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What Makes my Chicago Basement Leak?

Apr 16, 2013 • By Matthew Stock.

What Makes my Chicago Basement Leak?


One of the many things that Chicago is known for is its architecture.  The big names – Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Sullivan and Helmut Jahn – are responsible for the famous buildings downtown and elsewhere in the area and the city’s contribution to architecture is known around the world and recognized as the “Chicago School.”

Once you get beyond the notable buildings, however, Chicago is still pretty unique in its residential architecture.  For example, for a city of its size and age, Chicago has very few attached homes – like the rowhouses and townhouses found in Boston, New York or Philadelphia.  Chicago residences are largely detached homes, many single-family along with the two- and four-flat structures common to the city.

Regardless of the size or style, almost every home in Chicago has a basement and, whether the home is new or old, those basements are prone to seepage.  So, what makes a Chicago basement leak?

4 Reasons Why Chicago Basements Leak

  1. Cracks in Poured Concrete Foundations – The most common type of foundation found under Chicago homes is one constructed of poured concrete.  A poured concrete foundation is strong and monolithic, without the mortar joints found in older masonry foundations.  However, poured concrete foundations are susceptible to cracking and a seeping wall crack in poured concrete is the most common source of a leak in a Chicago basement.
  2. Cracked or Deteriorated Mortar Joints – Older homes in Chicago are likely to have masonry foundations, including concrete block, stone, brick and even telephone tile.  These are basically strong and stable foundations but have a weak point in the joints created by the mortar that holds the masonry together.  If foundation movement causes the mortar to crack or water causes it to deteriorate, leaks can occur through the joints.
  3. Cracks in Basement Floors – Just about every basement floor in Chicago is poured concrete regardless of the construction of the foundation walls.  Basement floors are typically thin, sometimes as little as 2 inches, because they serve no structural purpose; they merely provide a hard, smooth surface to make the basement more comfortable.  When groundwater under the foundation causes hydrostatic pressure to build under the floor, cracks often result.
  4. Outside Basement Stairwells – Many Chicago homes have open stairwells in the rear of the home that lead to the basement.  These stairs are certainly convenient for storing the lawn furniture in the fall but they can be a source of basement leaks.  Although most have a drain at the lowest point, these drains are often clogged by outdoor debris, leaving water no place to go but into the basement.

Of course, Chicago homes are also susceptible to the same problems faced by homeowners everywhere, like cove joint seepage, clogged window well drains and water entering the basement over the top of the foundation due to poor grading or outside construction, but the four reasons above are the most likely to be the culprits when a Chicago basement leaks.

Regardless of the source of the basement leak, a Chicago homeowner needs it to be repaired permanently and cost-effectively, with the least possible inconvenience.  At U.S. Waterproofing, we’ve been fixing Chicago basement leaks since our company was founded on the North Side in 1957 and we know Chicago homes.  Why not ask for our free advice when your Chicago basement leaks?

Tags: basement leak, basement leak chicago, chicago basement leak

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