4 ways to protect the foundation of your house

As long as water isn't undermining your foundation, there's usually nothing you need to do to ensure its long life. Here's how to make sure your foundation is healthy.

4 ways to protect the foundation of your house

1. Monitor your foundation

  • Normally your home's foundation needs no attention to last for generations. But if you notice cracks in the basement walls, keep an eye on them.
  • Most cracks are nothing to worry about unless they are very large or they are expanding.
  • To monitor cracks, mark their length on the wall and note the crack's width at its widest point.
  • If cracks are expanding, consult a structural engineer. Even if a crack is not expanding, it should be repaired.
  • Patch a dry crack with mortar. If a crack is leaking water, use hydraulic cement.

2. Diagnose moisture source

  • Before you can dry wet basement walls, you need to know where the water is coming from.
  • Most often it is caused by condensation — moist vapour hits the cool wall and turns into water.
  • Sometimes the water is the result of hydrostatic pressure. This occurs when poor drainage traps water around your foundation.
  • Pressure builds until the water is literally forced through the walls and sometimes the floor.
  • If water is obviously seeping through a crack, you know it is caused by hydrostatic pressure.
  • If the wall is just wet, do this simple test to determine the cause: Secure all four sides of a rectangular piece of aluminum foil or plastic wrap to the basement wall with duct tape.
  • Remove the patch after two days. If the wall behind the patch is dry, you've got condensation.
  • If the wall behind the patch is wet, hydrostatic pressure is the problem.

3. To waterproof from inside

  • Digging trenches to improve drainage is a very expensive proposition, and often you have no choice — if hydrostatic pressure is great enough over a large area, no interior basement wall coating will stop it.
  • But before you resort to the backhoe, have a professional assess whether coating the inside of your concrete or block foundation with crystalline waterproofing material might do the job.
  • This stuff actually penetrates into concrete and makes it waterproof.

4. Know when to repair

  • Deal with condensation by making sure pipe joints are air tight, insulating pipes in the basement and/or using a dehumidifier.
  • Handle hydrostatic pressure ideally by preventing it.
  • Ensure leaky gutters or downspouts are not dumping water onto the foundation. Redirect water from downspouts or roll-up hoses attached to them by using splash blocks.
  • Avoiding piling snow against the foundation. Keep basement window wells clear of snow in winter.
  • Direct water to flow away from your house. A trench is needed only in extreme cases.
  •  Water leaks should be patched. Use hydraulic cement if water is leaking through a crack (not seeeping through the wall).
  • If you can repair cracks and holes before water begins seeping in, even better.
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