needed depending on the extent of the damage.
2. Inspect the weeping tile at the trench bottom. Is it crushed or earth clogging it? Or is there no weeping tile at all? The culprit may be the roots of a nearby tree.
This is the right time to inspect the tile condition. If it looks in good condition and only one spot is damaged due to leakage, then you can relax. A simple and inexpensive spot repair is sufficient to fix this problem. Once the foundation repairs are completed, you are done with it. However, if the damage extends to the weeping tile, then extensive repair is required. This type of repair will involve entire weeping system replacement. You may have to install an additional weeping line that ends up at the French drain.
3. Does the weeping tile have sufficient gravel around it?
Is the gravel choked by earth and the voids around the gravel are filled? It is difficult to ensure enough 3/4-inch gravel around the weepers. A landscape fabric is wrapped around to prevent the earth from choking the gravel.
4. You should check the soil condition around your home. Is it topsoil and sand base or mostly clay?
It is an important thing to check. You can be assured of good drainage if the soil is made up of black earth with a sand base. In case it is mainly clay, you can be sure some substance that cannot absorb water is pressing the water against the house foundation.
The leak problem, in this case, will not be solved by a spot repair because the groundwater that has seeped into the foundation is going to find another weak point and come out through that spot. The groundwater pressure can be somewhat eased with the help of spot repair by placing a good amount of gravel in that area. The air pockets of the gravel will be filled by the water, and it will ease the pressure in that area. Any measure is better than not doing anything when the clay surrounds the foundation.
5. The condition and age of the waterproofing treatment are the other factors that affect if you need foundation repairs.
You will not find any such treatment if the house is about 100 years old. You will find terracotta weeping tile and parge coating in houses that are about 50 years old. Most likely, it has stopped working properly and should be replaced with the latest standard feature — a flexible weeping tile that has a fabric sock. It is surrounded by gravel, and a dimpled membrane protects the coated wall and footings.
As you can see, spot foundation repairs can work in certain conditions. However, it is not a substitute for the proper, permanent, and complete repair of the foundation. Discuss all these factors with your foundation contractor to determine if a spot repair will solve the problem, or it is time to go for extensive excavation and repair of the foundation. Fix a small leak as soon as possible before it becomes a bigger problem that will require more expensive foundation repairs.