Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 3 seconds
A big rain came to Boise, (two inches in four hours). Water flowed freely into a North End basement room soaking the sheetrocked wall and carpet.
A clean up company responded promptly, and after pulling back the carpet, they identified the foundation wall where the water was entering. It looked like it had been happening on a small scale for quite some time too. Initiall thought was perhaps it was a fluke, but a subsequent rain allowed water to come pouring in again in the exact same location.
Naturally, the homeowners approached the previous contractor for help to fix the problem. Sadly, the warranty period had lapsed and he denied responsibility despite having excavated the area to create an egress window nearby. Frustrated with his response, the homeowners took matters into their own hands and started digging aggressively.
Archaeology does not lie
What they found was the tip of a concrete iceberg (a large solid mass of concrete next to their cinder block foundation). Realizing that it was over their head (literally), they retired to do some internet research and call for a local professional consultation. “Honey, Levco Builders says they do foundation repairs and understand moisture proofing of basements.” With a phone call, an appointment was set for the following day.
The moisture doctor is in
Upon arrival, I took a history and physical with some images. What I heard “the symptoms”, were not unusual. What I saw “the signs” were significant, they had undermined some of their original foundation and barely exposed a portion of a concrete blob that should not have been there. The basement was musty smelling as well.
It did not take long to come up with a field diagnosis, and a credible treatment plan. Our structural engineer was also called in to provide a stamped report, confirm my finding, and bless my treatment plan.
The soil conditions in the area are called “Sandy loam”. Normally it allows great moisture percolation. A gutter issue was a contributing factor but the chief problem was the concrete blob.
Your teeth are fine but your gums have to go!
(A favorite Grandpa Ben dentist joke punch line) “This is going to require a substantial repair,” I said. “We can cure it though. It is going to take a surgical concrete blobectomy, and some redundant moisture proofing techniques, if you want this problem fixed for good”. A contract was signed and the work began.
Seven silly things I look for that cause water to enter basements:
- Improper soil grading toward the foundation
- Not having gutters where needed
- Having gutters that concentrate water near the foundations
- Buried debris that diverts water toward the foundation
- Sprinkler system problems. (Believe me there are many!)
- Soil conditions like layers of clay that do not allow water to percolate (similar to problem 4)
- An inundation or rush of more water than can possibly percolate into the soil, like a flood or a hose left on near the home.
Idaho, the hold my beer, watch this state
The concrete blob was substantial. (Almost a full cubic yard). It had to be from the recent construction because of the mixture of debris embedded in it by the sloppy previous contractor. I’m sure it was a lazy person who allowed the concrete contractor to just bury it in an exposed hole. In addition, like a dog and a bone, cover it up with some dirt. The only thing they missed was putting their initials or handprints in it.
I’m sure the last thing on that anyone’s mind at the time was that this little stunt would go on to cause well over ten thousand dollars of damage, and endless frustration.
The seven steps of our foundation waterproofing protection system
- Asphalt emulsion.
- A shingled, peel and stick bituminous layer that wrapped the effected foundation area like a present.
- A shingled layer of a dimpled landscape fabric coated rain sheet
- A large dry well terminating below the foundations that can be monitored, or used for pumping in an emergency
- A perforated drainpipe system that is connected and will wick away any lingering moisture to the well.
- Soil compaction and grading away from the foundations
- Reorientation of the gutter and downspout.
I know the area we fixed is absolutely waterproofed. Now all that is left is to wait for the next winter weather pattern to prove it to our clients. This is exactly why Levco provides a limited lifetime warranty.
The blame game
Some judge somewhere will need to sort out responsibility for this one. I am pretty sure that I will be called into court in an attempt to help my client’s recover the costs they had to shell out.
You will not believe it but the contractor was able to wiggle out of responsibility by using the statute of limitations. No money was recovered despite me proving beyond a shadow of doubt that it was his negligence that caused harm to this client. He was also able to get off with only a ding on his contractor registration history that few people ever bother to research. He has moved on to manufacturing container homes and does not remodel anymore. I consider him a friend but I was ashamed about how he handled himself. He belonged to a building association that has no code of ethics and I think that speaks volumes. It is a sad day in the world when we do not take responsibility for our shortcomings.
I got a referral to another large job as a result of fixing this one. Now that is how it is supposed to work.
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If you or someone you know is considering remodeling or just wants to speak to a trustworthy remodeling contractor please contact me, you’ll be glad you did.