Author: Holly Richards-Purpura

Protecting Your Foundation From Cracks: Tips and Tricks

Guide to fixing foundation problems

Guide to fixing foundation problems

Owning a home puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. It’s not just you, though, that’s under a lot of stress. If you live in an area that sees frequent weather fluctuations, then your foundation may be under pressure, too. That excess pressure can sometimes lead to the development of a foundational crack.

What kinds of cracks have homeowners had to contend with before, and what steps can you take to keep your foundation whole? Let’s break down your options so you can keep your home in tip-top shape.

Why Foundations Crack

Your foundation comes under a lot of stress while supporting your home. As the weather warms, the particles that make up your foundation will expand. In turn, your foundation will grow. As the weather cools, those particles will shrink, and your foundation will contract.

Unfortunately, North Carolina’s weather can be unpredictable. When the weather starts to change rapidly, your foundation will struggle to keep up with the demanded expansions and contractions. When your foundation comes under this amount of stress, it may crack in an attempt to comply with environmental demands.

That said, there are other reasons your foundation may crack. Expansive root systems from nearby trees, for example, may bully their way into your foundation, generating cracks as they go.

Types of Foundation Cracks

The good news is that, should your foundation crack, it can only crack in so many ways. More often than not, you’ll have to deal with one of the three following crack types:

  • Vertical. Vertical cracks tend to appear in newer homes. Your contractors will most likely support the foundation of your home with wooden beams. Unfortunately, some contractors opt to use wooden beams that haven’t fully matured. This green wood responds poorly when exposed to standing water or dampness in the long-term. When the wood caves, you’ll start to see the walls of your crawl space or basement bow, and your foundation will vertically crack.
  • Horizontal. You’re most likely to see a horizontal crack in your foundation if you have a foundation made out of brick or concrete. These foundations contract and grow in response to changes in the weather. If the weather changes too quickly or your foundation is exposed to water, the materials will crack to better keep up with the physical demands of their environment.
  • Diagonal. Diagonal cracks appear in your foundation for much the same reason horizontal ones appear. However, diagonal cracks indicate that your foundation is settling unevenly. If you notice rainwater settling on one side of your basement or crawl space more frequently than the other, then you’ll need to talk to a contractor about the steps you can take to avoid the development of a diagonal crack.

Signs of a Cracked Foundation

You won’t always be able to spot a crack in your foundation, even if it’s resulted in a leak. If you think you do have a crack to contend with, though, keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Unpleasant smells
  • Pest infestations
  • Cooler basement temperatures
  • Fogging windows
  • Standing water or frequent leaks
  • Water damage

While these signs are also symptoms of a leak, they can help point you toward any foundation cracks that may be letting excess water into your home.

How to Keep Your Foundation From Cracking

The good news is that you don’t have to wait for your foundation to crack to act. There are steps you can take to keep your foundation in one piece. These include:

  • Waterproof your foundation. Long-term exposure to flood waters can put extra stress on your foundation. That’s why it’s important, upon construction, to talk to a professional about the different waterproofing solutions you have available to you. Tools like French drains, sump pumps, dehumidifiers, temporary sealants, and vapor barriers can all redirect water away from your foundation, ensuring that it remains structurally sound for longer.
  • Clean your gutters. There are some basic chores you can do around your home to keep your foundation safe, too. Cleaning your gutters may be a pain, but doing so will help you keep water away from your foundation. A gunky gutter will spill water right out onto your perimeter, allowing precipitation to reach your foundation and add additional stress to its already heavy load.
  • Be careful with your landscaping. As mentioned, expansive root networks can compromise the structure of your foundation. If you’re planting trees or bushes in your lawn, make sure the largest are at least 20 feet away from your home upon their planting.
  • Water your lawn. If the soil around your home is healthy, it can help prevent the worst side effects of excessive North Carolina rainstorms. As soil is exposed to water, the particles remain hearty and hale. During droughts, however, soil particles will shrink. These shrunken particles won’t be able to absorb any excess water that arrives with the first rainstorm after a drought. When you water your lawn, you keep your soil healthy and help it absorb excess rainwater when storms do arrive.

You can work with a North Carolina contractor to reduce the amount of stress your foundation is under. Don’t let the local weather keep you from retaining the value of your home.

Want a Cleaner, Healthier North Carolina Home? Encapsulate Your Crawl Space

Install Crawl Space Encapsulation

Install Crawl Space Encapsulation

When you have lived comfortably in North Carolina for many years, it is easy to forget what problems a vented crawl space could cause to your home. The common ones are mold spores that trigger allergies, high energy bills, and of course, pests and crawling insects. Not sure if you’d be happy to deal with these.

Don’t be like so many people who act surprised when they notice mold or damp floors and walls in a living space. It might be too late to reverse the damage caused by high moisture levels. Encapsulate the crawl space, and you’ll never have to deal with any of the unpleasant effects.

Crawl Space Encapsulation 101 — The Basics

You’ve probably heard your neighbor talk about how their basement contractor encapsulated their crawl space and you didn’t make sense of it. Crawl space encapsulation is a protection method that entails sealing the crawl space to keep it moisture free. Unlike other techniques, the focus is on dealing with the moisture and preventing leaks. A thick plastic sheath is then used to cover the floors and the walls. If there are obstacles such as piers or pillars, foam spraying is used to seal objects. The cost of encapsulation depends on the size of the crawl space. Some contractors charge per foot, while others charge a flat project fee. Before encapsulation starts, it’s good to get a free estimate of the project cost so you can budget accordingly.

How does Encapsulation Work?

Now that you know what encapsulation is, it’s natural to ask what the process entails. Typical encapsulation projects go like this:

  • Prepare the crawl space. Before the work begins, the contractor will clear and clean out this space by removing dirt, debris, and old and damaged insulation.
  • Water vapor barrier installation. This entails covering the crawl space walls and floor with a polyethylene barrier, then taping it using a double-sided sealing tape.
  • Seal pipes, ducts, and cabling. The contractor cuts the barrier around obstacles and mechanicals. Any gaps created are filled with extra sealing tape.

Once the crawl space has been sealed, your contractor may suggest that you install a dehumidifier to control moisture levels.

Note: Bulk water or seepage has to be addressed with solutions like interior perimeter drainage and a sump pump before the encapsulation project gets underway.

What are the Benefits of Crawl Space Encapsulation?

Though it may seem costly at first, crawl space encapsulation has many lasting benefits. The first is clean indoor air. Since no toxic gases or musty smells are entering your home, you and your loved ones can live and breathe easy. Your home will be a haven of comfort and you can live, eat and sleep in peace.

Further, you won’t have to worry about mold or fungi, which is known to thrive in humid and damp homes. Mold is a toxic substance, and it’s a major cause of allergies and asthma attacks. Because the crawl space is sealed, water and moisture won’t penetrate the living space above and trigger mold growth. Your home will remain dry and free of mold all year round.

Structural issues such as rotten wood joists or rust and cracks on walls are common problems in homes with vented crawl spaces. Left unchecked, these can weaken the subsurface structure of the home and make it a dangerous place to live. Crawl space encapsulation together with waterproofing methods ensures no water from the outside gets to the crawl space. The outcome is a dry and strong structure that can hold up the home for many years.

Are you struggling with high monthly utility bills? The open crawl space below your home could be the cause. Encapsulation can help you create an energy-efficient home. Since the temperature in the living space and the crawl space will be the same, you won’t have to turn on your heater or air conditioner for long. This means less power consumption and a lower utility bill at the end of the month.

Another benefit of encapsulation is that you’re going to need fewer repairs than before. Repairing a water-damaged home or one with cracks is a costly undertaking that could run into thousands of dollars.

Since there’s no moisture to cause wood rot and pipe rust or termites to chew your joists, you will effectively not need the plumber and home repair contractor for a long time! In short, you won’t need repairs anytime soon.

No one wants to wake up at night and find uninvited guests crawling on their floorboards, walls or countertops. Encapsulation discourages pests such as mice, cockroaches, and termites from entering your home. Not only does the sealing remove the conditions that allow them to thrive but it locks these critters out too.

Whichever way you look at encapsulation, it pays off to encapsulate your crawl space. The sooner you do it, the better, as you will reap all the benefits that come with it. Call your basement contractor to arrange a same-day inspection. You will get a free crawl space estimate in writing.

Waterproofing Your Crawl Space With A Vapor Barrier

install a crawl space vapor barrier

install a crawl space vapor barrier

When your crawl space starts to leak, you’re going to want to get rid of the water – and fast. If you don’t, you risk damaging the belongings you’ve so carefully stored away.

The good news is that there are several waterproofing solutions at your disposal, including a vapor barrier coupled with drainage and sump pump systems. What is a vapor barrier, though, and when is it time to think about installing one? Let’s dive into the details so you can determine for yourself whether or not a crawl space vapor barrier is the solution for you.

Signs of a Leaking Crawl Space

Prevention may be the best medicine when it comes to a crawl space leak, but you don’t want to spend money on a solution you don’t need. Before you install your vapor barrier, make sure your crawl space is actually leaking. Some of the symptoms to look out for include:

  • Falling temperatures
  • Water damage
  • Pests
  • Wet walls or puddles
  • Mold clusters
  • Bad smells

Vapor Barriers: The Basics

Vapor barriers are near-impermeable plastic-like sheets you can install in your crawl space. Not only will these sheets keep most of the water out of your crawl space, but they’ll also prevent most gases from getting in and out of the space as well.

Encapsulating your crawl space is a permanent solution that will properly seal the area from the earth. You also can make your vapor barrier last longer if you, for example, install a French drain and sump pump at the same time as your barrier installation.

How to Use a Vapor Barrier In Your Crawl Space

If you’ve decided you need to install a vapor barrier in your crawl space, never fear. The installation process, which is best left to a professional contractor, is usually fairly straightforward. Just keep an eye out for bumps in the road along the way!

In general, installing a vapor barrier as part of the encapsulation process requires the following steps:

  1. Dry out your crawl space. It’s not easy to waterproof a crawl space that’s still damp from the last North Carolina rainstorm. Do what you can to get water out of your space. You may need to install a dehumidifier, French drain, or sump pump if you need help pumping the water out of your home.
  2. Find and seal your leak. Once you’ve removed any standing water or dampness, you can start sealing off the leaks that let the moisture into your home in the first place. The good news is that it’s easier to find leaks that result in standing water than it is to find leaks that just result in dampness. If you can’t find the location of a leak on your own, you’re going to want to reach out to a contractor. It’s possible that water may be getting into your crawl space via your foundation. In these situations, you’re going to need to attend to any foundation cracks or other damage before moving on with the installation process.
  3. Clear away old or damaged insulation. Under most circumstances, you can use insulation to further waterproof your crawl space. However, you’re going to want to remove any old or damaged insulation from your crawl space prior to installing your vapor barrier. Why? Because old and damaged insulation provides the perfect bed for mold particles. The last thing you want to deal with after you’ve installed your vapor barrier is mold clusters. You can, of course, install new insulation where the old material once was. Just be sure to have it replaced at the same time you replace your new vapor barrier.
  4. Install your vapor barrier. Once the stage is set, you can move to start laying your vapor barrier. During this process, be sure to cut holes so you can continue to access any pipes or physical structures you may need to at a later date.
  5. Implement additional waterproofing solutions. With the installation complete, consider stacking your vapor barrier with other waterproofing solutions. Permanently installing a dehumidifier, for example, will help your barrier last longer.

Crawl spaces are excellent hideaways for the belongings you want to put into storage. Don’t let North Carolina’s rain keep you from using yours. If you want to install a vapor barrier, reach out to a contractor to learn about your options ASAP.

Foundation Cracks – Understanding Good & Bad Foundation Cracks

cracks in my foundation

cracks in my foundation

Any person who values their home will naturally be alarmed to see cracks in their foundation walls. Concrete foundations are prone to cracks. The question is not if they will crack, but when. With that in mind, you should always be on the lookout for foundation cracks. They may start small like hairline cracks and widen with time, letting in water and insects.

Cosmetic Cracks Are Not Dangerous

Most cracks are cosmetic. While unsightly, hairline cracking is a normal thing in most North Carolina homes. They don’t usually indicate serious structural risks or create unsafe conditions. Such cracks are usually narrow and occur at offset corners. If you notice a crack that’s hairline to about 1/8 inch in width, don’t worry about it. An epoxy injection is all you need to fix it.

However, if you have repaired these cracks and they’re back within a short time, it’s a clear sign your foundation is on the move. Ask a structural engineer to examine your foundation.

Structural Cracks Pose Serious Risks

 

Any crack that’s in the range of 9/16th to 1 inch should be a real cause of concern to any homeowner. They could signal a deeper and larger problem. Because they’re wide, such cracks easily let in water, insects, pests and radon gas. Moisture causes mold problems while radon is a toxic gas. Insects and pests can infest your basement, climb up to the living area, and cause all kinds of problems from contamination to structural damage.

Telltale signs of structural cracks include:

  • Diagonal cracks at corners of concrete foundation walls (poured)
  • Horizontal cracks or stair-step cracks along foundation walls
  • Bulging and inward bowing of walls
  • Walls leaning inwards at the top
  • Inward sliding of walls at the bottom
  • Moist clay around the home

All these signs indicate the soil beneath the foundation is moving and your foundation is moving. In case you notice any of these, contact your local basement and foundation repair contractor to avert more foundation problems.

Pay attention to the size, direction, shape and the location of cracks. Depending on the nature or depth or seriousness of the crack, your contractor may install foundation piers, use carbon fiber reinforcement, or do concrete lifting to raise and restore sunken concrete slabs. All these require the input of a skilled and licensed professional.

What Causes Foundations to Crack?

When the foundation cracks, it’s normal to want to know what instigated the gaps. Several things can cause cracking, and the most common culprits are:

  1. Contraction of concrete: As concrete slabs harden, they lose moisture. Evaporation causes them to contract and shrink. The concrete may put on some resistance for a while but it will eventually give in to the tension that pulls it apart, resulting in cracks.
  2. Foundation settlement: It’s normal for the foundation of a new home to sink two or three years after construction because of its weight. The downward movement isn’t always even, resulting in cracks. After that, the foundation will stabilize. Foundation settlement repair can rectify the problem.
  3. Poor construction: Before a new home is built, the soil should be tested and compacted, then the appropriate footing designed to support the home. Some builders overlook these steps or skip them. Still others use substandard materials, causing your foundation to crack.
  4. Tree roots: This may come as a surprise. Roots of big trees are pretty strong. When they make their way into the soil beneath the home, they can lift sections of the foundation, causing it to crack. Make sure you don’t plant them near your home.
  5. Dry soil conditions: During dry weather, the soil under the foundation tends to shrink. This creates a significant gap between your home’s foundation and the surrounding soil. Back and forth pressure on the foundation causes it to shift and fill the gap.
  6. Hydrostatic pressure: After a heavy downpour, the soil around the perimeter becomes saturated and heavy. This exerts inward pressure on the foundation walls, causing it to bulge and crack.

Whether you’re dealing with hairline cracks or the more serious structural cracks, it pays to have foundation repair contractors in North Carolina inspect your basement and foundation walls. Though they may not guarantee you the cracks are harmless, they know how to tell a bad crack from a good one and how it should be repaired.

Have foundation cracks in your home or burning questions on the same? Contact your local contractor to get answers or schedule a foundation inspection today.

Does Your Home Need Crawl Space Insulation or Encapsulation?

crawl space insulation and encapsulation

crawl space insulation and encapsulation

When you live in North Carolina, you get used to your fair share of precipitation. You shouldn’t get used to a flooded crawl space, though.

Both the encapsulation and insulation processes can help you keep your crawl space dry even after the worst of North Carolina’s rains. It’s deciding which process to use that’s the real challenge, though.

Which Process Is Better?

Before we get started, let’s get the argument out of the way. Which is the more effective process, encapsulation or insulation? That depends entirely on how much water your crawl space takes in after a storm. The encapsulation process will protect your home from excess leakage, making it ideal for homes that see frequent flooding. The insulation process, however, is ideal for homes that only see a few leaks a year.

In short, assess the state of your crawl space before committing to one of these processes. You don’t want to over- or under-commit!

Insulation: The Steps You’ll Take

With that in mind, let’s take a look at insulation and the insulating process. Insulation keeps your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It can also play a waterproofing role in your crawl space if it is prone to leaks.

The process of insulating your crawl space typically involves the following steps:

  1. Clear away the water – There’s no point in insulating a crawl space that’s full of water. Before you start replacing your old insulation, you’re going to need to pump any remaining floodwaters out of your crawl space. This could be as simple as installing a temporary dehumidifier. Alternatively, you may need a contractor to help you physically remove water from your space.
  2. Take preventive steps – Once the water is out of your crawl space, you’ll need to find where it was coming from. This means finding the source of the leak. You should be able to identify leaks in your walls and joints by following the flow of water into your crawl space. However, if the leak is coming up through your foundation, you’re going to need a contractor’s help to seal it.
  3. Remove old insulation – With all visible leaks plugged, you’ll need to uninstall any old insulation you have in your crawl space. Why remove it instead of reuse it? Because your old insulation may have been damaged after long-term exposure to leaks. Damaged insulation can release allergens into your home while also providing strains of mold a breeding ground. Best to get rid of it and replace it with something cleaner.
  4. Install new insulation – Speaking of which, once your old insulation is out of the way, you can go about replacing it with waterproof insulation. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to choosing a brand or type to use, be sure to discuss the matter with your contractor.
  5. Protect your pipes – As you’re installing your new insulation, keep a close eye on the pipes you’re working around. You’re going to want to insulate your crawl space pipes well, as colder weather may cause them to crack and break if they go unprotected.
  6. Further waterproof your crawl space – Once you’ve finished, you might want to consider using other forms of waterproofing in addition to the insulation you’ve installed. These options include temporary sealants, drainage mats, a French drain, a sump pump and more. You can even stack the insulating and encapsulating processes if your crawl space is prone to severe flooding.

As mentioned, insulation will keep your walls and joints safe, should the North Carolina rains start to get to you. However, if your crawl space is leaking through its foundation, then you’re going to need the help of a contractor to keep your belongings dry.

Encapsulation: The Steps You’ll Take

Now, let’s look at the encapsulation process for comparison. The encapsulation process involves the installation of large plastic-like sheets in your crawl space. Coupled with a perimeter drainage system and sump pump system, these sheets will help direct water away from your belonging.

The process of encapsulating your crawl space typically involves the following steps:

  1. Clear away the water – As with the insulating process, you’ll need to clear water out of your crawl space before getting started.
  2. Take preventative steps – Likewise, you’ll need to plug any leaks ahead of time so as not to ruin your encapsulation job while you’re in the middle of it. Again, you’ll need a contractor’s assistance if the leak is coming up through your foundation.
  3. Remove old insulation – Once again, you’ll need to remove old and damaged insulation from your crawl space so as to improve the health of your home.
  4. Put up a vapor barrier – Instead of replacing the old insulation with new insulation, you’re going to install a vapor barrier. This is the large white plastic sheet (or another material, depending on what you’ve agreed to with your contractor) that will keep your belongings dry the next time it rains.
  5. Install a dehumidifier – Optionally, you can ask your contractor to install a dehumidifier in your crawl space. A dehumidifier will pull any excess moisture from the air and help your encapsulation last longer.
  6. Further waterproof your crawl space – Finally, if you’re worried about leaks getting through your encapsulation, you can ask your contractor what additional waterproofing solutions are available to you.

Don’t let North Carolina’s weather keep you from using your crawl space. Whether you choose to encapsulate or insulate, you can take back this space for yourself.

No More Indoor Pools: Dealing With Damp Walls and Floors

standing water in the basement

Raleigh, NC, may not be famous for its precipitation levels – but it should be. If you live in the area, you know you’re as likely to see a rainstorm as you are a sunny day, especially in the wintertime.

While some residents enjoy the rain, no one enjoys finding standing water in their basement. Unfortunately, older homes tend to see water leaking into their basements with regularity. Even newer homes that haven’t been waterproofed may fall victim to frequent leaks.

standing water in the basement

Are your basement walls and floors damp? Don’t think you have to resign yourself to those conditions forever. In fact, choosing to leave your basement to its soggy fate can have negative effects on the value of your home, not to mention the health of your family.

What can you do, then, to drive the dampness out of your home? There are several different steps you can take, all of which will help you reclaim your space for yourself.

What to Look for In a Damp Basement

Most homeowners believe standing puddles or damp walls are the only real signs of a wet basement.

This, however, isn’t the case. Keep an eye out for the following symptoms to determine whether or not your home has fallen victim to unusually high levels of dampness:

  • Cooler temperatures – Increased moisture in the air will reduce the temperature in your basement.
  • Increased humidity – Likewise, as water evaporates in your home, the humidity will rise, making the air feel thicker and wetter.
  • Curling paper or damaged materials – Are your stored belongings coming out of their boxes wet? Are the boxes themselves curling up at the edges? If so, you may have a leak on your hands.
  • Fogged windows – If you have the heat on and notice the windows in your basement (usually gutter windows) are fogging up, you may have an unusual amount of moisture in the air. While this isn’t an immediate sign of a leak, you’ll still want to check and see if water is getting into your basement.
  • Warping door frames – Wooden door frames respond poorly to the presence of excess water. If you go downstairs and notice your doors are sticking in their frames, or that your door frame looks bent out of shape, you likely have a large leak on your hands.
  • Mold – Wet walls and floors are an ideal environment for basement mold. Even if your basement seems dry, keep an eye out for unusual growths. If mold has clustered in one particular part of your basement, you’ll know that area sees the most frequent leaks.

Fixing Wet Walls and Floors

There are two different paths you can take when looking to waterproof your home. You can either waterproof your home from the inside or waterproof it from the outside.

Interior waterproofing will let you use a variety of tools, including:

  • French Drains: These drains, while a temporary solution, will pump the water out of your home, reducing the risk of long-term damage in your basement. You can pair these drains with a sump pump for long-term success. Whether you pair them or not, installation will typically take one to two days.
  • Drainage Mats: Another temporary solution, drainage mats are tarps you can use to collect the water that would normally gather on your walls and floors.
  • Sealants: Sealants are also temporary waterproofing solutions, lasting up to a year at a time, depending on the brand you’ve brought into your home. Seal the interior foundation of your home if you’re dealing with minor leaks or if you need a quick fix to a larger problem.
  • Dehumidifiers: Dehumidifiers will help reduce the amount of humidity you see in your basement. Another temporary solution, dehumidifiers will primarily help basements that see wet walls by reducing the opportunity for water clusters to form.

You can also talk to a contractor about a dig-and-seal process, which involves the excavation of your home’s foundation. This is not a permanent fix to leaks, but it is an option worth considering if your basement floods frequently.

Note that waterproofing the exterior of your home is not a process you should take on alone. An experienced contractor will be able to get to the heart of your problem. With their help, you’ll be able to waterproof your home for up to ten years without worry.

The Benefit of an Immediate Fix

Don’t wait to have your basement leak fixed. By leaving standing water in your home, you put the value of your estate and your family’s health at risk. Standing water can:

  • Compromise the security of your electrical circuits
  • Damage your foundation by introducing cracks
  • Damage your stored belongings
  • Grow mold that negatively impacts the health of everyone in the home, but especially children

In short, don’t give up the fight against the Raleigh, NC, weather. Reach out to a professional contractor if your basement walls and floors are damp. They’ll be able to give you back your home ASAP.