Basements – Cracks And Water Leaks 

A typical basement is constructed of am 18 inch footing that supports the basement walls and floor. The footing must rest on solid or undisturbed soil. If the footing is on wet soil it is required to be 36 inches wide. The wall may be constructed of cement block, poured concrete, brick, stone or even wood.  In the past 80 years, most foundation walls have been constructed of cement block or poured concrete.  Many custom homes now use the ICF type of construction for greater insulation value. The floor is poured concrete supported on the edges by the footing and in the center by compacted gravel.

Tarion Warranty

Most builders would agree that water leaking into the basement is a common warranty issue.  Tarion will cover any water leakage for 2 years from date of possession. The majority of foundation cracks are typically due to drying shrinkage, thermal movement or other causes which are usually are minor in nature and result in few issues.  Occasionally a foundation crack will widen over time and result in water seepage or possibly the loss of structural integrity. Foundation and slab cracks are not only an eyesore, but they may hinder the resale value of the home.

Cracks in Basement FloorCracks-in-Basement-Floor

Most basement concrete floors have hairline cracks throughout the basement area.  These cracks are typically due to shrinkage of the concrete.  Some homes may have more cracks but that could be just due to the concrete being poured on a really hot day causing excessive shrinkage.   Your Tarion warranty on a brand new home does not cover shrinkage cracks in your basement floor.  Unless there is water coming through the cracks or there is a verticle serparation at the crack, which indicates some structural type of movement, then you have nothing to worring about.

Cracks in the floor or the space left where the floor meets the wall (called the cove joint) rarely, if ever, leak as long as the sump system and weeping tile system are working properly. On occasion, the cove joint can show signs of moisture in areas a great distance from the pump or in alcoves or bays. This joint can be injected with urethane and, when cured, repel  the water long enough to allow it to drain. This is assuming the weeping tile is not blocked. Cracks in the floor should never leak. If water is coming up through floor cracks, the pump may not be working or the weeping tile has a blockage.

Water Penetrating Cracks in FloorCrack-in-Basement-Floor-Leaking-Water

Anytime you have water penetrating cracks in basement floor it is a cause for concern.  First, check your sump pump to ensure it is operational.  If it is in working condition then you have to start thinking about repairs or how to remidiate the water entry.  If you have a new home notify the builder and Tarion immediately and ensure you send emails documenting everything to both parties.  Take pictures of water, pictures of the cracks and pictures of a ruler showing the width and height of cracks.   You can never have too much information and you definately want a proveable paper trail documenting your communications with both Builder and Tarion.

When hiring a contractor to fix the water entry isssue ensure you get more than one quote and explore different repair options.  One option I see a lot of is the practice of digging a trench around inside of the exterior walls and installing weeping tile in granular mix which then drains to sump pump.  I personally would never use this method as I would not be comfortable with water constently passing through my foundation walls. 

When buying a home a good indicator of this type of though the wall drainage system is the visible Black Dimple Wrap which extends up the wall.  Most sellers or Realtors will not disclose this type of repair so it is up to your Home Inspector to observe and notify you so you can then make an informed decision about buying the home.

Foundation Wall Holes

Rod holes are created by the contractor when securing his forms together.  In order to hold the concrete forms together and to prevent bulging from the weight of wet concrete, 5/8″ steel rods are connected through the forms from one side to the other. After the concrete is poured, the forms are stripped off and the rods are removed leaving a 5/8″ hole passing right through your foundation wall. The holes are then patched with a dollop of hydraulic cement on the inside and the outside.  Some poured foundation use a smaller rod which is broken off in the interior and exterior wall surface.  The resulting hole is typically filled with non-shrink grout or hydraulic cement.

Some basement water problems occasionally arise during the construction process and disappear when a home’s drainage system is fully functional. There are three basic causes of seepage and cracks in basements. First, the original workmanship may be poor. Second, the house may have settled, causing cracks in either the floor or walls. Finally, water pressure from the outside may have built up and be forcing water through the walls.

Another area where water problems are commonly found is at the point where pipes penetrate the wall. To do this, a hole is left in the foundation so that the pipe can be placed through the wall. After the pipe has been fed through the wall, the contractor will often use hydraulic cement to close the opening from inside the basement. Hydraulic cement begins to cure in minutes so it is usually only pushed two to three inches into the wall. Vibration in the pipe, among other factors, will often compromise the seal of the cement and cracking it (resulting in the area to leak again).

Many basement water problems are created by poor grading or improper drainage.  Your roof alone can discharge 1500 L per hour in a heavy downpour which may be distributed into an average of 4 downspouts.  These downspouts should be extended to ensure that water is directed away from your home and not collecting against your homes foundation.   Many homeowners will build sidewalks or planters which will impede or even collect water from rain, snow and downspout discharge.  This water will eventually find its way through your basement wall in the form of moisture or even a water leak.  Simple maintenance of downspouts and landscaping will prevent most common basement water issues.

It is adviseable to have any water issues with your basement repaired prior to starting any renovations.  Adding electrical components to a wall with a possible water leak is not a good practice.