Cracking down on a common household problem

Home repairs can be stressful, especially if you’re given different advice from a number of different contractors.

That was what Colleen Reed dealt with when she decided to get the cracks in her foundation repaired.

This summer, Reed went into her basement and noticed a few large pools of water on the ground. She realized the water was coming in through a few vertical cracks in her basement walls.

Reed did her research and had five different contractors come in to assess the cracks. Three of the contractors told her to fill the cracks from the inside, one suggested installing a sump pump and the last suggested fixing the cracks from the outside of the house.

“I thought, ‘what do you do? I’ve got from one extreme to the other.’ Usually you can make a judgement decision but, this was just too wide of a gap,” said Reed.

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Those in the industry say the reason Reed was getting so many different opinions is because the industry is not regulated.

“Somebody who is fixing your roofing (can) say ‘oh, i’ll fix your foundation.’ That’s probably not the best idea. They should be certified. They should have a certain set of rules, standards, everything else, just like home inspectors or carpenters,” said Wes Sutherland of Lety Construction.

Lety Construction fixes cracks by sealing them from the inside of the house.

“We inject most of them with a flexible resin. It’s a product that goes right from the inside all the way to the outside, and that is the key whenever you’re doing an inside repair, you have to make sure you get to the outside, because that’s where the water is,” said Sutherland.

He says because of Alberta’s environment, and all of the freeze-thaw cycles we receive, cracks are inevitable.

“We work on everything from 100 year old homes to homes that are three months old. They all crack, it’s just the nature of concrete.”

Other companies, like Abalon Construction, choose to do the job from the exterior. Randy Bilyk, who works for the company, says that way they can look at drainage issues that may need to be fixed first.

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“If you allow water to get to that crack through poor drainage or down spouts not down, the freezing and thawing that occurs through our winters, soil movement, will widen those cracks,” explained Bilyk.

While it is more expensive, Bilyk believes it is a more permanent, long-term solution.

“Interior repair, we find, is strictly a quick band-aid solution. It will buy you some time but, ultimately it needs to be repaired from the exterior,” said Bilyk.

Structural engineers say as long as the cracks are small, don’t show distress in the wall, and are either diagonal or vertical, you can live with them. The cracks just need to be filled to lockout moisture.

“If you have a horizontal crack, that’s serious, it means your foundation wall has failed,” said structural engineer, Omar El Zein.

He says in that case, your foundation would need to be braced or redone completely.

Because the cracks in Reed’s walls were vertical and rather small, she opted for the less expensive, internal repair.

“I just didn’t want this problem to happen in the spring,” said Reed.

Whether contractors choose to repair cracks from the inside or outside, they all seem to have similar advice for consumers.

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“Our advice is to get somebody that’s established in the industry,” said Bilyk.

“Talk to at least three contractors, ask questions,” added Sutherland.

They recommend consumers also ask contractors for references, and if they are unable to provide them that could be a red flag.

With files from Julie Matthews. 


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