First Things First in the Basement

Friday, January 27th, 2012 by Tim Snyder

First Things First in the Basement - Image 1Barbara Green was getting impatient with her husband. “Remember our New Year’s resolution to remodel the basement?”

Bernie Green nodded, and tried to look apologetic. “I do. And I’ve been meaning to call John’s contractor friend who has does some basement remodeling jobs.”

“Well, what’s keeping you?” Barbara asked.

Bernie sighed and looked up from his laptop. “You know we get some wet spots in the back corner of the basement, where the slab floor is cracked. I’ve noticed that the crack is getting a little bigger, and I’m worried about more water coming in during the wet weather this spring.”

Barbara was undeterred. “Yes, I know about the crack,” she replied. “But that’s at the opposite end of the basement from where our new room will be. Why can’t we just get the contractor to patch the crack before he begins to build the new room?”

Discussions like this are fairly common, and could easily occur wherever basements are found. Many homeowners are interested in turning unfinished basement space into extra living space because they know it’s a very cost-effective way to gain extra living space.

Unfortunately, many basements have water problems. And even if the problem is minimal and located in a remote corner of the basement –like at the Green’s house—it’s important to solve the water problem before beginning a basement finishing project.

In the Green’s basement, a slab crack that changes size indicates more than a water problem. It’s a sign of unstable soil. Simply patching the crack, as Barbara Green suggests, will not stop the soil movement or subsequent foundation damage.

Unstable soil is surprisingly common. It can be due to natural conditions such as high clay content that causes soil to expand when wet and exert extreme pressure on foundation walls and slabs. It can be due to soil that wasn’t properly compacted and stabilized before footings and slaps were poured. It can also be due to a high water table that puts pressure on foundation walls. The average home remodeling contractor often has the skills to fill cracks or seal damp foundation walls. But he won’t be able to recognize soil problems or structural foundation problems and make permanent repairs using specialized products like wall anchors, helical piers and polymer injection. This work must be done by a foundation repair specialist.

The lesson here is that it’s important to do first things first in the basement. Stabilize the soil in the area where the crack is located so that a permanent repair can be made to the foundation. Complete waterproofing work to ensure that the basement will stay dry. Then proceed to finish the basement.

To complete this sequence of work, you need the expertise and resources that are only available from a full-service foundation specialist like Basement Systems. Basement Systems and its sister company, Foundation SupportWorks, offer the advantages of specialized training, engineering support to solve foundation problems, and a wide range of products designed for foundation repair, soil stabilization, waterproofing and basement finishing.

Atlantic Basement Systems specializes in foundation repair in Ottawa, and other surrounding areas. Visit them online for a free foundation repair estimate!

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