Why Waterproofing Concrete Foundations is Essential | Foundation Services 101

December 1, 2021

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Thinking about waterproofing a concrete foundation for your home? Concrete is a tough, durable material. However, as it hardens, it becomes more porous. While it seems that it should be waterproof because of how hard the material is, it isn’t wholly because of this flaw that is only apparent when it dries. Therefore, the foundation must get waterproofed. Protecting concrete with waterproofing not only protects the wood surfaces of the house from rot but also protects the steel parts of the house from corrosion.

Waterproofing concrete foundations is essential because it protects the structural integrity of the building. A concrete foundation is susceptible to water infiltration and mold damage. With proper waterproofing techniques, a property structure will remain more sound for longer periods of time.

Over time, if your house is exposed to water, this can weaken the structure and shift it. Unfortunately, causing foundation problems. This is most noticeable when you attempt to open doors or windows in your house. Do you experience difficulty doing so? Your sinking foundation may be putting pressure on your entire house, making it hard to open doors and windows. Also, another apparent sign that something is wrong with your foundation is if your floors aren’t level. These problems with your foundation can be pricey. In some instances, costing a few thousand to tens of thousands to fix. Therefore, your concrete foundation must have waterproofing. This guide explains the importance of waterproofing, the options for waterproofing available, costs involved in waterproofing your foundation.

Why Is Waterproofing Foundation Necessary? 

waterproofing concrete tools

Water is an essential element to sustain life. However, it can also be destructive, especially with your home. Moisture in your home is never okay. It slowly erodes or corrodes the structure of your home. It also attracts pests that can speed up the destruction of your home. Moisture and standing water also attract microorganisms such as mold, which not only destroy the structure of your home but can also cause or exacerbate serious respiratory problems for you and your family. Therefore, waterproofing the foundation of your home is essential. While concrete is somewhat protective due to its hardness, the porousness of this material makes it vulnerable to moisture. Therefore, a reputable foundation company must waterproof your foundation to keep it from eroding and putting other structures of your home at risk. 

The Importance of a Home’s Foundation

Although there are many structural components of a house, the foundation is probably the most important one. Much of the other parts of the home - the beams, the ceilings, the roof, and even the people walking around in the home - all depend on a solid foundation. Without one, the house is at risk for leaning or total collapse. A strong foundation protects the interior of the house and all of its structural parts. It also keeps exterior forces such as strong winds and shifting earth from jeopardizing the home's structure. 

What is Waterproofing Foundation? 

A home's foundation can be made of stone, brick, or concrete. The most common material and most durable is concrete. Although concrete is a very strong material, it is very porous once it dries, making it easy for moisture to seep through. Over time, even a tiny amount of moisture seeping into your home can compromise the structure, leading to expensive damages to the foundation and other structural parts of the house. Waterproofing a foundation, particularly a concrete one, makes the concrete even more durable by minimizing the chances of water getting into your home. Waterproofing isn't one technique, however. It may involve several techniques, such as adding waterproofing primers or installing interior and exterior drainage systems. 

What Happens When Your Home Doesn’t Have Adequate Waterproofing? 

Lack of proper waterproofing can wreak havoc on your foundation. It may start with a musty smell in the basement or crawl space. As foundation problems continue to worsen, it could turn into other issues like bowed walls, doors that won't close properly, Christmas tree cracks in the foundation wall, or the drywall on different levels of the house. Another big issue that could arise is pest infestations. Annoying and destructive bugs like carpenter ants, pillbugs, centipedes, and roaches could mean that there is a serious moisture issue developing in the foundation of your home. Other indicators include mold growth, leaks or flooding in the basement or crawl space, or beads of water on basement walls. 

working on waterproofing a concrete foundation

Several issues may cause the buildup of water in your foundation. A few of these issues are apparent. If you see them, you should contact a foundation expert right away to resolve the problems before they worsen. For instance, if you see pools of standing water in your basement, this could indicate that you have problems with water getting into your home. Another noticeable sign on the exterior of your home is that you notice water pooling around the foundation of your house. Many times this is caused by gutters that aren't directed away from your house as they should be.

Unclean, old, or faulty gutters can be the source of moisture problems with your exterior foundation. Another problem could be a failure with systems designed to move water out of your home, like your sump pump. It may be broken or may have never worked correctly since builders installed it. As a result, your basement walls may also be bowing due to the buildup of hydrostatic pressure. Here is a recap of apparent signs that moisture is getting into your home:

  • You see pools of water inside your basement (or crawl space)
  • There are pools of standing water surrounding the exterior of your foundation that don’t go away after a rainfall
  • You look at your sump pump and it’s dry or doesn’t seem to be working properly 

If you see these significant issues, it is a good idea to get a foundation expert out to check out your foundation. However, keep in mind that some foundation issues aren't always obvious. So, it's a good idea to have annual inspections done on your foundation, especially if you live in an area known for shifting soil or have experienced unusual weather in the past season, such as flooding or arid weather. 

Ways of Waterproofing Concrete Foundations 

working on a waterproof foundation

If a foundation contractor inspects your foundation and discovers that you need waterproofing, there are many repair techniques that they may recommend. Sometimes these repairs may be on the interior or exterior of your home or both depending on how extensive the damages are. As with all house repairs, the sooner you notice an issue and get it addressed, the less you will have to spend on repairs. So, if you smell weird aromas or see mold growth that wasn't visible before, it's a good idea to have the foundation expert address the issue sooner rather than later. Here are some of the waterproofing techniques that a contractor may recommend to fix your foundation which could involve a combination of techniques.

Fill in Cracks

One of the most simple ways to waterproof a foundation is to fill in the cracks with an epoxy sealer. If the crack is vertical or diagonal and less than one-eighth inches, then it is likely that this isn't a major structural crack, and filling it with the epoxy will close it. However, anything larger could indicate a significant problem that will need other solutions to fix it.

Fixing Water Drainage Systems and Wall Repair

Sometimes more severe problems arise with foundations, particularly horizontal cracks within the foundation, which are typically structural damage. You may notice your basement walls start to bow in and form these cracks within them. This is due to hydrostatic pressure building up on the exterior of the walls forcing them to lean inward. Poor drainage systems are usually to blame for this problem. A contractor will fix the drainage issue either inside or outside the house and fix the wall. Some may use steel beams to fix the bowed walls and prevent further damage or use carbon fiber wall strips that are less invasive than steel beams. 

Helical Piers or Push Piers

Sometimes the cracks can be so bad that your chimney may detach itself from your house, or certain other parts of your home may come undone. The water may be seeping in through these large cracks. To close off the cracks, a foundation repair team will have to use either helical piers or push piers to make the house even once again. These techniques are similar and involve using steel beams with one end going deep into the ground until it reaches the strongest point of the soil and the top of the beam pushing the house back in place. This will close off the crack and prevent water from coming into the house. They may also use polyurethane to close any voids that remain.

Encapsulation 

crawl space encapsulation waterproofing method

If you are experiencing moisture problems with your crawl space, a contractor may recommend encapsulation. This involves getting out the musty odors and the moisture and coating the entire crawl space with a plastic vapor barrier. If pests, standing water, or mold are present, this will need to be addressed before proceeding. A contractor may even install a dehumidifier, but encapsulation is usually all that is necessary to deal with the moisture issues.  

Coat the Walls With Waterproofing Coating

Another way a contractor may waterproof your home is by using a waterproof coating. For example, a foundation contractor may apply this to the interior walls of your basement or exterior walls of your foundation. The contractor may apply layers using rollers that look like those used when painting. There are several options available, including waterproof paint, concrete coating, or a silicate-based sealant. The contractor will decide which is best to resolve your moisture issue.

Waterproofing Concrete for a Garage Foundation 

Sometimes you may have foundation problems with your garage. This may not indicate that your entire foundation has issues, however. Keep in mind that sometimes a house may settle uniformly (all throughout) or differentially (in parts). Therefore, the problem with your foundation may be limited to your garage area. In addition, cracks that form in the garage may let in moisture from outdoors. Waterproofing the garage can minimize humidity and help keep pests out. There are many ways to waterproof a garage. The most common way to waterproof the garage foundation is to apply waterproof epoxy or waterproof paint. If there are large cracks present that allow water to enter, a contractor will have to discover whether the cracks are cosmetic or structural and fix them accordingly using the waterproofing methods mentioned before. 

Are Sealant and Waterproofing the Same?

basement waterproofing services

You may hear the words waterproofing and sealant used interchangeably. However, they aren't the same. For instance, waterproofing is a substance that coats the surface and penetrates it, sealing gaps and providing a greater level of protection. It helps keep leaks out of your foundation. On the other hand, sealants create a protective layer over the foundation. It doesn't penetrate the foundation, but it repels water in a similar way to waterproofing. Waterproofing is more durable than sealant. 

Cost of Waterproofing Concrete

After all this talk about waterproofing and fixing foundation problems, you're probably wondering what all this costs. According to Home Advisor, the national average to fix foundation problems ranges from $2,139 to $7,428, with most paying about $4,643. But keep in mind that different factors influence foundation waterproofing costs. As a result, the price to fix your foundation may be substantially lower or higher than the national average. For instance, sealing cracks could cost a few hundred dollars. However, if there is significant structural damage that needs repairing, this can cost nearly several tens of thousands of dollars depending on the severity of the damage. 

finished basement after waterproofing

To get the best price on foundation repairs, it is a good idea to shop around. If you certainly need foundation repair, make sure that you vet at least three of them and ask questions about the variations in prices. 

It may be easy to assume that your home's foundation already has waterproofing, especially if your home is a new build. However, some new homes don't have waterproofing. Instead, they have the bare minimum called damp-proofing, a thin coating that prevents moisture from the soil from getting through the walls. Waterproofing minimizes forceful water from getting into the house. With older homes, the previous homeowner may have had the foundation waterproofed. However, to be sure, it's a good idea to have a contractor do an inspection. Getting waterproofing in your home adds another layer of security, protecting your home from water damage. 

Do you live in Bloomington, Indiana, and want a contractor to inspect your home's foundation and waterproof it? The foundation experts at Bloomington Foundation Repair and Waterproofing can help. We do all waterproofing and handle any of your other foundation issues. To schedule an inspection and get a free quote, call one of our friendly experts today at (309) 220-3907.

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