In so far as concrete foundation repair relates to your home's energy expenses, this section will cover ways to troubleshoot and repair foundation issues. However, this is not a foundation repair website, and I will only address issues that can be tackled relatively easily (fix-it-yourself with help), and have a measurable impact on energy use.
Here are some of the symptoms you might experience with home foundations: wet and damp basements, wet or damp foundation walls, discolored walls, leaking foundation cracks, and non-leaking foundation cracks. Cracks include hairline cracks, open cracks and leaking cracks.
Most of the symptoms that spark concrete foundation repair are usually caused by one of more of these causes: concrete expansion or contraction, movement or settlement, moisture and leakage due to cracks and faulty drainage systems. Troubleshooting drainage systems or structural cracks (such as settlement) is beyond the scope of this page, and most likely, requires professional inspection. Fortunately, the majority of foundation problems have to do with cracks that are fixable.
How to Repair Foundation Cracks
The conrete foundation repairs suggested below will work with both poured concrete foundations and masonry (concrete or cinder block) foundations. The ultimate energy goal in concrete foundation repair is to improve the structural integrity and longevity of your foundation, and increase its insulation value, which in turn, will add comfort and save money. When repairing any cracks, remember to always PLAY IT SAFE - wear goggles and gloves, and even a face mask if the cleaning process involves a lot of airborne dust.
Patching Hairline Cracks
A hairline or open crack is usually not serious if it is less than 1/8 inch wide. To repair it, you first have to clean the surface by using a stiff wire or fiber brush, and removing any particles and dirt. Purchase a latex concrete patch and a bonding agent if the patch requires it. Apply the bonding agent to the crack.
Next, prepare the patching compound to a thin enough consistency that it can be worked into the crack with a putty knife. Start at one end of the crack and fill it in with the putty knife using the tip to press in the compound. Scrape off the excess compound and smooth it flush with the wall. Allow the compound to cure for the required time. TO help the curing process, mist the crack with water as the compound lightens, and tape plastic over it till it is completely cured.
Patching Open Cracks
First, prepare the surface by cleaning it. This involves using a chisel and a hammer to loosen the crumbling concrete off the edges of the crack. If you see any rebar (reinforcing bar), chisel out about an inch behind it. Then proceed to make the crack about 1/4 inch wide and 1/2 deep, and tapering it toward the bottom (shaping the crack into a V). Use a stiff brush to remove all particles.
Purchase a latex concrete patch and a bonding agent if the patch requires it. Wet the cfack,it the patch compound requires it. Apply the bonding agent to the crack with a paint brush - an old one will do, since you probably won't be able to use it again. Once the bond is set, start using the patch compound - mix it to a thick consistency so that it stays in place, and start applying it with a pointing trowel. Fill the crack from the bottom upward. As you finish working to the top, use the back of the trowel and draw it downward to smooth the compound flush along the wall. Let the patch cure for the required time, misting it with water when it lightens at the edges. Again, keep plastic taped over the crack till it is cured.
Patching Leaking Cracks
For Leaky cracks, follow the same procedure as with the open cracks for preparing the surface, making it 3/4 inch wide and deep. Clean the surface and remove all debris. But to plug the leak, purchase hydraulic cement, and use a putty knife or your hand (gloved), to pack in the cement into a section at a time, starting with the driest part of the crack first. Continue packing the cement till you get to the heaviest part of the leak, without filling it. Work back to it from the other end of the crack packing in the cement. Now, for the leak itself, take a glob of the cement in your hand, mold it into a cone, and plug the crack with it, holding it in place for about 3 minutes, or until it sets. You can then scrape off the excess with a putty knife.
Bottom line: clean, seal, and plug. Consider it the concrete foundation repair mantra...
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