Category: Basements

A basement is an area below the first floor with a minimum height of 6 feet 8 inches. Basements may be created using masonry blocks or poured concrete. Modern homes are typically constructed using forms and poured concrete. Many basements provide added living space, including bedrooms, bath, recreation rooms.

Water can easily enter basements as they are built below grade and are surrounded by soil. Rain and snow run off can create conditions where the water in the soil can leech into the basement through the porous concrete. New basements are typically constructed of poured concrete.

The roof on your home can collect over 600 gallons per 1000 square feet after 1 inch of rain has fallen. Install and maintain gutters and downspouts so that they route all rainwater and snow melt far enough away from the foundation of the building to ensure that pooling does not occur near the walls of the structure. At least 10 feet from the building is best, and at the point where water leaves the downspout, it should be able to flow freely away from the foundation instead of back toward it, and should not be collecting in pools.

One of the most important parts of your homes defense system is the weeping tile and sump pump combination. Weeping tile pipe is placed against and level to the bottom of the foundation footing. Once the weeping tile pipe is completely installed, coarse gravel is placed on top and level with the top of the footing. Any water build up is captured by the weeping tile and carried to the sump pit where it is pumped away from your home.

Newer homes basements are typically protected using a black dimpled product which is attached to perimeter of basement walls. Most home owners think this is a water proofing barrier designed to keep water away from their foundation. The wrap is actually designed to allow water to quickly drain down void, created by the dimples, and enter weeping tile. This prevents any hydraulic water build up against concrete prevent water intrusion.

A sump pump is a pump placed in the basement of a home used to pump water from the basement to the outside or drain into the home’s drainage system. Sump pumps usually work in conjunction with a sump pit, which is a hole dug in the basement of a house which collects water during a rainstorm. The pump then pumps the water out of that sump pit.. A sump pump is usually necessary either in cases where the home’s basement is below the water table level, and or when the home is located in a place where flooding is common.

Learn about Home Inspection and Your Basement for valuable information. Learn about your Home Inspection and Your Foundation prior to buying a home.

Basements and every sleeping room should have at least one emergency escape-and-rescue opening. Such openings should open directly onto a public street, public alley, yard or court.
The emergency escape-and-rescue opening should be operational from the inside without the use of tools, keys, or special knowledge.

Basement egress windows have special requirements. Since you’re below ground, you have to make sure that the window can still fully open without obstruction. Make sure the basement window well has enough area to move around in and if the well is especially deep, make sure you have a ladder attached to it for an easy getaway. Also, if the well is under a deck, make sure there is enough space between the deck and the window. In other words, give yourself enough room to escape. These specialty windows don’t do anybody any good if there are other exterior obstacles that may end up trapping you.

A typical basement walkout is a below-grade entrance to a basement. There should be a set of stairs and a landing at the bottom of the stairs. The walls and steps of a walkout are commonly made of concrete, but can be made of a variety of materials, including wood. A walkout may be covered with a permanent roof structure, or it may be open. The walkout may have a cover that can be opened or removed.

Structurally, for houses, the basement walls typically form the foundation. In warmer climates, some houses do not have basements because they are not necessary (although many still prefer them). In colder climates, the foundation must be below the frost line. Unless constructed in very cold climates, the frost line is not so deep as to justify an entire level below the ground, although it is usually deep enough that a basement is the assumed standard.

blocked floor drains can cause back up and water damageBasement floor drains need to be filled regularly to prevent the trap from drying out and sewer gas from escaping into the basement. The drain trap can be topped up automatically by the condensation from air conditioners or high-efficiency furnaces. A small tube from another downpipe is sometimes used to keep the trap from drying out. In areas where storm and sanitary sewers are combined, and there is the risk of sewage backing up, backflow prevention devices in all basement drains may be mandated by code and definitely are recommended even if not mandated.  A blocked floor drain can cause water damage and possibly even mould if not inspected and repaired.

This first unfinished design, found principally in spaces larger than the traditional cellar, is common in residences throughout America and Canada. One usually finds within it a water heater, various pipes running along the ceiling and downwards to the floor, and sometimes a workbench, a freezer or refrigerator, or a washer/dryer set. Boxes of various materials, and objects unneeded in the rest of the house, are also often stored there; in this regard, the unfinished basement takes the place both of the cellar and of the attic. Home workshops are often located in the basement, since sawdust, metal chips, and other mess or noise are less of a nuisance there. The basement can contain all of these objects and still be considered to be “unfinished,” as they are either mostly or entirely functional in purpose.

Finished basements are always suspect for water and moisture problems which can sometimes be hidden from view. The Barrie Home Inspector uses moisture meters and thermal imaging cameras to detect otherwise hidden moisture issues.

The word concrete comes from the Latin word “concretus” (meaning compact or condensed), the perfect passive participle of “concrescere”, from “con-” (together) and “crescere” (to grow). Most information available about concrete is written for contractors, for those who design concrete mixes, and for those who perform invasive testing.

In evaluating concrete problems, one of the important decisions home inspectors must make is determining whether a problem is the result of conditions that have stabilized with a low chance of continuing future problems, or whether the conditions that caused the problem are such that there is a high probability that problems will continue or worsen.

Different factors can affect concrete and the problems that inspectors will see. How concrete hardens, strengthens and the qualities of its surface depend on a number of things, including the properties of its constituent materials. Although Portland cement is the most commonly used binder, pozzolans may be substituted. Pozzolans are materials that, in addition to undergoing primary hydration, undergo a secondary hydration, producing a gel that fills tiny voids between cement particles, making concrete less porous and less likely to absorb moisture or chemical solutions that can damage concrete or steel reinforcement.

The constituent materials which are included in the mix, their proportions, the order in which they are combined, the length of time and method by which they are mixed, and the length of time between mixing to placing all affect the quality of concrete. With each decision and operation, there is a chance that mistakes will be made. The environmental conditions that exist during placing, finishing and curing concrete will have an effect on how it develops. The ground and air temperatures, wind speed, cloud cover, and the absorbent qualities of the substrate will affect newly placed concrete.

When initially mixed together, Portland cement and water rapidly form a gel, formed of tangled chains of interlocking crystals. These continue to react over time, with the initially fluid gel often aiding in placement by improving workability. As the concrete sets, the chains of crystals join and form a rigid structure, gluing the aggregate particles in place. During curing, more of the cement reacts with the residual water (hydration). This curing process develops physical and chemical properties. Among these qualities are mechanical strength, low moisture permeability and chemical and volumetric stability.

Settlement Crack found during a home inspection in Barrie ONCracks that appear before the concrete has hardened are called plastic cracks. Plastic cracks are typically due to poor mix design, placement practices or curing methods, and may also be caused by settlement, construction movement, and excessively high rates of evaporation. Cracks that appear after concrete has hardened can have a variety of causes, and sometimes have more than one cause.

Plastic shrinkage is shrinkage caused by the loss of water to the atmosphere. Autogenous shrinkage is shrinkage that takes place with no loss of water to the atmosphere. Autogenous shrinkage is caused by internal drying, with water being absorbed by the constituent materials in the concrete. As the long-term chemical hydration process continues – and it can continue for many years — water in the pores within the cement paste is absorbed, and the pores are filled, to some degree, by materials produced during hydration. This process leads to decreased permeability and increased strength and durability of the cement paste. Absorption of water from the pores also causes shrinkage.

When purchasing a new property it is important to have the building inspected by a qualified residential or commercial inspector. Trust the Barrie Home Inspector for your Residential or Commercial Inspections. Visit for more information. As a Certified Building Code Official with over 4,000 inspections your investment will be in good hands. Experience and knowledge can help protect your investment.