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Basement leak? Your ultimate guide to waterproofing the issue

Basement water leaks are common this time of year, according to the experts at City Wide Group. That’s why we turned to the experts, including RCC Waterproofing to guide us through the reasons why this happens. G J MacRae Foundation Repair offers a superior solution to the problem: basement waterproofing. They walked us through the process and even share cost estimates for the project!

Walking into your basement to find water seeping in through foundation cracks isn’t fun. That’s why we went to the experts to ask about how to prevent it. Here’s a high-level overview of what you need to know!

Why do basement leaks happen in the spring?

City Wide Group: Once the winter season is over and temperatures move from minus to the plus (and often back and forth), there’s a surplus of melting snow. “It can’t really drain away or naturally permeate into the ground,” says Chris Cavan, President of City Wide Group. Instead, it collects around homes that are not waterproofed. “Water finds its way through these cracks once everything does melt,” he says, adding if a home has inadequate or no weeping tiles at all, the water has nowhere to go but the basement.

“Also, over wintertime, a lot of tree branches and small branches fall into the house’s eavestroughs,” says Cavan. As the debris collects, it hinders proper drainage around the house, which results in more water around the perimeter of the foundation, thus causing a basement leak.

RCC Waterproofing: This timing is directly related to the factors that cause a foundation to deteriorate, including the salt that homeowners use to melt down ice on the driveway or walkways, as well as frost since it puts pressure on the foundation. Tony Romanelli of RCC Waterproofing gets what he calls “panic calls” during the spring season.

G J MacRae Foundation Repair: John MacRae, owner of G J MacRae Foundation Repair, says once the warmer weather arrives and snow starts melting, it’s common for the ground to get saturated. “The last couple of years when we’ve gone into spring, the ground from the winter before make it so incredibly frozen,” he explains. “When the rain comes, everything is still frozen and water can’t get out, so it pools up against the foundation.” Water will find its way into any little void or crack in the foundation, says MacRae.

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What makes the foundation crack in the first place?

City Wide Group: “Foundation cracks can happen on a house that’s 3 months old or 100 years old,” says Cavan. “However, the winters in Canada play a pretty major role,” he says, adding in the last couple of winter seasons, the deep and long freeze causes collateral pressure on foundation, causing it to crack and leak in the springtime.

RCC Waterproofing: Romanelli says a foundation can break down for many reasons and some of them may surprise you. “It can be roots of trees, it can be bugs and animals,” says Romanelli, adding acid in soil and rain can also be the culprit. “Foundation has so many things up against it.”

G J MacRae Foundation Repair: The top three feet of a home is the foundation that’s consistently exposed to the elements. “It’s constantly floating around. We don’t see it, but it’s constantly moving,” says MacRae. It’s not an omission of bad material, but the stress of the earth that surrounds a home.


City Wide Group

The cracks are either pretty obvious or go undetected by the naked eye

City Wide Group: The worst part of a basement foundation leak is the foundation crack itself. “It can either be an eyesore on the foundation, or a small hairline crack that’s unnoticeable.” Cavan says a typical crack will run the entire height of the foundation and 95% of the time, they’re vertical cracks.

“Even a hairline crack is still big enough to let water in,” he says.

RCC Waterproofing: Romanelli says water is the end result of a problem with foundation and drainage. That’s what is noticeable, not necessarily a crack in the foundation. “You’ve probably had the problem for 10 years,” he explains. “Now that water is showing, you [realize] you have a problem.”

When this happens, Romanelli stresses it’s not the leak homeowners should be worried about, but the foundation that’s deteriorating on your home.

The worst-case scenario that Romanelli has seen in his career is visit a home that needs waterproofing after a leak has been spotted, and upon excavating, realizing the home’s foundation is completely rotted and destroyed.

“It becomes a structural issue,” he says. “We can’t even waterproof and now we have to do a whole structural repair and it could have been prevented if the whole house was waterproofed or someone waterproofed it along the way.”

G J MacRae Foundation Repair: MacRae is in agreement, stating you wouldn’t notice a crack per se, even if the foundation is constantly shifting.

Left: City Wide Group Right: RCC Waterproofing

Left: City Wide Group
Right: RCC Waterproofing

Foundation leak vs. Plumbing Leak: How You Can Tell

City Wide Group: “The best way to distinguish [between the two] is by judging when the water is coming in,” says Cavan. “If it hasn’t rained for two to three weeks and you’re still getting water in your basement, chances are pretty good it’s not a basement leak.” If there are severe rainfalls and you’re noticing a basement leak and dampness that coincide with rainy weather, it’s a foundation leak.

RCC Waterproofing: Romanelli says a home may not even leak, but just because you don’t notice water coming into your basement doesn’t mean there’s no issue. “It may never leak, but your foundation is deteriorating,” he explains. That’s why he stresses the importance of waterproofing your home.

“Plan for it down the road to do all the walls,” he says, adding he offers homeowners long-term payment plans to allow clients to get the job done and pay it off slowly since it’s an expensive (but necessary!) project.

“If you’re not using the basement and it’s just for storage, that’s fine,” he says. “The older your house gets, at some point, you have to waterproof it.”

RCC Waterproofing

The RCC Waterproofing Team

The Fix: Waterproofing

City Wide Group: “After we consult, we locate the troubled area. We diagnose where we need to waterproof,” says Cavan.

  • Excavate the area. “We don’t damage any waterlines. Normally [the excavating] is done by hand because a lot of work is residential and it’s a nice and cleaner job.”
  • Weeping Tile. “We’ll replace old weeping tiles which are non-existent or old,” explains Cavan.
  • We try to identify and locate any cracks in the wall. We chisel those cracks out and make them bigger than they area because we want to be able to compact them with cement.
  • Seal the cracks. This process begins by applying a membrane/adhesive to the crack, followed by peeling and sticking a rubber membrane. A second membrane is applied on top of that. The drainage membrane is designed to let water channel through the weeping tile so the home doesn’t experience dampness or water seeping in.
  • Restore the area back to normal. “If we were to remove any asphalt or concrete when starting to work, we put all that back together. We tell our clients when we finish the job; it looks like we never touched anything,” he says.
citywide group

City Wide Group

RCC Waterproofing: Romanelli’s crew follows similar steps. The process begins by exposing and cleaning the all that’s the problem and seeing what needs to be repaired.

“We never know what the repair is,” he says. “A lot of time, we’re guessing, going on the age of the home and experience. We use that to estimate how much of a restoration is needed.”

  • Romanelli makes sure they’re working with a monolithic surface that will stand up to the waterproofing process.
  • “We always use liquid-based waterproofing and specifically use a product called Hydro Guard. It can go into crevices where sheet membranes are stuck together and don’t fill the crevices.”
  • “We put one layer of liquid rubber, and then we have a fabric mesh that reinforces it.”
  • Another layer of rubber is placed over top.
  • Install a membrane – an air-gap drainage membrane. “It’s basically for drainage.”
  • New weeping tiles are installed; gravel and backfill are laid down.
RCC Waterproofing

RCC Waterproofing

Note: The key differences in the two waterproofing procedures explained above are the materials the companies use. Romanelli’s product is often used in commercial building repairs. It’s a commercial-grade product.

G J MacRae Foundation Repair: If a home requires a crack repair, MacRae makes an even bigger crack on three feet of either side of the crack, right down to the weeping tile.

  • The team cleans the wall and primes the area.
  • A hydro fuel membrane is applied, followed by a fiberglass mesh and a second coat of the membrane.
  • A very thin sheet of plastic is put overtop to keep it clean.
  • A drainage board is installed in front of that. “It stops any build-up of water in the vicinity.”
  • MacRae describes it as an egg carton as thick as a finger, but looks like little dimples fit up against the wall, so water can slide right down the weeping tile.

Cost & Prevention

If you’re moving out of your home, it’s up to you to decide if you want to pass on any potential damaging foundation issues to the new homeowners. The price tag of the job depends on your needs and how long you plan on living in your home.

City Wide Group: “A lot of clients are either selling their house soon and don’t want to pass on a house to a buyer that will leak later on,” he says. An additional reason to invest in exterior waterproofing is if a homeowner is spending money on a basement renovation and wants to prevent a basement leak from happening. “They don’t want that risk, so they waterproof even though they don’t have any current leaks,” he says.

According to Cavan, the average price of waterproofing an entire home is $25,000. He recommends homeowners waterproof their homes as a preventative measure between the spring and fall seasons before the winter season rolls around.

RCC Waterproofing: To waterproof an entire home, the average price of the project is $20,000. If you’re repairing sections of a wall, the price ranges between $2,000 and $5,000 depending on the scope of work. “Those [projects] are typically people just solving the problem and not doing anything preventative,” says Romanelli.

G J MacRae Foundation Repair: A specific crack repair begins at $1,800 plus HST, but price depends on the scope of work, says MacRae.

all 3 again

From left to right: City Wide Group, RCC Waterproofing and G J MacRae. Waterproofing projects in the works!

How do you choose which company is best?

City Wide Group: “We have a team of excellent consultants who try to identify and source the cause of the leak,” says Cavan.

City Wide Group has been in business since 1961, celebrating over 50 years of service. For City Wide Group, the business starts with family. “I was specifically born into it. My dad was the founder,” says Cavan, adding he became involved in the business at a very young age and never looked back.

If your house is in this condition, call City Wide Group for a quote!

If your house is in this condition, call City Wide Group for a quote!

RCC Waterproofing: The organization has been around since 1920 when Romanelli’s grandfather started the business. “We’ve had the same phone number for 60+ years and that’s amazing in itself,” says Romanelli, adding he invites his clients (new and potential) to visit the office and meet people to give them peace of mind that it’s an established business since many homeowners have been taken advantage of by fly-by-night contractors. Romanelli is confident in his team and work that he’ll complete a project for free if a client finds a company with a better reputation or who’s been established for longer. “We really do care,” he says. “There’s no one that can say they’ve done as many jobs as us. That’s why [you choose] RCC.”

Basement looks like this? Contact RCC for a quote today!

Basement looks like this? Contact RCC for a quote today!

G J MacRae Foundation Repair: “We are very first full foundation repair company,” says MacRae of his family-run company. In the 1970s, he noticed the design of homes was changing and the basement was no longer being overlooked as it once was. MacRae started doing basement underpinning in an effort to turn basements into usable spaces. The business later transformed from underpinning and waterproofing into a full foundation repair based on the need for it. MacRae took over the business from his father in the early 1970s and the business continues to thrive. “We’ve been able to run a very successful, organized company,” he says. MacRae says his son is genuinely interested in the business. It won’t be long before his son takes over the family business.

G J MacRae are experts when it comes to waterproofing. Contact them for a quote on your next home project.

G J MacRae are experts when it comes to waterproofing. Contact them for a quote on your next home project.

It’s all about the customer!

City Wide Group: “We won the Consumer’s Choice Award for Business Excellence 19 years running,” says Cavan.

If a client calls the company with any concerns, City Wide responds within 48 hours.

Thinking about hiring City Wide Group? Here’s Cavan himself talking about the business:

RCC Waterproofing: Romanelli wants his clients to have faith in the fact that they’re working with an established and experienced business. That’s why he invites people into the office, to have a cup of coffee and chat with him directly. “You get what you’re paying for,” he says, adding the system has been successful over the last few years.

Want to learn more about RCC Waterproofing? Take a look at this video:

G J MacRae Foundation Repair: “When we give estimates on our projects, we don’t require deposits,” says MacRae, adding clients will pay on a weekly basis as the work progresses, or upon completion if it’s a small crack repair. “I have found that to be very satisfactory with the customers. When you control the purse strings, that’s when you have everybody’s attention.”

Not only that, but MacRae invented the 15-year-transferrable warranty. “It was my wife Noreen’s idea. We started implementing and it and now it’s kind of an industry standard,” he says.

MacRae knows how to keep customers happy. During every project, the team used evergreen tarps to prevent grass and neighbouring greenery from getting damaged. It’s about keeping the customer happy.

MacRae says the company prides themselves on customer service. Here he is chatting about the business:

Any Last Words?

City Wide Group: To prevent a basement leak from happening, waterproof!

RCC Waterproofing: Do your research on the company you’re hiring. Make sure they’re licensed and have accreditation from third-party organization. “Unfortunately, it’s a fly-by-night business and I feel bad for some people because they get taken advantage of.”

Also, waterproof your home to protect your basement, especially if you’re spending money renovating it! You want to be protected.

G J MacRae Foundation Repair: Since basements are becoming a more popular common space in the house, it’s important for homeowners to prepare the space accordingly. Mould and air quality are common issues that should be dealt with prior to using a basement. “We can refer a company. They can check the air control, air quality and take specimens to determine what kind of mould it is that has to be dealt with and how do that appropriately,” says MacRae.

If you’re finding water in your basement, consider calling one of our experts to repair the problem. How do you choose which company is right for you?

Here are our suggestions:

  • Read through customer reviews on our website. They will give you an idea of what other customers’ experiences were like working with said company;
  • Any company that invites you into their office is one to consider. It shows dedication and commitment to future clients;
  • Look for an organization that has been around for a long time. It speaks to their reputation. After all, if they’ve been around for awhile, they must be doing something right!

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