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Does Being Close to the Lake Cause Wet Basements in Wilmette?

Jan 15, 2013 • By Matthew Stock.

Does Being Close to the Lake Cause Wet Basements in Wilmette?


One of the great things about living in Wilmette is the town’s proximity to Lake Michigan.  Along with offering the beautiful beach and harbor at Gillson Park, the lake provides a scenic backdrop for the entire community.

Living alongside one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes isn’t all grand views and walks on the beach, however.  The sheer size of the lake creates its own weather (“Lake effect” snow, anyone?) and being so near to a major body of water creates a situation that can lead to lots of wet basements in Wilmette and other towns along the North Shore.

Proximity to Lake Michigan Raises the Water Table and Can Cause Wet Basements in Wilmette

There’s water in the ground everywhere on earth.  In some places it’s near the surface and in others, such as arid areas in the American southwest, it’s pretty far down.  The level of this ground water at its highest point is called the “water table” and when the water table is high, wet basements are a common occurrence.

One of the factors that cause a high water table is proximity to a body of water so, being on Lake Michigan, Wilmette has a generally high water table.  When heavy or prolonged rains occur, this raises the water table from its already high point.  As the water table rises, the soil absorbs more water and, if it contains a lot of clay as does most of the soil in the Chicago area, it expands.

The expanded soil increases the pressure on a home’s foundation, both hydrostatic pressure from below and lateral pressure from the side.  This can cause cracks to form in basement walls and force water though the cracks or through any existing cracks or openings in the foundation, no matter how small.  Here are some examples of the seepage problems that can occur:

  • Hydrostatic pressure will cause seepage through the cove joint, where the foundation walls meet the footings;
  • Cracks in the basement floor, even small ones, will also seep water because of increased hydrostatic pressure;
  • Older homes in Wilmette may have masonry foundations (concrete block, stone or brick) with mortar joints that can deteriorate and cause seepage; and,
  • In a basement with poured concrete walls, cracks will begin to seep water under lateral pressure from over-saturated soil.

Regrettably, a high water table is beyond the control of the Wilmette homeowner.  Having in place effective basement waterproofing systems is the only defense against the wet basements that can result from this natural phenomenon.  Solutions include an interior and/or exterior drain tile system to alleviate hydrostatic pressure; a high-volume sump pump that can handle increased volumes of water; and, for those homes with masonry foundations, an exterior waterproofing membrane (not to be confused with “damp-proofing”) with drainage board to channel water into the drain tile.

Along with wet basements, increased pressure from a rising water table can also cause structural foundation damage to homes in Wilmette, a good reason to take the initiative in correcting water problems before they get worse.

The experts at U.S. Waterproofing have been helping homeowners in Wilmette end wet basements there and in other North Shore communities for more than 50 years.  We know how to do battle against the high water table so doesn’t it make sense to ask for our free advice?

Tags: chicago basement waterproofing, basement waterproofing chicago, high water table, wet basement, wet basements wilmette

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