As those of us who live here know, Chicago is a great city and many things set it apart. Since this blog is about maintaining a dry basement and a healthy home, I’m not here to talk about pizza or architecture or winning (or losing) sports teams but how home construction, lot size and public works affect basement waterproofing in the city of Chicago.
One of the defining events in Chicago history was the Great Chicago Fire that almost destroyed the city in 1871. As a result, homes and commercial buildings are built differently than in many cities. Also, the density of residential neighborhoods with their narrow, deep lots means that one neighbor’s water problem may affect others on either side. Finally, the design and construction of many Chicago homes create situations that may make basement seepage problems worse or, at least, require special consideration.
Poured Concrete Foundations - Most newer homes in Chicago have poured concrete foundations as opposed to concrete block foundations found elsewhere in the region. This makes foundation crack repair a key element in doing basement waterproofing work in the city. Older homes, however, may have foundations constructed of brick or even stone that require exterior foundation waterproofing membranes or interior drain tile systems.
Shallow Foundations - The foundations of most homes in Chicago are shallower than elsewhere, often only about four feet deep. These shallow foundations generally do not have window wells, which eliminates one source of basement water seepage.
Outside Basement Stairwells – Typical Chicago basements have outside stairwells; most are equipped with a drain in the landing. These drains are prone to clogging from outside debris and often require repair or replacement. It is also common for additions to the home to enclose the outside stairwell, which can lead to internal problems as the original drain and landing are still prone to seepage.
Homes are Close Together – A typical Chicago residential lot is only 25 feet wide, placing homes in the city fairly close to one another. This often means that a problem with one home may easily affect the home next door. Also, it makes exterior repairs, such as installing exterior foundation waterproofing membranes more difficult because the basement waterproofing company must be careful not to disturb a neighbor’s property.
Pavement Close to Building – Given the close proximity of homes as mentioned above, it is also typical to find paved alleys or gangways between houses. An improperly sloped surface may direct storm water toward one or both houses but it is more likely that water is penetrating the ground nearby and seeping into the basement below the pavement. Many Chicago homeowners believe that caulking or tarring between the pavement and their home will stop water infiltration but this is rarely successful.
Combined Sewer System – Unlike many cities, Chicago combines its sanitary and storm sewer systems into one. As you may have experienced, a system like this can result in sewer back-up in a basement after heavy rainstorms. Also, the city requires that all sump pumps be tied in to the sewer system.
Downspouts can Create Seepage Problems – Chicago used to require that downspouts be connected to the sewer system but, because of the large amount of waste water it creates, has made that optional. Downspouts can now discharge onto the lawn, which often creates seepage problems in your home or adjoining homes as noted above.
As you can see, basement waterproofing in Chicago presents many challenging situations, so doesn’t it make sense to hire a basement waterproofing company that really knows Chicago and its homes and the problems unique to them?
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