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The Seven Deadly Mistakes Homeowners Make When Choosing a Foundation Contractor

  • I have noticed that during dry weather, the soil has separated from our basement walls leaving a gap. What should I do? Should I fill the gap with sand or soil?"
    With the dry weather, this is a common occurrence. The reason this happens is because the soil is drying out and shrinking. Do not fill this void with anything that will wedge between the soil and your basement walls. What can occur if this is done can be very costly. When moisture returns to the soil it naturally expands and can cause tremendous pressure on your basement walls. In many cases, the walls can be pushed in from the expanding soil, causing cracks or structural problems. Another reason to not fill this void is the weeping tile is normally placed on the exterior footing at the base of your basement wall and it could become plugged or even damaged. We have found the best way to deal with this issue is to simply roll up some newspaper, fill the top portion of the crevice with the newspaper to prevent soil and debris from falling into the void. Then cover the paper with soil and soak the ground a few feet away from your foundation. This is done to help replenish the loss of moisture and return the soil to its normal state.
  • I have heard that it is a good idea to build up the yard around your house but my basement windows are very close to the ground. Should I purchase window wells and place stone in the bottom of them?
    Grading your yard so rain/melt will run away from your house is a great idea! Installing window wells is the way to go when your basement windows are close to ground level. However when window wells are installed, the key thing to remember is that they have to drain. If they cannot drain, there is a great potential for them to fill up with water that can enter your basement. A common practice when home builders install these at the time of construction is to install a vertical 3 to 4 inch diameter pipe filled with stone. This pipe is usually located at the center of the window well and runs down to the exterior weeping tile system. We have found these to be effective but only for a short time as they tend to plug over time and are nearly impossible to clean without excavating. Some homeowners, and even some contractors, auger a hole to the weeping tile and fill it with stone. However, this can be very dangerous as the weeping tile could be damaged which could result in plugging the whole system. (Very costly!) At Abalon, we carefully excavate to the weeping tile, then we perform a water test to make sure that the system is working properly. If everything is okay we then backfill the weeping tile with river wash stone or with a minimum 12-inch diameter tube filled with clean stone. We then supply you with our Lifetime Warranty on our window well installations.
  • My house was built about 40 years ago and my basement leaks at the chimney, which is located on an outside wall. Is this a roof problem or a foundation problem?"
    This is a very common problem. Water is usually found in the chimney cleanout. When it rains, it can be difficult to find the origin of a chimney leak. The simplest way to find out if it is leaking from the foundation is to run water on the ground by the chimney and check for signs of a leak. The chimney bricks and mortar below the ground surface deteriorate over time letting water infiltrate. (see photo in chimney leaks in this site)
  • I have an older home. Is there a way to find out if my home has weeping tile?
    The easiest way is to look in your catch basin (basement floor drain) or sump pit. If you have weeping tile you will see, 3 to 4 inch diameter pipes coming from different directions under your floor. To check if they are in proper working order, simply run some water near the center of each exterior wall and look in your catch basin to see if the water is finding its way to the drain. This may take some time, so be patient. NOTE: in some older homes the eaves enter the basement and drain to the catch basin. This pipe is larger in diameter, so don't confuse this with weeping tile.
  • I get water in my basement when it rains a lot. Is this a weeping tile problem?
    This is not necessarily a weeping tile problem. More commonly this is the result of a flaw in your foundation wall(s). Leaks in basement walls usually occur from cracks, form ties (which are steel rods that hold the forms together when the concrete wall was made) or honey combing (the concrete does not have a proper consistency leaving areas where water can pass through the wall). Over time the soil adjacent to your foundation wall can settle and pack down, which makes it difficult for water to get to your weeping tile quickly. On route to the weeping tile, if water finds a flaw in your wall it can enter your basement easily.
  • I have a leak in a finished basement. Do I have to remove the drywall to find the leak?
    There are a couple of options: #1 (weather permitting) A water test, which is taking your garden hose and running water on the ground at the location where you find the water on the inside. You may have to dig a small hole to confine the water. Run the water until you discover the leak or until your weeping tile starts to run. Have towels in place to pick up the water in case it leaks. You must remember to do this method on a dry day and to run it in one location only on each wall. This is because in some instances water may not show up for a while after you shut the water off. #2 The best thing to do, even after method #1, is to remove the finishing detail on your wall to see how the water is entering your basement. It is also very important to make sure everything is dry behind the finished detail to avoid mildew, moulds, and musty odors. Any drywall and insulation that is wet should be replaced. If the wall consists of wooden studs, ensure that they are dry. If the studs are starting to rot, replace them. Do not replace finishing detail until you are sure your leak is fixed.
  • In the springtime or mild winter days I find water in a finished or insulated basement. Why?
    Many Homeowners find water in their basement in early spring or on mild winter days. First, let's assume that you don't have a crack in your basement wall that's letting water seep in from outside. During the cold winter months, warm moist air in your basement is trying to get out. If there are any flaws in your vapour barrier (a sheet of plastic over your insulated basement walls), the warm moist air inside your house will get behind your insulated wall and come in contact with your cold basement wall and turn to ice. This ice will accumulate and attach to your basement wall. When the weather warms up to above freezing, the ice behind your vapour barrier begins to melt. Many Homeowners are amazed at how much water will appear. Of course if the weather dips below freezing at night, the water stops because it once again freezes. The vapour barrier should consist of a 6 mil. plastic sheet that is sealed (caulked) so that the warm moist air cannot get behind it. If this symptom occurs, it is best to remove the finishing detail installed on your basement exterior wall. You want to make sure everything is dry before replacing the vapour barrier so that the moisture will not return. Installing a proper vapour barrier is the key to rectifying this problem. When opening the wall a professional should be contacted if any mold is detected.. When opening the basement walls, a proper mask should be worn so you do not inhale any mold spores. In almost all cases, ice or water and sometimes insulation adhered to the foundation wall is found above ground level. Of course, if this water shows up in the summer months after a rainfall, you would have a flaw in your basement wall(s). You may discover a crack, some honeycombing or a leaking snap tie. The wall should still be opened up to check for molds, rot and or mildew. If you find a flaw in the foundation wall, it should be repaired from the exterior before you put everything back in place.
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