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Step-by-step approach for footing & waterproofing


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By Junior in Greensboro, NC on 6/21/2010


We are in the planning process for an ICF house with a walkout basement. After talking to a couple of contractors about waterproofing they kind of dismiss it as there's nothing to it. I don't agree and I've seen a house built with two times the waterproofing needed... after six months it started to get water through the block.

Our house is going to be ICF and I'm leaning toward buildblock.com. I'm going to do as much as possible on my own. I laid out, dug, and poured a footing for my last house, so I'm not totally new to the idea of construction. With a basement I have too much to lose to not get it right the first time.

I need help and ideas on a step-by-step process for the footing, basement slab, drainage, etc.

For example:
1. Grade the downslope lot for the construction area.
2. Form the footing. Do I sink part of the footing into the ground and form only the top part, or do I form the complete footing? What depth of gravel do I need under the basement floor along with insulation? Does the waterproofing sit on top of the footing or beside it?

I see drawings all the time, but still need an attack plan, you might say.

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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 6/22/2010


I have seen plenty of houses with water problems, and they are plenty expensive to fix.

Here is how I would might do it today. I would use a fabric form for the footings; this way I would only need 2x4 lumber for the footers. I would install a PVC water stop between the footers and the ICF wall. This is commonly used in commercial construction, but I have never seen it in residential construction besides my house. I would order my fabric forms in a large-enough size that would leave me enough fabric to fold over the top of the footer and install a top quality peel-and-stick membrane (such as W.R. Grace) in a manner to tape it over the fabric form. This would form a continuous waterproofing and water-shedding membrane into my footing tile drains. I would install Schedule 20 PVC perforated sewer-pipe footing tile drains properly (at the level of the footers, not on top of the footers, and on a bed of crushed stone) and drain them to daylight. I might consider Certainteed form-a-drain instead of the 2x4 forming lumber, but I would have to run a cost comparison between that and the cost of form-a-drain vs. the Schedule 20 PVC, understanding that once I strip the lumber, it would be reused elsewhere in the construction project. I might also consider the use of geosynthetics to keep any fines out of my crushed-stone bed.

What I did was somewhat different, and considerably less overkill. I used the PVC water stop. Beyond that I used a trowel-on type rubberized waterproofing, Schedule 20 perforated PVC pipe in a bed of crushed stone draining to daylight, and enough crushed stone backfill to have a nice amount of drainage down the wall. When I installed the perforated drain pipes, I included some cleanouts that come up to grade level. Basically, a plumber can throw a snake down these to clean them out or remove any clogs (ability to clean meant I wasn't quite so worried about fines clogging them up, thus saving me some geosynthetic fabric cost). I have enough overhang that the ground adjacent to my house remains dry, and I have adequate at-grade slope to keep the water running away from the house. My gutter downspouts all drain well enough away that I don't have issues.

As it is, I can't get grass to grow within two feet of the house, and the landscape beds next to the house need supplemental watering to grow drought-resistant plants. My basement stays dry, and it should well into the future. Big overhangs and good drainage solve a lot of water problems; the combination of waterproofing and allowing water a pathway away from the foundation is relatively cheap insurance.


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By Junior in Greensboro, NC on 7/19/2010


I had a chance to look at Form-A-Drain, and the contractors crushed the inside of the drain. The homeowner ask if it was going to be replaced, and the contractor said no, there was no need to replace it on the inside of the house with a basement slab. What are your thoughts on this?

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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 7/20/2010


What is the purpose of a drain inside the footers? Why would you have water inside the footers? I had one area that was always wet, yet never had any standing water, and there I installed drain material. But otherwise I shouldn't ever have water inside the footers. Also note here why I don't like sump pumps; ummm, let's bring water from my footing tile drains from outside to inside the house, just so I can pump it outside again just beyond my wall so it can drain down to my footing tile drains again, thus starting this pattern all over again. Just doesn't seem logical (water outside should not be brought inside) and adds several additional failure points to the system (sump pumps wear out, power failure). My system is completely passive in operation.

I have seen what appear to be drains inside the slab, but this is for venting radon gas (they tie together and vent the radon gas through the roof).


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By Mary in PA on 7/26/2010


Kenneth,

I've been interested in this post since I first read it. I have a few follow-up questions, if you don't mind.

You said: "... I would install a PVC water stop between the footers and the ICF wall. This is commonly used in commercial construction, but I have never seen it in residential construction besides my house."

What is PVC water stop? Is that a paint-on coating?

You said: "... I would order my fabric forms in a large-enough size that would leave me enough fabric to fold over the top of the footer and install a top quality peel-and-stick membrane (such as W.R. Grace) in a manner to tape it over the fabric form. This would form a continuous waterproofing and water-shedding membrane into my footing tile drains."

With a layer of fabric form and then the membrane, are you at all concerned about problems setting an ICF wall on that? I mean, is there supposed to be a concrete to concrete connection?

I saw a video of a guy who used a fabric-form footer, and then stacked his ICFs directly on that and brought (attached) the fabric up the sides of the ICF. He did ONE POUR for the footer and wall. Quite handy if you're only going as high as the basement with ICF. I doubt we'll do ICF due to our budget, but I am interested in the fabric form and getting very-good water drainage away from the house.

You said: "... I would install Schedule 20 PVC perforated sewer-pipe footing tile drains properly (at the level of the footers, not on top of the footers, and on a bed of crushed stone) and drain them to daylight."

In our area, it seems that the footers are made by digging a trench in the ground and pouring concrete directly into the trench. Such an arrangement makes getting drainage below the footing all but impossible. I could see the fabric form serving a real purpose to solve the problem... if I can find a contractor willing to try it. It is not supplied or used anywhere locally.

Thanks,
Mary


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 7/27/2010


The PVC waterstop gets embedded into the concrete footer; when you pour your concrete wall on top of the footer, it provides a waterproof barrier in the cold joint. Perhaps the detail illustrates this better (a picture is worth a thousand words and all). You can get these from commercial construction suppliers (I purchased mine from Carter-Waters).

As to the fabric forms, the flap should be long enough so that it partially runs up the outside of the ICF, and the the W.R. Grace (or other peel-and-stick waterproof membrane) membrane that you are using to waterproof the ICF actually tapes over the fabric forms. The way you describe the video is what I am trying to explain (the fabric form is folded up the outside of the ICF wall). Someone once told me to think about waterproofing the way you dress in a rainstorm. From the bottom up; the pants cuffs go outside the boots, the rain slicker goes outside the pants, the hood drains outside the rain slicker; basically water has a path to run from top to bottom without getting the person wet. In a rainstorm you don't want to tuck your pants into your boots, your rain slicker into your pant waistband, etc. Same concept for waterproofing flashing and membrane on your house.

Note that in the construction detail for the waterstop that a barrier is installed in the cold joint between the footer and the concrete wall - this is called a capillary water break, and I don't like this installation one bit!!! To read more about the function of a capillary water break, go over to buildingscience.com (here is a direct link). Again they show a detail (figure 1) with the capillary water break installed between the footer and the concrete wall, and I still don't like this installation. With the fabric form, you get the capillary water break under and up the sides of the footer, and thus no compromise of the cold joint between the footer and the wall.

I thought about pouring my footers and walls at the same time; it saves a trip from the concrete pumper (concrete pump trucks are $$$) and eliminates a cold joint in the wall. However ICF can compact and/or float on you, and I had never poured ICF before, hence I thought having nice level footers to start with gave me a running start on a successful ICF installation. I ended up subcontracting the ICF, but my ICF subcontractor preferred discreet steps here as well.

And lastly your footers. This is not an uncommon technique to pour footers in residential construction. Not necessarily proper, but not uncommon (think about capillary water in the footer with this technique; waterproofing is only addressing one aspect of water intrusion). Sure makes installing a footing tile drain properly impossible. My excavation was level; from there I formed the footers. This also allowed me plenty of room for a nice crushed-stone base for the slab. As a side benefit, my plumber also appreciated that he didn't have to dig for where his underslab DWV went.

I would use the dealer finder on the Fab-Form website to find a local dealer. On my build, I certainly had to order plenty of material that wasn't available locally. Once these subcontractors used it though, it became available locally pretty quickly as many of them adopted these techniques on future builds. Your footing subcontractor may well appreciate having a competitive edge to set them apart from their competition (and the value of a dry basement is something many general contractors will appreciate). And your excavation subcontractor will appreciate the ease of a level excavation over digging the perimeter trenches.

To me, the most important thing here is keeping the water away from the footers to start with; proper drainage away from the house, routing your downspouts well away from the perimeter of the house, routing your sump pump discharge well away from your house (typical here is that this is routed about 2" outside you foundation wall, thus causing its own problem), big overhangs are a bonus. The waterproofing is your last line of defense, not your first.


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By Alex in Falls Church, VA on 1/30/2019


Basement waterproofing can lead to many problems due to insufficient or poor waterproofing. Seepage can cause extensive damages if it is not addressed properly. Sometimes you will try to apply a coat or any other product in the basement when the actual problem comes from the outer walls. Let's see how to waterproof a basement.

1- Dig Around : To protect your basement from water, you will need to dig all the outer perimeter of the basement all the way down to the base of the foundation. Having the right product applied over the walls will be key to having a successful waterproofed basement. 

Drainage tiles, gravel or crushed stone drains, perforated pipe or other approved systems or materials shall be installed at or below the area to be protected and shall discharge by gravity or mechanical means into an approved drainage system.

2- Check for Cracks : With the excavation completed, clean the wall and check for any cracks or areas causing the water to seep in. If you have detected these issues, apply a coat of hydraulic cement to the walls to stop the leakage. Hydraulic cement will expand as it is curing and with its chemical properties, it will fill in the cracks and voids reducing the probability of leakage.

3- Apply Sealant : Apply a coat of cement based sealant to all exterior walls. Cement based sealants are easy to apply and can be used over concrete and masonry surfaces. This type of sealant will harden and will close the concrete pores.

In case a hairline crack was not fixed in the previous step with hydraulic cement, it will be covered in this procedure.

4- Apply a Membrane : Install a waterproofing membrane.  A heavy coat of the membrane, an asphalt-modified polyurethane material, can be troweled or sprayed on to seal the foundation wall against water from the outside. Elastomeric membranes are made of modified asphalt and exhibit great waterproofing characteristics.

One of the most important benefits of elastomeric membranes is that they can flex and move to accommodate when new cracks occur. Be sure to use a waterproofing product instead of a damp-proofer product that is likely to fail.

5- Install Drainage Mat : Install a drainage mat with molded dimples. The material used needs to create air gaps between the wall and itself so that moisture can travel to the drain structure.

The drainage mat should be cut to the exact depth of the foundation. It can also help ease lateral pressure against the foundation.

6- Complete the French Drain : Install the French drain or weeping tile. The pipe, 4” could be used, must be installed at the base of the footing weeping the water level below the basement floor. It is a good practice to install cleanouts, to provide easy to access for maintenance purposes.Bafill with gravell and complete your French drain installation. Gravel should be 18? from grade for earth areas, and 4? from grade where cement will be poured.

7- What to Avoid Doing : The following should be avoided when waterproofing a basement:

  • Do not use tar. Tar will become very brittle and will crack eventually.
  • Do not use plastic to waterproof your basement walls. The plastic-like material will peel, and water/moisture will make its way in.
  • Don' use limestone to backfill. Limestone will reduce drainage capabilities and could clog all drainage structures. Use gravel instead.

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