Block Basements: Part Four

backhoe digging up leaking basement foundation.

We Excavate

In part 3 we looked at the different kinds of coatings and membranes that are used on block basements to correct dampness and outright water invasion. This week we look at what should happen when it comes time to dig up a basement and correct the problem. Actually, we are going to look at how a reputable contractor should begin. Over the years I have had numerous conversations with responsible foundation contractors and every conversation contains the comment about the lack of a permit for this type of work in the building code. The OBC steers clear of this issue and when you consider the cost along with the multiple numbers of “quick buck” contractors in the foundation repair and waterproofing business we are always amazed this has never been included.

The CBO for the individual municipality can mandate this requirement and some do. If you are at the stage where this type of work has been recommended for your basement, check with your municipality to see if they require a permit. This can be a very expensive repair job; you should do your homework, check references and talk to neighbours and friends who have had the same problem. Ask them who fixed their basement and were they satisfied. Responsible, reputable foundation contractors are few and far between and the good ones are usually booked weeks and months ahead.

The Pro’s have a recognized process and we are going to go through this step by step so you understand what should be done.  First, find out how many years of foundation repair experience this contractor has, something you should ask if you are contemplating digging up your block basement.  The first thing most contractors do is walk around the building, establish the grades and what they think may be the ground water issues. I was at a home some months ago that had a water issue in the basement. We had been called in to help the homeowner with the process of hiring a contractor. This experienced local contractor called, calmly described how a nearby ground water drainage pipe that was installed in the 50’s had plugged years ago, this is where experience counts. He knew where the water ponded in the yard before the owner could describe it. He then went to the basement and brought out his moisture meter, meticulously checking numerous spots on the wall for moisture. He takes his time explaining the issues to the client, what it will take to fix the problem and how much it will cost. I have seen contractors talk to a client for more than an hour explaining what has happened and why. I know two other contractors in this business that operate the same way, the Pro’s have a responsible dedicated method, they know this is going to be an expensive repair and want you to understand the process. With the advanced technology of thermal imaging cameras this also allows the pros to call in a TI Tech. This technology can be very helpful, especially when a basement is completely finished.

Once you have decided to “dig it up”, don’t expect the backhoe to arrive and start moving dirt the next day. Your contractor has some homework to do. His first call will be to the local utilities company to establish where the underground residential infrastructure is located. Everything is underground today in many cases. Your hydro, water, gas, and sewer lines must all be located. If there are overhead wires that could cause equipment issues the appropriate utility company should be advised and if necessary, have the lines temporarily moved. If your home is located in a high traffic area a traffic control plan should be established. Most reputable contractors have a strong working relationship with the municipality; they realize they must work together here. In some cases, they may be aware of an underground tank, and this must be attended to and removed first, especially if it is an abandoned oil or fuel tank. If the neighbours are close by most reputable contractors will contact them and advise them of pending work and the proposed schedule to help reduce any inconvenience. Preparation of the outside of the home is established, if you have a favorite tree, tell your contractor so they are extra careful. Equipment like your air conditioner will have to be moved by a reputable TSSA contractor, steps and decks can sometimes be moved and replaced, others may need to be demolished. Your contractor should establish all of this before a shovel hits the ground. I have seen a form that some contractors use called an Excavation Assessment and Procedures list.  It covers everything from safety, traffic control, and local hazards to necessary equipment that will be needed on site. Most good contractors operate with similar job site records.



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