Understanding Block Foundations
At the base of every building is a foundation, and that foundation is, well, foundational to the home’s stability. How much do you know about yours? If your foundation is made of hollow concrete blocks, it’s a block foundation. Block foundations utilize a simple design of blocks stacked on top of the foundation footing, joined with mortar, with rebar inside to strengthen the walls. The thickness of the footing must be as thick as the blocks are wide and the width must be three times that of the blocks. This creates a sturdy foundation that can support a lot of weight, but that doesn’t mean that block foundations are invincible. Like any foundation, a block foundation has strengths and weaknesses. Let’s dive a little deeper into the topic of block foundations.
While blocks have been used for construction for centuries, it wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th century that they came into fashion for American housing. The house in the United States made entirely of concrete blocks was built in Staten Island, New York, in 1837. By the century’s end, Harmon S. Palmer patented the first hollow concrete block, which led to the development of blocks made from gravel and sand. Light and easy to store, yet able to carry enormous loads, these blocks quickly gained popularity.
Today, they’re primarily used to build foundation walls. Their load-bearing capacity is larger than the capacity of poured concrete, so they make for sturdy foundations. Additionally, concrete block walls are easy to construct. For an experienced crew, they can be built very quickly, and the only tools required are shovels, a mortar mixer, trowels, and levels. Putting in a concrete block foundation is an excellent way to begin construction cheaply and efficiently, leaving room in the budget for other elements of construction.
Those are the pros, but like anything else, block foundations also have some cons. They sometimes bow and buckle, requiring repair. What’s more, harsh weather can wear the mortar off concrete block walls and degrade the construction. Weather, however, isn’t the only issue that can damage block foundations.
- Hydrostatic pressure is the biggest difficulty for basement walls. Because block foundations are surrounded by soil, whatever affects the soil will have an impact on your basement. Hydrostatic pressure happens when water builds up in the ground around your foundation. It could be from rain or snow, or it could be from poor drainage in your yard or a leak in your underground plumbing. Whatever the cause of the excess water, it begins to exert pressure as it seeps below the soil. This pressure can cause the foundation walls to bow outward and crack, which allows moisture into your basement, setting off a chain of unpleasantness that will need repair and restoration.
- Settlement is another major issue. Would you believe that this has to do with water as well? Settlement happens when the soil is too wet or too dry, or the soil compaction is not firm enough. In soil that’s too wet, the foundation can sink like a boot in wet mud. In times of drought, the soil can shrink and crack, becoming unsupportive. Finally, poorly compacted soil will be weak, allowing the foundation to sink.
- There are ways to protect your foundation from damage.
- Basement waterproofing uses different solutions to solve foundation problems. Wall anchors can be inserted to straighten bowing walls, dehumidifiers can be employed to remove excess moisture, interior drainage systems and sump pumps can keep moisture away from the foundation. An exterior drainage system may also be recommended, to direct water away from your foundation. These measures can all protect against hydrostatic pressure.
- Settlement can be counteracted with pier systems. To stabilize your foundation, long, galvanized steel rods are inserted below the ground into soil that can handle the load of your foundation. Bedrock is a good example because it’s unaffected by moisture problems. These piers will then be used to push any uneven parts of the foundation back where they belong, closing cracks and shoring up your house. Because the piers are underground, there’s very little disruption to your yard and landscaping.
Whether you need help restoring a damaged foundation, proactively protecting a foundation against damage, or keeping your basement clean and dry, Budget Waterproofing can help. In addition to waterproofing, mold remediation, mold cleaning, and crawl space encapsulation, we provide foundation repair, going beyond patching cracks to find the source of the problem. At Budget Waterproofing, we’ve got more than 55 years of experience servicing both commercial and residential customers throughout Maryland. We’re proud of our craftsmanship and confident in our skills, and all our technicians are fully licensed and insured. We also hold an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau of Maryland and serve as a member of the Maryland Multi-Housing Association. Whether you need foundation repair, basement waterproofing, a drainage system, crawl space waterproofing, or egress window installation, we’ve got you covered, with the experience and skills necessary to improve your basement and protect your family. For more information, please contact us today at (410) 609-1240.