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Waterproofing Terminology Explained

Every profession has their own unique terminology. Plumbers have elbows, bushings and check valves. Software Engineers have viruses, ram and bandwidth. Waterproofing is no different. This article will explain the most common waterproofing terms, so you can become an educated consumer.

Hydrostatic Pressure – The pressure exerted by water due to the force of gravity. Hydrostatic pressure increases at greater depths because of the increasing weight of water exerting downward force. This usually manifests itself at the cove joint (where the foundation floor and wall meet) creating seepage at the floor. The usual solution is drain tile.

Efflorescence – This is a crystalline deposit of salts. It is often seen on the surface of concrete or brick, it occurs when water leaves behind salt deposits and appears as a white fuzz. It is a clear indication of water saturation and should be looked at by a professional.

Concrete Block – A standard size rectangular block used in foundation building. These blocks are hollow and hold water usually in the rows at the bottom of the wall. Seepage solution with concrete block foundations is almost always drain tile.

Footing – Footings are the base of foundation construction. They are typically made of concrete with rebar reinforcement that has been poured into an excavated trench. Footings support the vertical portion of the foundation, distributing the load of the house evenly and preventing settling.

Cold Joint – An area of weakness in concrete caused by an interruption in the concreting pouring operation. It occurs when the first batch of concrete has begun to set before the next batch is added so the two batches do not correctly intermix.

Drain Tile – Either a solid PVC or slotted corrugated pipe that is designed to collect and redirect water seepage into a sump pit to be discharged away from the home. Drain tile can be installed either on the interior or exterior. Also known as a French Drain

Sump Pump A pump used to remove water that has accumulated in a water-collecting sump basin connected to a drain tile. Usually found in the basement or crawlspace. Used specifically for ground water and not sewerage. It is important to utilize an underground sump extension to discharge at least 10 feet from the foundation to prevent undermining the foundation.

Ejector Pump – Often confused with a sump pump, an ejector pump transports waste from an appliance that is situated underneath the main sewer line. Ejector pumps are typically used in basement bathrooms and basement sinks.

Dry Well Is an underground chamber that disposes of unwanted stormwater, It is a covered, porous-walled container that allows water to slowly percolate into the ground.

Water table – Is the upper level of an underground surface in which the soil or rocks are permanently saturated with water

Black Mold – Is the common name for the infamous toxic mold Stachybotrys chartarum which can grow in houses and is dangerous to humans. Mold needs air, water and an organic food source (wood, paper, etc.) to grow. Simply eliminating water can eliminate mold.

Undermining – The process of weakening by removing underlying support of a footing or foundation by groundwater or draining downspouts. Many foundation issues can be avoided by extending downspouts away from the foundation.

Foundation – The system on which the home sits. Consisting or two parts, the footing and foundation wall, foundations can be solid poured-in-place concrete or stacked concrete block. Older home may have foundations built from brick, stacked stone or in rare occasions telephone tile.

Iron Bacteria Small living organisms which naturally occur in soil that combine iron and oxygen to form deposits of “rust” and a slimy material that sticks to pipes and pumps. While a nuisance, it is a manageable condition.

Backfill – The process of replacing excavated material. Important to note in waterproofing as backfilled areas hold more water and careful backfilling is necessary to ensure an installed system such as a membrane, is not damaged.

Dehumidifier – An electrical appliance which reduces and maintains the level of humidity in the air, usually for health or comfort reasons. Very effective in eliminating musty odors and prevents the growth of mildew by extracting water from the air.

Grade Above/Below – Above grade means the portion of a home that is above the surface. Conversely, the portion below grade, basement, crawl space, etc. is where waterproofing done. However, an above grade issue such as bad tuckpointing or missing caulk around a window can manifest itself in the basement and appear as a blow grade issue. 

Crack Repair

Epoxy – A very useful material created through reacting an epoxy resin and a hardener which provides a window of working time before hardening. Used in combination with urethanes to repair vertical cracks and beam pockets.

Urethane – Expansive foam that reacts with water and is excellent for vertical crack repair. Used in conjunction with epoxy that controls the expansion, urethanes last a lifetime. However, considering the expansive nature of urethane, it should be used very carefully around pipe penetrations. If urethane migrates into the pipe, it could mix with water and expand, clogging the pipe.

Cove Joint – The area where the basement floor and the foundation wall meet. Seepage from this area is solved using drain tile. While a vertical crack can be injected with epoxy, a horizontal crack, such as the cove joint, cannot. 

Drainage Board – A foundation waterproofing component that consists of a sandwiched dimpled panel that allows water to flow between and down to a drain tile. It is also excellent at protecting a membrane.

Beam Pocket – A pocked in the foundation designed to hold a steel beam. Because of the concentration of load on one spot, they are susceptible to cracking and leaks.