FAQ – Foundation Repair and waterproofing

Pat, the president of Mr. Foundation, has been answering questions about foundation repair and basement waterproofing in Ottawa.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.

What should I check before hiring a foundation repair company in Ottawa?

Here the 9 questions you must ask before hiring a foundation repair company in Ottawa

  1. How many years has your firm been in business?
  2. Do you specialize in foundation repair?
  3. Do you have liability insurance? Are you shoring insured? (Shoring is not covered under standard liability insurance, so you should specifically ask about this.)
  4. Do you work independently with Engineers? (This is to insure 3rd party liability and to get an engineered solution for the customer)
  5. Do you use 3rd party certification for your work? (Engineered certified and stamped)
  6. Can you provide references for the work being done?
  7. Is your staff training on-going? Are they current with new technology?
  8. Are all employees trained with the Ontario Safety Board?
  9. What kind of warranties are provided? And what are their limitations?

Who is Mr.Foundation and how long have you been in business?

Patrick LeCours, owner and president of Mr.Foundation, started out his career as a general contractor in 1987, specializing in tenant improvements. He quickly assessed that the Ottawa-Carleton region had a great need for foundation and structural repair. He formed Mr.Foundation, Inc. in 1992, acquired the exclusive rights to the patented Ram Jack® System in 2002, and has been growing ever since. Members of our crew are continuously being educated and trained in the construction technology industry to provide improved service to our clients.

Are you insured?

Yes… AND we are one of only a few Foundation Repair companies that can say that. We are fully insured under all facets of Labour (WISB), Structural repairs (shoring), and product liabilities.

What type of warranty do you offer?

Mr. Foundation is backed by a 10-year transferable warranty on waterproofing and crack repair; 10 years on structural and RAM JACK® repairs.

Do you provide references?

Mr.Foundation has worked on thousands of houses and would be proud to provide you with references upon request.

How quickly can you come see my foundation?

We provide a 48hr.-dispatched service, where the problem will be assessed, followed up with a written solution and an estimate outlaying the contents of the job.

Why should I choose the RamJack® system?

The patented Ram Jack System® is proven to be the most reliable system on the market today. Strict quality control procedures are standard in the manufacturing plant. Exact specifications and strict guidelines ensure that the RAM JACK® products have virtually no failure when installed properly.

What are the signs of foundation failure?

Good question. You can scroll down, or use [ THIS LINK ] to read about signs of foundation failure.

What are the causes of foundation failure?

Please scroll down, or just use [ THIS LINK ] to read about causes of foundation failure.

Do you have any tips on foundation maintenance and monitoring?

This is a very good question. Please scroll down, or use [ THIS LINK ] to read some notes on foundation maintenance and monitoring.

Do trees affect foundation of the property?

There are many advantages to having a tree on your property. It adds visual appeal, can increase the value of your home, provide much needed shading in the hot summer months, even savings in your home cooling bills in the summer due to that shading, but did you know that these gorgeous trees can also cause problems to your foundation?

While tree roots may not seem dangerous, they can put incredible pressure on the foundation of your home, causing cracks or movement. For these reasons, you want to be sure to watch the growth of existing trees and pay attention to new tree planting around your home. The roots from very large trees that have been planted too close to your home can push up against the foundation and cause problems such as:

  • During times when there is not a lot of moisture/rain, roots can deplete the soil moisture under the foundation which can cause the home to settle unevenly due to dry and unstable soil.
  • Cracks in your foundation
  • As tree roots increase in diameter, they wedge themselves between the basement wall and the surrounding soil, creating more pressure with each passing year. The pressure they can exert, especially in conjunction with the expansion and contraction of frost heave, can crack basement walls.

Planting new trees? Here are some steps you can take to avoid future foundation problems:

  • Research the type of tree you plan on planting. Some trees are safer than others. Some have very complex root systems. Be sure that you ask questions before purchasing your tree.
  • Roots can travel very far and can grow very large (sometimes 3 times the height of the tree!), so be sure that the tree is planted far from your foundation. Again, it is best to consult with an expert before planting.
  • If the tree on your property is an existing tree, make sure that you keep it pruned. This will keep it at a safe height and keep its root system under control.

Problems with your foundations and tree roots is something that is 100% avoidable. By planting your tree mindfully, and keeping a watchful eye on existing trees, you can keep your foundation in tip-top condition and the value of your home intact.

Your questions are welcome

Please feel free to ask us your questions.

Take at least 3 quotes. Check each company’s experience, equipment, and insurance, and then decide.

Signs of foundation failure

In most cases foundation failure does not happen overnight. If we detect early signs of foundation failure then the cost of foundation repair is far less than solving the problem later when the foundation problem has already become too big. Some of the signs of foundation failure are as follows –

signs of foundation failure inside house
INSIDE THE HOUSE

1. Doors and windows misaligned.
2. Cracks in the sheetrock
3. Sticking doors and windows.
4. Sloping floor
5. Cracks in the floor or tile.

signs of foundation failure outside the house
OUTSIDE THE HOUSE

6. Cracks in the brick
7. Gaps around doors and windows
8. Cracks in the foundation
9. Fascia board pulling away

signs of foundation failure in the garage
IN THE GARAGE

10. Separation from the door.

11. Wall rotating.

12. Cracked brick.

signs of foundation failure inside the basement
IN THE BASEMENT

13. Walls leaning in or out

14. Cracks in the wall

15. Water intrusion

Causes of foundation failure

Ottawa has some unique causes of foundation failure due to the soil conditions in Ottawa, but the most common causes of foundation failure are as follows –

causes of foundation failure
1. Evaporation – Hot dry wind and intense heat will often cause the soil to shrink beneath the foundation. The settlement may cause cracks to appear throughout the structure.

2. Transpiration – Tree roots may desiccate the soil beneath a home, causing the soil to shrink, and the home to settle.

3. Plumbing Leaks – Water from plumbing leaks is often a cause of foundation problems.

4. Drainage – Improper drainage is one of the leading causes of foundation failure. Excess moisture will erode or consolidate soils and cause settlement.

5. Inferior Foundation Construction – Insufficient steel and inferior concrete will contribute to movement in the slab.

6. Inferior Ground Preparation – Soft, low-density soils and/ or improperly compacted soil beneath a home is also a major cause of foundation failure. Cut and fill situations should be properly prepared before the soil is ready to support a structure.

7. Poor Soil Conditions – Poor soil and its expansion and/ or contraction contribute to foundation failure.

Foundation Maintenance & Monitoring Program

Proper care of your foundation is very important to preserve the integrity of your property.

Soils have the ability to expand (when wet) at alarming rates. This requires that an even and relatively constant level of moisture be maintained in the soil supporting the foundation.

Defects in foundations occur when the supporting soil is too wet or too dry or when one area around the foundation is overly wet, while other areas remain dry.

Improper foundation maintenance can result in severe movement in just a few days. This is true regardless of the type or age of the foundation.

To avoid additional foundation problems, you must avoid non-uniform moisture content in the soil supporting the foundation.

Non-uniform moisture content can be caused by any of the following:

  • Improper drainage
  • Allowing the soil to become dry
  • Excess watering near the foundation
  • Plumbing leaks
  • An improper watering program
  • Neglect
  • Runoff water not properly diverted away from the foundation
  • Trees and large bushes growing too close to the foundation

For more information please see the following Canada Mortgage and Housing article: “Understanding and Dealing with Interactions Between Trees, Sensitive Clay Soils and Foundations” (pdf file).

So Your Home is built on Expansive Soils

Additional information on all of these items can be obtained in the excellent reference, “So Your Home is Built On Expansive Soils, A Discussion of How Expansive Soils Affect Buildings“, edited by Warren Wray, Ph.D., P.E., published in 1995 by the American Society of Civil Engineers. This 54-page booklet can be purchased as an ebook for about $39.

The following suggestions are essential to an effective foundation maintenance and monitoring program, and should be followed carefully:

• Drainage
• Watering
• Living with Expansive Soils
• Soil Moisture Changes
 

Drainage

 
Maintain the grading and planting beds around the foundation to slope away from the structure.

The soil around a house will tend to settle with time and additional topsoil may be needed.

Use clay-based soil any time you replace the soil around the foundation. A clay-based soil, properly placed, will shed rainwater away from the foundation. DO NOT USE SAND. Sand is porous. Rainwater flows through the sand into the soils supporting, and adjacent to, the foundation, where it can cause problems.

For slab foundations, it is best to keep at least two to four inches of concrete showing below the brick or siding.

Soil above the brick line will allow water to penetrate into the house where the water can cause damage to the interior.

Avoid bonding or standing water in the area of the foundation.

The yard should have drainage channels (often called swales) to route rainwater away from the structure.

Do not add fill dirt to change or alter these drains.

Gutters should be maintained and free of debris.

All runoff water should be diverted away from the foundation.

Watering on a regular basis can be of benefit because it can help maintain a moisture balance between the ground under, and the ground around the foundation.
 

Watering

 
If the soil along the exterior becomes excessively dry, it will shrink and crack. These cracks admit air, which causes more evaporation and more cracking. When heavy rains come, these cracks allow excessive amounts of water to go directly to the bearing levels, causing settlement.

Eventually, the foundation will crack and sink.

If you notice the soil shrinking away from the foundation and forming a gap, it is a sign that the soil needs water.

During heavy rains or excessive watering of plants, these cracks also admit water, which may erode soil from beneath the foundation, making the problem worse.

Whether you have a sprinkler system, above-ground water system, or underground watering system, you should monitor the system on a daily basis.

Readjust the system when soil cannot hold any more water (when water is no longer absorbed into the soil).

Trees and large bushes use large amounts of water and must be placed such that damage due to moisture loss, as well as excessive root growth, is avoided.

You should add extra moisture as necessary to areas, which naturally remain dryer, such as gabled ends, adjacent to large trees and bushes, or at recessed entryways.

Diligent attention to moisture content and water movement around your house will help delay or even prevent future foundation problems.
 

Living with Expansive Soils

 
Expansive soils can create damaging movements (shrink and swell) to foundations and structures.

These movements originate from changes in soil moisture.

Providing uniform soil moisture next to and under your foundation is the single best thing you can do to reduce or minimize the effect expansive soil movements have on your structure.
 

Soil Moisture Changes

 
Observing how the soil moisture changes around a foundation is possible, but what about under it?

Moisture can move from outside to under your foundation through a property of soils known as suction.

Soil suction is similar to placing just a corner of a dry, compressed sponge in contact with a puddle of water. While the water source is present, the sponge will continue to absorb water. The water already in the sponge will distribute itself evenly, but the sponge will not reach saturation.

Water can move horizontally and vertically through the soils under your foundation in a similar manner.

As clay soils draw water to themselves, they too grow in volume (swell or heave) causing your foundation to move.

Drying outside your foundation reverses the process. The moist soils will lose volume (shrink) as soil moisture moves out from under your foundation causing the foundation to settle.

Shrinking and swelling soil motions can lead to damaging your foundation and structure.

Uniform changes in soil moisture are less damaging to your structure than localized changes.

You should review the list and possible actions to control or minimize the various sources.

Begin practicing the suggested actions as soon as possible to improve your foundation and structure performance.

Many of these actions can become a routine part of your ongoing conscientious owner maintenance activities.

Annually inspect the area within 5 feet of all sides of your foundation after rain to determine if proper drainage is maintained away from your structure.

Monitor existing cracks for progressive or seasonal movements.

Some of the possible actions may require expert assistance or evaluation but monitoring these changes will certainly help a lot in maintaining the foundation of your house and preserving the integrity of your structure.