Tuesday, January 25th by Tim Snyder
Bob and Sandra Leakey were worried about the water in their basement. Like many of their neighbors in this suburban development, the Leakey's had a poured concrete basement that stayed dry most of the year. Only during spring thaws and heavy rains did water come into the basement. But Bob had a concern about a couple of cracks in the foundation wall where most of the leakage was occurring. He was also worried about the moldy smell in the crawl space beneath his back porch.
“I could be wrong, but I think one of the cracks is larger than it was last year,” Bob said to Sandra. “We should have a contractor come and look at it.”
Sandra agreed, and even had someone in mind. “I mentioned our water problem to Barbara, who works with me at the bank,” Sandra related. “She gave me the number of a handyman who specializes in basic home repairs. Barbara is sure he’d be able to seal the cracks in the basement wall, and for a reasonable price, too.”
Sure enough, Mark the handyman came in and filled the foundation cracks with polyurethane sealant –the same caulk-type material Bob remembered seeing in the hardware store. Regarding the moldy smell in the crawl space, Mark recommended running a dehumidifier. “You can expect moisture in a crawl space with a dirt floor,” he explained. “Just buy a good dehumidifier and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the space dries out.”
Bob and Sandra put their water problem worries to rest, but when their next electric bill arrived, they were shocked. “What happened to cause this big increase?” Bob asked. “When Sandra called the electric utility company to ask about their bill, the customer service representative asked her if they had installed any new appliances. Sandra mentioned the dehumidifier in the basement.
“Bingo,” said the utility person. “A dehumidifier is like a miniature air conditioning unit, and it’s running all the time. That’s where your usage spike is coming from.”
“I’m not sure what we can do,” Bob remarked. “How else can we deal with the moisture that comes from the crawl space?” To make matters worse, several weeks later Sandra noticed that one of the cracks had changed size, growing wider at the top than at the bottom. The sealant had broken loose along most of the crack.
Lessons learned: Call a full-service foundation contractor.
The Leakey’s experience is not unique. In the realm of home repair, it’s a common mistake to treat the symptoms (in this case, cracked masonry and a moldy crawl space) without addressing the problems that caused them. When dealing with any foundation, basement or crawl space problem, the best strategy is to contact a full-service foundation contractor. Full-service foundation contractors can save homeowners time, trouble and money by correctly identifying and treating any and all foundation problems.
In the Leakey’s case, the growing crack indicated a foundation settlement problem that no amount of sealing would correct. Stabilizing the foundation to prevent further settling is necessary before cracks can be repaired. As for the crawl space, a complete sealing process –called crawl space encapsulation—is the best way to eliminate moisture and mold problems. Full-service foundation contractors have the experience to diagnose problems properly, and the specialized equipment and materials to complete a full range of repairs.
Contact Woods Basement Systems today for more information about solving foundation repair issues. They offer free estimates for foundation repair in St. Louis and other local areas.