A typical basement is constructed of a footing or footer that supports the basement walls and floor. The footing must rest on solid or undisturbed soil. The wall may be constructed of cement block, poured concrete, brick, stone or tile. In the past 80 years, most foundation walls have been constructed of cement block or poured concrete. The floor is poured concrete supported on the edges by the footing and in the center by compacted gravel.

While concrete cracks appear to be typical and are common in most basements , it is not recommended that they remain ignored. Most homeowners can easily identify concrete cracks in their basement, either on the foundation wall or on the floor. They may also find cracks on the garage floor, patio or in-ground pool.

Cracks in the floor or the space left where the floor meets the wall (called the cove joint) rarely, if ever, leak as long as the sump system and draintile system are working properly. On occasion, the cove joint can show signs of moisture in areas a great distance from the pump or in alcoves or bays. This joint can be injected with urethane and, when cured, stall the water long enough to allow it to drain. This is assuming the draintile is not blocked. Cracks in the floor should never leak. If water is coming up through floor cracks, the pump may not be working or the draintile has a blockage.

Cracks are almost always visible “fractures” that tend to go from floor to ceiling and from the inside, right through to the outside. Cracks often originate from a point of weakness such as the corner of a window, a beam pocket, a utility penetration, or from the cut-out of a door sill. Occasionally cracks will form horizontally…this is more serious and indicates a structural failure.

Most builders would agree that water leaking into the basement is a common warranty issue. Homeowners and builders are continually looking for ways to utilize every square inch of potential living space. As a result, basements are frequently being converted into useable space. Thus, designing to keep basements dry is more important than ever.

Another area where water problems are commonly found is at the point where pipes penetrate the wall. To do this, a hole is left in the foundation so that the pipe can be placed through the wall. After the pipe has been fed through the wall, the contractor will often use a brittle and rigid hydraulic cement to close the opening from inside the basement. Hydraulic cement begins to cure in minutes so it is usually only pushed two to three inches into the wall. Vibration in the pipe, among other factors, will often compromise the seal of the cement and cracking it (resulting in the area to leak again).

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