The coming of Spring and exactly how this tends to contribute to wet basements.

A Guelph realtor advises: one guaranteed sign of spring in Ontario is wet basements! Here are some tips I discovered at a recent workshop on basements for Guelph realtors.

Tip #1: basements were never intended to be finished livable space.

Tip #2: after you finish the basement, expect future moisture problems.

Time was basements would be left ‘to cure’ for a year or more before finishing, so cracks brought on by shifting or any other moisture trouble could be noticeable and cured before drywall was installed. Today builders offer to finish it for you right away.

As the snow melts you might get surface water running down the foundation walls. Add that groundwater to already water-saturated dirt being forced into the foundation wall by hydrostatic pressure and you’ve got a concern. Water always follows the path of least resistance therefore if you happen to have cracks, holes or shifting blocks or bricks inside your foundation you could discover water, or at a minimum dampness, within your basement. When the ground beneath the footings freezes the soil may expand and cause the foundation to heave and water always finds a way through. Downspouts that run right into the foundation, poor grading where the soil runs down to the foundation, foundation plantings, blocked or damaged perimeter drainage systems and exterior damp-proofing that may be no longer efficient can all lead to such problems.

Exactly what difference does your foundation create?

Rubble stone foundations were common pre World War I and were cheaper, because stone was gathered on the cleared land. Basements with stone foundations were undoubtedly never intended to become finished livable space. That was the location where the coal, potatoes and preserves were kept. There is a high risk of moisture difficulties with a rubble stone foundation which is an on-going maintenance situation.

From about 1910 to 1935 brick was popular. Bricks swell if they get wet and this can aid in blocking leakage but still expect dampness in the basement, since eventually bricks may well shift and crumble. Then from about 1940 to 1970 concrete blocks were generally utilized for foundations especially when owners were doing it themselves. If built correctly, with rods properly inserted and blocks full of concrete, these foundations have endured the test of time. However, you won’t be able to see, once it’s built, if it has these materials. Generally if the blocks are hollow, water will be able to fill them and the blocks may begin shifting.

Wood foundations have never been popular in southern Ontario, therefore wouldn’t be a consideration for Guelph property, but they are used more in western Canada. Poured concrete foundations have been widely used ever since the early 1900s and are still regarded quite possibly the most reliable, notwithstanding frequent issues with cracks. Nevertheless, older concrete foundations where river rock and big bits of gravel and stone were put to use will not hold together as well. The concrete really should be poured completely at the same time for perfect adherence.

Building methods and supplies have improved gradually. Clay weeping tiles which normally moved and started to be clogged have been succeeded by continuous plastic pipe with drainage holes as well as a geo-textile sock over that filters out sand and silt. A bitumous (tar) coating had previously been painted onto the exterior foundation parging, though it would crack and fade after a while. Now a drainage layer of corrugated plastic sheeting is commonly used to hold the soil away from foundations walls, creating an air space between the foundation wall and the backfill dirt, which conducts water right down to the weeping system. Additionally there is a peel and stick tar-like material that’s not usually applied during construction but used as a retrofit.

Solving the trouble:

Managing water and moisture troubles with your basement can be a process of elimination. You start with the most obvious culprits. Investigate surface water drainage. Are the gutters plugged with leaves and debris and overflowing whenever it rains? Do the downspouts extend at the very least 10 feet from the house, or if they go into the ground do they really drain to the footing drainage system? Does the paved driveway or foundation planting beds slope toward the foundation? If pavement adjoins or abuts the property wall is it properly sealed or has the sealant disintegrated? Sewer connection problems, broken sump pump and window wells that force water in to the foundation are other considerations.

Sometimes it is as simple as a $5 fix to include an extension on your downspout or it could be $20,000 to dig up your whole foundation and replace the weeping tiles. You’ll find companies specializing in resolving basement moisture concerns and many guarantee their work. The MLS listing isn’t likely to say if you can expect such challenges. It’s another reason to have a qualified home inspector look at your house before purchasing.