Many homeowners believe that repairing cracks and/or leaks in their basement will cost them a small fortune; in fact, many are convinced it will cost them 10’s of thousands of dollars because they have been led to believe that it is necessary to excavate around their home to properly repair leaks from cracks in their foundation walls. In reality, invasive excavation is seldom actually required; in fact, most of the time it is possible to effectively repair basement leaks from inside the home for considerably less money, and damage to the landscaping around the home is therefore completely avoided. The fear associated with the assumed high cost of basement crack repairs leads some homeowners to decide to undertake their own basement waterproofing.
Most do-it-yourself repairs for cracks in poured concrete foundations are undertaken using 1 of the following 3 methods:
- The application of hydraulic cement or caulking onto the crack on the interior side of the foundation wall;
- The use of do-it-yourself crack injection kits using either epoxy or polyurethane; and
- Exterior excavation of the wall, with the application of some material to prevent water from penetrating the crack.
Method 1 is ultimately a major mistake; here’s why:
- This approach, while perhaps stopping a leak in the short term, will trap water within the wall. Since poured concrete is porous, water trapped within the crack will saturate the concrete and weaken it over time;
- In northern regions, water trapped within a crack may freeze; the resulting ice will expand (similar to water in your ice cube tray), essentially forming a wedge that may ultimately cause the crack to widen;
- “V-ing” out the crack to apply hydraulic cement is a waste of time because, while the “V” makes it easier to fill the crack with hydraulic cement, you are bonding 2 different materials to each other. Since each material expands and contracts at different rates during thermal cycling of the wall (heating and cooling), hairline cracking will eventually develop between the 2 materials, causing the crack repair to fail eventually; and
- The use of caulking will also trap water within the crack and the caulking will not withstand significant hydrostatic pressure (the pressure on the exterior wall attributable to the water table), so the crack may well continue to leak.
Method 2 can work well; however, the do-it-yourself crack injection kit has significant limitations:
- You must choose between an epoxy crack injection and a polyurethane crack injection. Each injection type has technical pros and cons of which the average do-it-yourselfer would not be aware; consequently, you run the risk of choosing the wrong type of injection for the crack that you are planning to repair;
- The crack injection kit that you purchase may not include sufficient epoxy or polyurethane to fully repair the crack;
- Polyurethane crack injections can be used for waterstopping on any crack; however, a do-it-yourself repair kit typically will not provide you with a means to flush the crack prior to injection. In most cases crack flushing is crucial in order to ensure that an injection will be successful;
- Unless you are installing professional injection packers, a do-it-yourself crack injection kit cannot be used while a crack is actively leaking because these kits require the application of a paste onto the crack surface; if the paste is epoxy based, the paste will not adhere well to a wet or damp wall surface; and
- The dispensing tool provided with the kit can only offer a low pressure injection which may not be sufficient for ensuring that the injected material fully penetrates the foundation wall.
Method 3 can also work well; however, this involves a lot of work and must be performed correctly. Some of the basic rules and potential problems are as follows:
- Locates (identification of the locations of hydro, telephone, gas and other underground utilities) must be obtained before any excavation is undertaken;
- With any excavation there is always a risk of soil cave-ins which can be deadly;
- The excavation must be undertaken all the way down to the footing;
- Cracks are not always visible on the exterior surface of the foundation wall (this makes it difficult to know where the crack is and where the repair should be); and
- Proper waterproofing materials must be used on the wall surface; gluing Styrofoam or plywood to an exterior wall over a crack will not provide a permanent repair.
Basement waterproofing is a specialty much like plumbing, law, engine repair, etc,. There is a lot of science and technology involved in the basement waterproofing business; therefore, consultation with a truly professional waterproofing contractor is advisable.
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