Everybody has their areas of expertise. Lawyers know law, teachers know education, plumbers know plumbing. Often, when things go wrong that are outside of a person’s area of knowledge, they seem catastrophic and mysterious to the point of being unsolvable.
Home maintenance often falls into that category. When something breaks or ceases to function in the house, many homeowners have no idea why it happened or how to fix it; they have to call “the guy.” You know, the guy: the air-conditioning guy, the window guy, the raccoons-in-the-attic guy. When the guy shows up and does his magic, all is well again.
Speaking as the “wet basement guy,” I want to explain to Chicago homeowners that when they have water in the basement it’s not necessarily a catastrophe and it usually can be easily fixed. Also, there is simple maintenance that anyone can do that can prevent water in your Chicago basement from coming back.
The water that ends up in a Chicago basement comes from the ground, either because of a high water table or saturation caused by heavy rains or poor water management. There are various points of entry for this water; the most common is non-structural cracks in poured concrete foundation walls. Water can also enter the basement through porous masonry or deteriorated mortar joints, through the cove joint or cracks in the basement floor, through floor drains, around windows, doors and openings for pipes and utilities and over the top of the foundation wall.
Also, sump pumps can fail or be overwhelmed during heavy storms.
As expected, the most common problem requires the most common repair – injecting wall cracks with expanding urethane that fills and seals the crack permanently and remains flexible to prevent the crack from re-opening.
Water coming through the walls or over the top of the foundation can be stopped by applying an exterior waterproofing membrane, a thick coat of asphalt modified polyurethane that is troweled onto the wall. In extreme cases, exterior drain tile can be added to carry off ground water to a sump pump and the membrane can be covered with drainage board that channels water to the drain tile.
Water seeping in through floor cracks or the cove joint can be stopped by installing interior drain tile, perforated pipe in a bed of washed gravel situated below the basement floor. The drain tile relieves hydrostatic pressure and carries the ground water to a sump pump for removal.
Leaking windows and damaged window wells can be replaced, new window well drains installed and openings in the wall can be sealed.
The most important maintenance work for a Chicago homeowner will take place on the outside, making efforts to keep unnecessary water away from the foundation:
Keep gutters clean and flowing to avoid rain water spilling over and soaking the ground next to the house.
Extend downspouts at least 10’ away from the house to avoid dumping concentrated amounts of water at the corners of the foundation.
Make sure that grading slopes away from the house and that landscaping or outdoor hardscape don’t trap surface water around the house.
Regardless of how the water got into the basement, a Chicago homeowner will need the expertise and services of "the basement waterproofing guy" who knows Chicago homes and their problems and who can offer a full range of services to fix any of them permanenty and cost-effectively. At U.S. Waterproofing, we count thousands of Chicago homeowners among our 300,000 satisfied customers and have been serving the city since 1957. Why not ask for our free advice?
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