Do You Need to Repair Foundation Cracks in Your Virginia Basement?

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

Foundation cracks present a problem in your Virginia basement, and smart homeowners look after repairs before finishing the basement. Avoid water problems and protect your home by handling cracks from the interior and exterior of your home.

What Causes Cracks in Your Basement?

Cracking is almost inevitable, as shifting soil, water and age take a toll on your concrete foundation. So how do Virginia homeowners know what to do about this issue? And what should be done before you finish the basement?

Hydrostatic pressure is the leading cause of cracks in the basement floor and foundation walls. Pressure from the outside and natural movements of the soil around your foundation cause the concrete to crack and split. Rainwater, groundwater and run off collect around the foundation and apply pressure to the walls. Settling soil and frost movements create even more pressure, often resulting in cracks.

You may notice more cracking in the spring, but this movement and pressure occur all year round. Watch for signs of dampness in the basement and inspect your foundation walls and floor carefully before planning a basement renovation.

Do Small Cracks Cause Problems?

Thin, hairline cracks may not seem threatening, but movement and additional hydrostatic pressure widen cracks and allow for the passage of moisture. Water in the basement creates a myriad of problems today and into the future. You must repair the cracking before closing up the wall and installing flooring.

Small cracks create a point of weakness. If left unrepaired, these thin cracks will open up with additional hydrostatic pressure. You may not notice water seeping in at the moment, but unless you invest in measures to repair cracks, moisture damage could destroy your finished Virginia basement in a short period of time.

What to Do About Foundation Cracks

Incorporate foundation repairs into the budget. Depending on the scale of the problem, the following common repairs could play into your project:

  • Drainage Repairs – landscaping, grading and other processes help to redirect water away from the foundation, resulting in less hydrostatic pressure
  • Waterproof Membranes – installed on the outside of your foundation, these membranes provide a protective coating that seals existing cracks and helps to minimize the risk of future cracking
  • Piering – an excavation process that results in greater levels of support for your foundation, and especially important in newer subdivisions and areas with a high concentration of backfill
  • Steel Bracing – installed inside the basement to help minimize movement, often used in older properties with limited access to the exterior foundation walls
  • Wall Sealers – applied to the inside of your foundation wall, these paint-like products help to prevent moisture movement
  • Crack Sealers – direct application into the existing cracks works well for wider foundation cracking, most often a silicone product or hydraulic cement

Continue with the plans to finish your basement once these cracks have been addressed and drainage improved in your yard. You cannot guarantee against foundation cracking in the future, but with the right systems in place your Virginia basement will be much more comfortable.

Top Five Tips on Keeping Your Virginia Basement Dry

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

Does your basement have a musty smell? Have you noticed water stains or moisture in your Virginia basement? Homeowners need to tackle these problems before finishing a basement. And if water problems show up in your finished basement area, quick, decisive action limits damages and expenses.

Follow these top five tips on keeping your basement dry.

Tip # 1 – Check Your Grading

Many basement water problems stem from grading issues. Rain water and melted snow should run away from the foundation, otherwise this water will find a way into your basement and wreak havoc. Take a walk around your home and look closely at the landscape around the foundation. Does it slope inward? Is it flat?

A proper slope grades away from the house at a gentle angle and can often be supplemented with gravel or other aggregates the improve drainage. Make sure that driveways and patios are installed on a slight slope as well, directing water away from the house.

Tip # 2 – Consider Sealing the Concrete

Ideally done in the preliminary stages of a Virginia basement renovation, applying concrete sealer is a simple process. Most quality products are affordable and go on like a paint. Sealers do not stand up to water pressure, but will keep away moisture and condensation that naturally seeps through porous concrete.

Some products are installed on the outer wall of a concrete foundation. If this makes more sense than ripping down existing walls to apply a concrete sealer indoors, opt for a rubber membrane that will cover the cracks and deterioration found in most foundations.

Tip # 3 – Install Longer Drainpipes

Improperly sized drainpipes or inadequate gutters often result in water in the basement, especially when combined with poor grading. Check that your downspouts extend at least 10 feet from the foundation, sloping downward and into a swale or drywell.

If you do not have gutters, consider installing a drainage system for surface water coming off the roof. Use a plastic liner buried a few inches into the ground, covered in gravel and extending at least 8 feet from the foundation.

Some homeowners opt to install rain barrels at the end of their drainpipes. Be sure that these barrels are emptied on a regular basis, to prevent overflow.

Tip # 4 – Repair and Seal Windows

Windows present an easy entrance for water. Inspect the sill and frame for cracks and gaps. Often a high quality caulking can repair these issues, but you may want to have your Virginia contractor install new windows. This project can also improve energy efficiency and create a more comfortable basement living area.

If the windows are aged, cracked or warped, replacement is the best option. Repairs with sealants should work for windows in decent shape, and help you to avoid potential basement water problems.

Tip # 5 – Invest in a Dehumidifier

As much as you do to prevent water from entering your basement, it will inevitably find a way in. Invest in a reliable dehumidifier to reduce moisture and lessen the chance of mold and mildew growth. You may only use this equipment during hot weather or when you detect a musty odor, but it acts as an indispensable tool against water damage in your Virginia basement.

Tips on Using Built Ins When Finishing Your Virginia Basement

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

Think of your basement as a blank slate.

Many homeowners include built ins on their wish list for a beautiful finished basement. Made from solid wood or less expensive MDF, built ins help to make your Virginia basement more functional, attractive and tidy. How can the average homeowner working with a limited budget include these gorgeous elements in their basement renovation? It may be more attainable than you think.

Decide on the Scope

Not all built ins are created equal, and what may look like a custom built cabinet or bookshelf could actually be factory-made furniture dressed up a little. Even true built ins can de done for an affordable price when designed with the proper scope.

Consider the overall design of your basement, and think about how your built in bar, bookshelf, entertainment unit, mantel or home office fits into that design. Built ins should not overshadow a space, but rather complement and enhance that area. Unless your finished basement includes massive open spaces, design your built in to be on the smaller side, fitting nicely into the room’s shape.

Decide on the Materials

Built ins can be made from solid wood, but this traditional building material can significantly boosts costs. Look at less expensive wood (pine over oak, for example) and manufactured wood products to save cash.

Many custom Virginia basement contractors use MDF for the frame and structure, installing wood trim and other solid wood elements only where necessary. When the entire piece is hand-painted for a durable, attractive finish, you aren’t likely to notice any difference.

Solid wood is better in some cases, for longevity and strength (such as with a built in bar) or stability (in a bookshelf). But your contractor should be able to recommend alternative materials that will help to reduce overall costs.

Decide on the Features

Basement built ins can include many features, including:

  • Gas Fireplaces – mantels and built in entertainment units often incorporate natural gas fireplaces and require the expertise of a gas fitter.
  • Bar Fridges – a popular addition to basement bars and kitchenettes, a bar fridge requires plumbing and electrical work.
  • TVs and Stereo Equipment – flatscreen TVs and all levels of stereo equipment can be contained in a tidy built in, designed to keep your finished basement clutter-free.

Your basement built ins may include other features more in tune with your lifestyle. The biggest advantage to built ins is a sleek appearance – so any feature needs to fit seamlessly, with all electrical and mechanical wiring, plumbing and other lines incorporated and protected.

This often requires the expertise of a trained professional. Built ins are not generally a DIY project, and require an extensive amount of finishing work. Incorporating function and features takes this project a step further, meaning you need to bring in those who can handle the job.

Including built ins throughout your new Virginia basement helps to elevate the look and feel of this space. Make your renovation dollar go further by investigating built ins. Once you’ve decided on the scope, materials and features, costing and planning for the project are simple.

Creating A Rec Room in Your Virginia Basement

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

basement_14_jpgYour basement has sat alone for years, like the little kid that no one wanted to play with.  Your northern Virginia basement wept, his tears of moisture causing some water damage and making him smell like mold and mildew.  Finally, the day has come that you want to include him as a major player for your home team:  you need a recreation room for the kids and significant other.  While it may look like you’ve got an impossible job of making the scrawny sad Virginia basement into a beautiful enjoyable area, you’d be surprised how little effort it takes. Read more…