Just like the homes they support, residential foundations are constructed in different ways.
In the past, home builders used materials that were sturdy and available, often stone or brick set with mortar. In the Chicago area, some older homes may have foundations constructed of “telephone tile,” a large terra cotta block with a cellular interior that was used to create a conduit for telephone or telegraph lines. Later, concrete block (sometimes called “cinder” block) became popular in certain parts of the country and remains so today.
The most common type of foundation in Chicago homes, though, is one made of poured concrete. These foundations are monolithic, offer smooth walls without mortar joints and are extremely durable. However, even the strongest poured concrete foundation is subject to non-structural cracking caused by settlement or lateral pressure from saturated soil.
These cracks are the most common source of seepage in Chicago basements but the good news is that they can be easily repaired.
The best way to repair a non-structural foundation crack is to inject it with expanding polyurethane. To do this, a basement waterproofing professional will first attach a number of injection ports, small plastic tubes, along the length of the crack. He then applies a bonder of epoxy over the crack to seal off the inside surface.
Once the epoxy is cured, the waterproofer injects the polyurethane into each port until the crack is completely filled to the outside soil. When the polyurethane has cured it creates a permanent repair that remains flexible to prevent minor foundation movement from re-opening the crack.
The repair, great as it may be, isn’t exactly pretty but it can be made to look a whole lot better.
A typical repaired crack will have a several-inch-wide band of gray epoxy running along the crack with the remnants of the injection ports embedded in it. If the homeowner is going to erect a stud wall over the repair to finish the basement, it can be left as is to no ill effect. If the homeowner would prefer to paint the basement walls and regain the smooth look of the concrete before the crack occurred, a little prep is necessary.
Smoothing out the repair is something that just about any homeowner or handyman can do. The only tools needed are a pair of safety goggles and a wide wood chisel. Note to woodworkers and dedicated shop-tinkerers: If you have a high-quality set of wood chisels, don’t use them on this. Buy an inexpensive one from the hardware store so you won’t worry about dulling and chipping the blade.
The process is simple: Put on the safety goggles (very important!) and use the wood chisel, bevel side down, to chip the epoxy and plastic ports off the wall, working along the crack or on the diagonal (instead of straight across) as much as possible. Because the polyurethane has now completely cured, the epoxy no longer serves a purpose and can be completely removed without compromising the repair.
Once the epoxy has been removed, the wall can be cleaned to remove dust and particles and then painted, leaving a smooth, attractive surface (and a dry basement!)
Before any of this can happen, though, the Chicago homeowner will need the services of a reputable basement waterproofing contractor to repair the crack properly. At U.S. Waterproofing, we have permanently repaired cracks and ensured dry basements for literally thousands of Chicago homeowners since our founding in 1957. Why not ask for our free advice?
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