Stabilize Your Foundation

Patrick LeCours sometimes feels like a doctor. He listens to the symptoms, probes deeper into the problem and then presents a diagnosis. Also like a doctor, LeCours’s conclusions can leave his patients with a queasy sensation.

Below grade damage of a garage foundation

Below grade damage of a garage foundation

Foundation damage is becoming increasingly common around Ottawa. Problems have cropped up in several neighbourhoods in both new and old developments.  It begins as a spidery cluster of cracks creeping across the walls inside a basement or garage. As time passes, the cost and the consequences can grow to become a more serious problem.

For many homeowners, the roots of the damage may go back about 20,000 years. In those days, there was a vast body of salt water, now referred to as the Champlain Sea, extending from as far west as what is now Pembroke, rolling across Ottawa to what would become the St. Lawrence River and then extending eastward almost as far as Quebec City. As the glaciers retreated, so did the sea, leaving large pockets of sensitive marine clay (also known as “Leda clay”) in its wake.

That clay still exists in thick pockets at varying depths beneath Ottawa (one recent study estimated about 30 per cent of Ottawa is resting above a layer of marine clay).
There are at least two provisions in the Ontario Building Code governing the rules and regulations for the design of buildings constructed on sensitive marine clay. It’s unclear, however, whether those regulations apply if the clay is located deeper beneath the surface.

fortress-logoPatrick Lecours believes the problem is already spreading to the east end and elsewhere across the city. About 30 per cent of Ottawa is located above pockets of sensitive marine clay (aka, leda clay), remnants of the ancient Champlain Sea that covered the entire region about 10,000 years ago.

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