Concrete, Brick & StoneConsumer Guides

Maintaining a Concrete Wall

This information will help clarify and answer some questions.

Type of concrete: Poured concrete foundations are created by pouring concrete into moldings. The footing for the foundation wall is generally wider than the wall, and it must rest on firm soil or on a gravel bed, with the base of the footing below the frost line (or in no-frost areas at a minimum depth of 12 inches for a one-story house.) The footing should also have two half-inch reinforcing bars or rebar.

Concrete block foundations are created by assembling factory-made bricks of concrete with mortar. If you don’t know what type of concrete foundation you have, just take a look at it. Concrete block foundations will have a regular pattern of square-ish bricks.

Types of concrete damage: Splotches or stains on a concrete surface are usually caused by the application of a liquid that soaked into the porous surface of the concrete. Sealing the surface against spills can prevent this.

If your concrete is damp, it could be a sign that water is migrating into your basement or foundation. It can be solved by sealing cracks, re-designing your gutter system, re-grading the surface, covering the exterior wall with water-repelling material and installing drain pipes.

Often fissure openings in the surface or small pieces breaking away are signs of future problems. Take these tiny signals seriously.

Unfortunately any hard surface can chip or break away at the edge, problems commonly caused by impact or erosion. If the problem is small, it can be fixed.

A tipping wall is not a good sign and could be caused by shifting in soil. It may be a serious problem that needs immediate service from a professional.

Settling is a common cause of damage as soils shift up and down over time. Concrete is designed for strength, but not necessarily extreme flexibility. Small shifts are OK, but larger shifts will damage concrete. Settling is often a serious and expensive problem; in most cases, repair is not an option.

Water problems: If water is present where your masonry project is planned, it’s an indication of other water problems, which should be dealt with before you begin your masonry project.

Leaching water is moisture that slowly finds its way through the masonry wall via cracks, holes and mortar joints, usually because of improper or deteriorating waterproofing.

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