Foundation cracks in Toronto are common due to the age of the housing in the GTA, as well as the weather (rain-snow-freezing-thawing).  Foundation cracks develop over time for a variety of reasons and leads to basement water leaks as water makes its way into through the foundation.

Water Penetration Trough Concrete Floor

Foundation cracks may not seem appear too serious at first, but there’s always a chance they could cause some damage further down the road. This is why it’s a good idea to have them inspected by a professional. Horizontal and/or vertical cracks in a foundation usually won’t threaten the building’s structural integrity as cracking from earth settlement below the foundation and drying of drywall tape or concrete typically won’t cause a problem.

Foundations Move and Shift Over Time

Buildings continually move when the framing shifts and the earth contracts and expands due to heat and humidity fluctuation. Most homeowners won’t even notice the movements since they’re so small, but older homes were often constructed with a reliance on friction and gravity to hold the components of the building in place. The structure can weaken over time and then settle and spread. If the problem isn’t looked after, the building could collapse under its own weight. However the components are all tied together in newer buildings to form a single unit to stop this from happening.

Some structural defects are often hidden inside of walls and under the ground while others are more obvious. Since damage to the structure can be caused by moisture you should inspect the foundation if water from any source is running to it. If the foundation has been penetrated by water it’s generally due to a drainage problem. Salt will wash through a foundation and the rebar and wire mesh will rust away. When this happens the concrete will crumble as the foundation fails.

Leaks in plumbing, doors, windows and/or siding can cause rotting in wood and this can damage a structure’s integrity as the wood can turn to dust. If you find any rot in the trim around doorframes or windows or in there could be some hidden damage. If wood is untreated it may become moist due to contact with earth or concrete and start rotting on the inside. This is often a problem supports and columns for porches and decks.

If termites are present the wood can quickly turn to powder and when a wooden structure is touching the ground there’s usually some hidden damage. The easiest place to visually see any structural damage in a building is the top floor as shifting caused by rot or the movement of the foundation is more pronounced on the top level. Door and window frames will move more on a higher level than a lower one. If the higher levels have uneven floors it’s usually because the structure below isn’t properly supported.

Inspecting For Foundation Cracks

One way to check for structural problems is to inspect the corners of door and window frames with a carpenter’s square. If you find they’re not square it could be because there’s been structural movement below. Be aware that improper installation of the window or door could result in the corners not being square. If just one window or door frame isn’t square this is the likely cause since structural movement will generally affect more than just one frame.

You can check for uneven floors by placing a marble on the floor and see if it rolls. A slightly uneven floor isn’t necessarily bad news since some foundations are designed to ride the movement of the soil the same way a ship rides the waves. Buildings with these types of foundations may not always be perfectly even at all times. But if the floor is sloping in more than one direction then you should have it checked out.

When there’s structural movement it can result in cracking and the cracks can more or less tell the direction and location of the force which caused them. A crack shaped like a V could indicate upward-moving pressure. Upward-moving forces can happen when the soil expands and when the level of moisture is increased in the earth beneath foundations, patios, driveways and sidewalks. Float walls are usually built into basements of structures erected in expansive soil and the float wall is designed to expand and contract with the movement of the soil. If the walls are rigid the force of the expanding soil can push on them and damage the floors above.

Downward Pressure

A downward force will create a vertical crack which is wider at the bottom than the top and the force often originates from subsidence of the soil located below the building’s foundation. A structure can also be damaged by outward or inward force. Horizontal cracks usually aren’t serious, but if the surface below or above the crack has been forced outward or inward there could be problems. Inward or outward pressure can be the result of improper backfill, pressure of moving water and earth, or vehicle traffic that is too close to the foundation.

If you can determine the direction and lace of the force which has caused the cracks then it’ll be easier to find the source. If the damage is hidden though, it can be very hard to determine and costly to repair as floors, ceilings and walls may need to be opened to reveal the damage. It’s also possible you won’t realize there’s any damage until the structure eventually fails.

Foundation Tips When Buying a Home

When buying a home, it’s recommended that you inspect the patios, driveways and sidewalks to see if they’re sunken, heaved, cracked or twisted. If they are then the property may have expansive soils. If the foundation and other structures have been built for the conditions and water is routed away from concrete pads and the foundation you should find little indication of any concrete damage. Remember that most homes erected on expansive soils generally show some defects due to the constant expansion and contraction of the earth. It’s a good idea to have your home inspected if you’re unsure of any damage or contract a structural engineer for a professional opinion.

Have a questions about a crack in your foundation?  Nusite Waterproofing serves Toronto and the surrounding GTA.  We offer a free in-home inspection and estimate and can advise on how to repair your foundation crack.  Contact us here today to schedule an appointment.

Foundation underpinning provides a way to strengthen, repair and sometimes increase the depth of your foundation. Foundations often deteriorate over time because they have been exposed to excess moisture and other environmental forces.  Here in Toronto, with so many older homes, non-livable basements and crumbling foundations are common.

Underpinning can be done in many ways and in order to make the right choice, it is necessary to understand the structure of the foundation, the supports which are used, and the factors that caused the foundation to weaken in the first place. Underpinning works with load-bearing walls so professional help is highly recommended as this is definitely not a DIY project.

Toronto home underpinning

Underpinning is often needed if your home has substantial cracks, heaving or buckled walls. Unstable soil is also a reason to underpin a home. Unpinning ensures the foundation is restored so it is strong enough to support the structure above. There are many methods of underpinning.

Concrete Underpinning

Concrete underpinning is one of the most common methods where mass is added to improve strength.

Beam and Base

Another method involves a beam and base.In this system, piles are installed on either side of the affected wall. The type of pile used is determined by the strata below. A reinforced concrete beam is installed between the beams to support the wall and the existing material between the piles is removed. The construction of the beams depends on the architecture of the structure built on the foundation. The beam and base technique is often chosen as it is quick and less disruptive than concrete underpinning. It is also capable of bearing a very high load and can be used in very tight spaces.

Screw Piles and Brackets

This method is used when traditional underpinning is not possible. Installation does not require a large crew or a lot of equipment.

Screw piles are installed in the foundation and are designed to withstand many stresses. They are ideal when used with underpinning support brackets as the structure can then be returned to a level position. The weight of the foundation is then distributed to the bracket system. They are relatively quick to install and cause little damage to the surrounding area.

Piled Raft

This method is used when the whole foundation needs lateral and traverse reinforcement. It is often when there is a deep foundation or if there is very hard soil. Piles are placed based on the load with reinforced beams beneath them. Finally, a ring beam links all of the reinforced beams together and concrete is poured.

Wall Anchors

Wall anchors can be installed in areas with limited access and without the use of heavy machinery. The anchors are designed to provide lateral stability to existing foundation walls.

Mudjacking

This method may be chosen if a structure is settling, but it is not a good solution. Holes are drilled, either into the slab or under the foundation, and then concrete is pumped into the holes. The extra concrete spreads and is supposed to eliminate settling, however it does nothing for the bedrock below. Mudjacking is effective when used properly with piers.

Clearly, underpinning a home properly requires building knowledge and an understanding of loads and stresses. Underpinning a foundation should not be attempted unless you have are a structural engineer or you have proven industry experience.

Nusite Group has the experience you need should the foundation of your home require underpinning. Want to learn more about creating a full-height basement in your home and what options are best for you?  Don’t leave a job like this to amateurs. Contact Nusite here for your inspection and estimate today.

Home office TorontoIf you have considered creating a walkout basement to your home, this is not only a great feature to have while you are in your home, but it can actually add value if you ever decide to sell. Here in Toronto, many of the homes are older, with basements that were never meant to be used as living space, but a walkout basement can create another floor of living space without all the red tape of adding an extension to the home.

If you have a traditional basement and would like to create a full height basement, you’ll have to hire a contractor that specializes in what’s know as “Underpinning”, more commonly known as basement lowering.  It’s a popular option in Toronto as land is limited and it’s a great way to create extra living space without extending the house and losing more backyard.

Not only can you enjoy another level of living space, but a walkout basement can add value to your home if you ever decide to sell.  

Take a look at five great ways to use your walkout basement

 

Create a living space for parents or adult children

A basement that remodeled and with a privatized entrance is the perfect place to allow your college-aged child live, or even your aging parent. The fact that it is somewhat separated from the remainder of the home offers the same privacy that they would have in an apartment.

 In-law suite basement apartment Toronto

Create the ultimate, privatized home office

If you operate a home-based business in which you need to have clients come to your office, you might not want to welcome strangers into your living space. By allowing clients to enter through the designated entrance it can help to separate your professional and personal life. Not to mention, you don’t have to worry about the condition of your home when welcoming clients.

Home office Toronto

Create an inviting family space

For some homeowners, the basement is best utilized by creating a comfortable living space for your family to spend quality time in. Because of the increase in natural light offered by the door, you don’t have to feel like you are tucked away in a confined box when you are together, and in the summer you can open up the door and let fresh air in.

Fameily room in Toronto basement

Create a kids’ space

What parent doesn’t want to have a playroom for their little ones to house their many toys? The problem with traditional finished basements and playrooms is that it can seem like you are shoving your children in a dark corner to play. But, that’s the beauty of a walkout basement, the entry allows for natural light to enter, and it creates a great entry point to the yard and pool.

 Family play room Toronto

Create a guest suite

What better place to have your relatives come stay than in their own private suite in your basement? Many homeowners who may not have an extra guest room will convert their walkout basement into a bedroom space for friends and family to stay. The exit give them a sense of privacy for coming and going, and the fact that they aren’t sleeping on a pull out couch or in your child’s room means less crowding on the main floors.

Basement bedroom Toronto home

Keep in mind that by adding natural light into your basement, and outdoor access, this space can become anything that you need it to be. You are sure to find that by making this space feel more like your actual living space, and less like your basement, that you are making a wise financial investment everyone can enjoy.

Have questions about basement lowering and the process involved?  If you live in Toronto or the surrounding GTA, feel free to contact us here for a free in-home inspection and estimate.

Have you ever dreamed about having a full height, finished basement you and your family can enjoy?  A large open space like a basement can create a wonderful family room, recreation room or even additional living space.  The process of basement lowering, also called underpinning, can turn that old and damp basement of your into a bright and livable space for your and your family.

Finishing a walkout basement in Toronto

There are many advantages to lowering your basement, ranging from stabilizing your home from structural problems, or simply expanding your living space. Taking the plunge can really change the way you live, and protect you from structural damage that may occur. Many of the older homes in Toronto were not meant to be used as living space, but the cost of real estate and scarcity of available land in Toronto has turned the basement into a viable option. Here we explore 5 reasons why you should lower your basement:

  1. The construction process will uncover the hidden mechanics of your home and make them easily accessible for inspection, upgrades, and repairs. It will make it easy to replace your old plumbing, electrical, and insulation systems, especially if you live in an older house, and help you to modernize your home. Your waterproofing systems will also be changed when you lower your basement, so you will have a brand new dry concrete floor. Over time, you will cash in on energy savings, mechanical savings, and safety of your home.
  2. Basement lowering is a necessity when your house’s foundation suffers structural problems and cannot adequately support the house due to extreme climates, soil types, or inexperienced workers causing damage to the structural integrity of your home. It will immediately stabilize your home, strengthen the house, and give you a peace of mind, not to mention increase your home’s value and equity to future purchasers for years to come.
  3. Lowering your basement will give you up to fifty percent more below-ground space, greatly expanding the available space in your home! Once upon a time, basements were only used for mechanics and storage, but the modern basement can be turned into absolutely any function you want it to be: an extra bedroom, a home office, a home theatre system, a rental suite, a room to entertain guests in- you name it! You gain much more usability of space without having to buy a new house.
  4. By lowering your basement, you can increase ceiling height and lighting. Traditional basements have the problem of low ceilings and may feel cramped, but the added headroom will make your basement a far more attractive space in your house, and open up the conversion possibilities of your basement suite. You can remove any unnecessary walls to get rid of unneeded rooms open it up as a larger space, or add any rooms to a big open space as you wish. The possibilities are endless.
  5. Basement lowering is the least expensive and disruptive way to add more space into your existing home, and give your house a refresh. This is particularly important for growing families who need the extra space without the purchase of a new home. Basement lowering will get rid of any moisture and leakage problems, help you add floor space, and can even help you construct a new entrance/walkway for added safety and convenience.

Whether you are simply intrigued by this beneficial construction process, or are in need of services immediately to help fix your home’s structural problems, basement lowering will enhance, strengthen, expand, improve, and add value to your home.

Have questions about turning your basement into a full height, livable area?  If you live in Toronto or the surrounding GTA, you can contact us here for a free in-home estimate and inspection.

Getting ready to finish your basement?  Better check for foundation cracks before putting up that drywall!

Any home repair project involves looking into the future—you can picture the finished product, say a carpeted basement with a TV set or maybe a bedroom for your teenage son.  Looking far ahead is great, but it’s important to switch focus, looking into the distant future but also into the immediate future.  The latter is where you’ll find some things you have to do to prepare.

If you plan to finish your basement, putting in a finishing wall and some sort of flooring, you have to make sure the foundation is in good condition first.  An approach similar to turning up the radio when your car is making a noise simply will not work—don’t carpet over floor cracks that could potentially leak water or put up walls over foundation wall cracks thinking that out of sight is out of mind.  You’ll be setting yourself far back by hiding increasing damage.

We repair hundreds of basement a year here in Toronto and some of the hardest, more so for the homeowner watching their drywall get stripped away, are basements that have already been finished.

First, The Symptoms

If you have spotted cracks in your foundation—or perhaps the water that has seeped in as a result—the first thing is to shore up the damage.  You may use caulking or other home-repair methods to take care of the crack itself.  Keep in mind, though, that sealing from the inside won’t be enough—in a minute we’ll discuss structural damage of which cracks are a symptom.  You will need to dig to access the outside of your basement wall or floor and seal from the outside—this is where an experienced waterproofing company comes in..

 

The Disease

It’s extremely important to realize that a crack in your basement is not some isolated event or happenstance.  It is a symptom of a larger disease.  There’s no way you can have a crack in your foundation without it being a sign of a larger problem.

 

Settled Foundation

Cracks are often caused by your foundation settling—or sinking—into the soil.  This is also referred to as floating, which means your foundation is actually moving around slightly with the soil, which is what causes cracking.  This might require piering of your foundation—definitely a job for a contractor—or might be remedied by adding rebar or fiber to the concrete to improve its strength.  The point is that merely filling a crack and then spending the money to finish your basement instead of fixing the settling does not make sense.  You have to fix the disease, not the symptom.

 

Drainage Problems

Horizontal cracks are likely caused by water drained from your roof.  The water from your downspouts may be directed too close to the ground surrounding your basement.  This pushes too much water into the ground, which then freezes.  In addition to fixing the actual cracks, then, consult an expert and make sure you have your gutters and downspouts working and aligned properly to not cause further cracking.

 

Bowed Foundation Walls

If the walls of your basement have been subjected to so much pressure that they are actually slightly caving in, or bowed, you have a larger problem.  This situation calls for a contractor to either do some piering referred to above or to use carbon fiber strips to properly support the wall.

 

Give your basement a good inspection before you start

The best thing you can do is thoroughly inspect your basement before a renovation.  If you have issues such as doors not closing properly, water seepage, or sloping floors, you almost certainly have a problem that must be fixed.  It will of course be extremely hard to fix an issue once you’ve finished the basement, so do yourself a huge favor and fix it first.

Have questions about cracks in your foundation?  Before you start your basement renovations, feel free to contact us for a free in-home inspection of your foundation.