Winnetka, a decidedly upscale enclave on Chicago’s North Shore, isn’t like other suburbs along that stretch of lakefront. Unlike its neighbors – Kenilworth, Glencoe and Wilmette among others – Winnetka is instantly recognizable to people all over the world and there’s a native of nearby Northbrook to thank for that.
John Hughes, maker of such hit films as Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club, shot these and other movies in Winnetka, making it familiar to moviegoers all over the world. Years after the film’s release, fans still come to Winnetka to see the “Home Alone” house on Lincoln Avenue.
Regardless of their cinematic fame, homes in Winnetka are like homes anywhere in the area – they need new roofs, their driveways crack and buckle – and they get wet basements. There are a few reasons Winnetka homes may be susceptible to wet basements and several ways to repair them.
What Causes Wet Basements in Winnetka?
There are three reasons homes in Winnetka may be prone to wet basements:
Age – Homes in Winnetka are, on average, larger than in most suburbs and they are undeniably beautiful and well-maintained. However, of the approximately 8,000 homes in Winnetka, more than half were built prior to 1960 and more than a third date back to before 1940. Time takes its toll on foundations so cracks and leaks are inevitable.
Clay Soil – Like most of the Chicagoland area, Winnetka homes are built on soil that is composed largely of clay. Clay soil is called “expansive,” that is, it swells when saturated with water and puts increased pressure on foundation walls. Clay soil also doesn’t drain well.
High Water Table – The highest point to which water in the soil reaches is called the “water table” and the level is affected by, among other things, proximity to bodies of water. With its perch on the shores of Lake Michigan, Winnetka has a generally high water table and that means increased hydrostatic and lateral pressures on foundations there.
How to Repair a Wet Basement in Winnetka
Fortunately for homeowners, wet basements in Winnetka are repairable with a minimum of inconvenience.
Drain Tile – Drain tile is the closest thing to a universal repair that a basement waterproofing professional can offer. Interior drain tile, installed along the inside perimeter of a foundation’s footings, relieves hydrostatic pressure and eliminates basement seepage through cracks in the floor and the cove joint. Exterior drain tile, situated similarly on the outside perimeter, helps alleviate lateral pressure and can stop seepage through wall cracks in poured concrete and mortar joints in masonry foundations.
Crack Repair – The most common source of a wet basement in Winnetka and elsewhere is a crack in a poured concrete foundation wall. The best permanent repair for such a crack is to inject it from inside the basement with expanding polyurethane, which fills and seals the crack all the way to the outside soil. If the crack is inaccessible from inside, it can be repaired from the exterior by filling a small excavation at the site of the crack with sodium bentonite clay, which absorbs water from the ground and hardens to form an impenetrable barrier on the “positive side.”
Exterior Waterproofing Membrane – An exterior waterproofing membrane is asphalt-modified polyurethane that is applied to the outside of foundation walls by troweling on a thick coat. This membrane seals the foundation wall against ground water intrusion from the outside and is particularly effective on concrete block and other masonry foundations. It works best when covered with heavy-duty drainage board that channels water down to exterior drain tile and is not to be confused with “damp proofing,” a thin spray coating.
No matter what the cause, a homeowner with a wet basement in Winnetka needs a basement waterproofing contractor that knows the area, is familiar with the homes and their settings and is able to recommend the right permanent repair from a number of options he has available. At U.S. Waterproofing, we’ve helped hundreds of Winnetka homeowners fix their wet basements during our 55 years in the basement waterproofing business, so why not ask for our free advice on fixing your wet basement?