“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford
Newer is not always better. Gingerbread styling, huge wood burning fireplaces, high ceilings with beautiful wood supports, the list of reasons you fell in love with your century home is endless. Yet when it comes to your foundation, are there new materials and techniques that can bring it into the modern age (while still keeping its century home look)? Oddly enough, today’s new foundation waterproofing techniques and materials can sometimes be more damaging than beneficial. Hiring a contractor experienced in structural foundation repair and rebuilds is the difference between solving the issue once and for all and reopening the chapter again in a few years. Generally speaking, you only get one chance at repairing these types of deficiencies, so it is absolutely imperative you choose the correct direction and repair technique at the onset of the project
A QUICK HISTORY LESSON
Fieldstone foundations are just that; foundations made from stones gathered in the fields, at one point usually surrounding the home itself. The builder of the home, which may have been the original farmer himself, would have dug the hole for the foundations by hand. Initially, he tried to dig the dirt forms nice and straight, but they kept falling in on him. So, he decided to dig them on an angle. This will come back to haunt him later. Next, he begins laying the stones at the bottom of his foundation. At the turn of the century mortar mix was expensive. Often, these older foundations were constructed entirely of clay soil; lacking any kind or footing or base. As time goes on, he begins to notice that every time it rains water penetrates the basement. This is because he dug those walls on an angle. Now he has loose soil outside the walls of his foundation: with the original hard packed soil sloped like a swimming pool: directly towards and into his basement. As the water enters through the soil in between the stones, it brings the clay and sediment with it.
Crops come in, livestock is sold and he can now afford to either replace the clay in between the stones with proper mortar or cover over the wall with concrete mix and pour himself a concrete floor. Time goes by and eventually water from the exterior begins to degrade the concrete and/or the mortar in between the stones, causing mud to enter through the stones yet again. He pours a concrete ledge all around the bottom of the wall to prevent the mud from coming through. Fast forward a century or so and find yourself standing in your basement with your Crocs and socks on; (no one’s looking, we won’t tell)! Water is still coming up through the floor and the concrete parging is steadily falling off the interior of the fieldstone walls.
THAT’S WHERE WE COME IN
Natural Hydraulic Lime or NHL
We’ve done hundreds of century home restorations through over the decades. Our founder, John MacRae, lives in a century home himself. There are several approaches to solving your problem, from historical restoration (using only stone found on site and natural hydraulic lime mortar as opposed to modern day Portland mixes), to full envelope waterproofing details using the latest techniques and materials. Natural hydraulic lime mortar, or N.H.L as it’s referred to in the trade, is used not just to match existing mortar (for a historically accurate restoration), but also for its elastic properties. If areas of the mortar need to be replaced on the interior basement walls and the foundation has either a weak footing or no footing at all, N.H.L is used. Even after 100 years, the wall may shift a little whereby N.H.L will accommodate this. Modern Portland mixes are very hard and unforgiving which can cause the fieldstone or the rubble blocks in between the mortar to crack and disintegrate. Using the wrong materials (leading to improperly tuck pointed walls), can cause the structural integrity of the foundation to fail in 10 years (instead of lasting another 100+).
If the wall requires the installation of a footing or is already on a solid footing than Portland can be used on the exterior of the wall in conjunction with modern waterproofing methods. By making sure that no water is entering from the exterior, we can now begin work on the interior.
How the interior is finished depends on your future vision of the space. If you’re content with the basement being a little bit musty, then tidying up the walls by repairing the mortar joints and ensuring that there is no water coming up through the floor is the most prudent course of action. If you’re looking to make the basement more useful and you want to eliminate the majority of that musty smell, then a whole different approach is taken.
WHAT IS MASONRY WHITE WASHING?
White washing is a cement based coating used to seal the interior foundation walls while actually brightening the ambiance of the basement. Another benefit to whitewashing is that it preserves the mortar allowing the fieldstone foundation to last even longer. Many masons, historians and foundation repair companies go back and forth about white washing. Our founder John MacRae isn’t a fan while his son Gavin is more open to the process; both live in century homes. Talking with other foundation repair specialists as well as other masons and suppliers, fieldstone foundations that have had white washing applied tend to need much less work over time. Combine whitewashing with the right drainage system coupled with a sealed basement floor, and you can leave the Crocs upstairs and just go with socks! You can eliminate a large percentage of the musty smell associated with field stone foundations and bring the basement into the 21st century!
WHERE OLD MEETS NEW
Living in a century home is not for the faint of heart. A little knowledge goes a long way to achieving peace of mind. The use of older technologies and building materials is not always a bad thing, it’s knowing when to go old-school and when to mix the old with the new. There is a reason your old home is still standing – it was built to last. With the right care, materials and techniques your century home can stand indefinitely.
Underpinning a Century Home
Complete underpinning detail with combined structural I-BEAM replacement and installation within a heritage structure in west-end Toronto.
Interior Weeping Tile System Installation
The complete installation of a 4″ interior weeping tile system combined with a sump box and sump pump.
Sump Pump Installation
1/3hp cast iron oil-cooled sump basin and pump installation with a 12VDC battery-backup system (with combined current alarm).
Garage Floor Installation
Installation of a fresh concrete garage floor at 32MPA with exterior expansion joint integration at a dimension of approximately 30ft x 25ft.
Addition vs Underpinning?
What is the difference between building an addition vs underpinning? Why is underpinning more advantageous?
So, What’s Next?
Step One To Three. When we say The Arc, we are talking not only about the company or the team. We are talking about our wonderful customers. We would never find motivation and the strength to do our job without all of them. We are proud of our clients.
Observe and Document
Observe and identify the foundation leak or structural deficiency and document.
The moment a foundation issue is detected, narrow down the area in your basement right away. Feel free to move any furniture, couches or carpet that are in the way to allow us to make evaluation process easier. On the exterior of foundation wall, take note of your existing grade, shrubbery, trees, water taps or any variable that may be contributing to the leak. Remember, don’t forget to check your eavestroughs!
Submit A Request Online
Complete our Request form here, and include as many photos and details as you can.
If you prefer to contact us online through email, please click here. We can help guide you through the most common foundation culprits to help save you time and money, and help you avoid the pitfalls of misdiagnosis or faulty repairs. If the issue is structural in nature, ask us about our engineering options. We offer free estimates, and we can help you make the best choice to stay high and dry for years to come
Call Us at (905) 824 2557
Or you can call us directly! Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 8AM – 5PM
If you would prefer to call us directly, we are available between Monday and Friday 8AM – 5PM. Let us guide you through the most common foundation culprits to help you avoid the pitfalls of misdiagnosis or faulty repairs. If the issue is structural in nature, ask us about our engineering options. We offer free estimates, and can guide you over the phone to help you make the best choice to stay high and dry.