Your home: House foundations 101

By Chad Taylor

Question: What are the pros and cons of each type of foundation — and how can I keep my basement dry?

In light of the five-plus inches of rain we recently received, I felt it necessary to address a few questions about foundations and how to properly maintain them. As we have been showing homes over the last week, our team has seen its share of wet basements. That said, we have seen all types of wet basements — stone, concrete block, and poured concrete. All of which could have been prevented.

The Taylor Made Team

I will start with stone. Sometimes stone foundations get a bad rap. Honestly, a properly built stone foundation can be one of the most structurally sound foundations out there. Now because of the porous nature of the mortar and the stone, stone foundations tend to “weep” when the water table is higher. Due to this weeping, it is necessary to monitor the mortar joints and repair any voids or cracks that may appear. This is called tuck pointing. If nothing else, an annual visual inspection of the mortar joints should be a part of your home maintenance plan.

Now to concrete block. Poor concrete block! This foundation seems to see the most abuse. Like stone, a concrete block foundation can be a great product. However, they are the most susceptible to cracks and movement (also known as deflection) during extreme weather (i.e. droughts or heavy rain). This is due to the expansive soil in our region. Expansive soil will expand when it is wet, and contract when it is dry. You have probably seen examples of this around your own foundation. Last year, many of you probably saw a gap around your foundation. That is because the soil was dry and contracted. Then we receive some well-needed rain (like this last week), and you get water in your basement. Mainly because the gap is acting like a big funnel and is allowing the water to find any void in your foundation that it can get through.

These cracks and movement can be remedied by installing vertical wall restraints, piers, or several other types of foundation repair. All of which, of course, cost money. Anywhere from $250 per restraint to several thousand dollars if piering is required. The good news is that almost all foundations can have their structural integrity restored by one of the aforementioned methods.

I saved probably the most coveted foundation type for last: poured concrete. The phrase “poured concrete foundation” brings a special glimmer to the eye of most potential buyers.  And for good reason. A well-poured and well-maintained concrete foundation can be an awesome thing. You don’t have the weeping that you do with stone. And they tend to stand up to extreme weather better than concrete block. But they still require monitoring, proper grading, and proper guttering. You will see that when neglected, a poured concrete foundation wall will still crack and deflect.

I am sure that you can see the common theme: drainage. I mentioned a few weeks ago that 75 percent of all water infiltration is caused by improper drainage. Recently I read on a reputable foundation company’s website that they attribute poor drainage for 90 percent of all water infiltration. Here is a great article with some tips for creating and maintaining proper drainage.

This weekly sponsored column is written by Chad Taylor of the Taylor-Made Team and Keller Williams Realty Key Partners, LLC. The Taylor-Made Team consistently performs in the top 3 percent of Realtors in the Heartland MLS. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email. You can find out more about the Taylor-Made Team on its website. And always feel free to call at 913-825-7540.

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