DeHaven Construction Company
"Specializing in Stucco, Stucco Repair, Interior Painting, Exterior Painting, Texture Coating (Texcote™) & Elastomeric Coatings"
WATER SEEPAGE - CAUSES AND CONTROL (cont.)
Moisture Problems: Inspection
The inspection for water seepage into the stucco should begin during your exterior inspection. As you walk around the house, record on your worksheet the location of those conditions that can cause water to accumulate around the foundation: faulty gutters and downspouts, leaking faucets, improper grading, settlement of walkways, and so on. If there are problems or conditions on the exterior stucco, walls and floor opposite those areas should be checked first for signs of water penetration. Water stains and deposits in the corner of a foundation wall can be a result of a faulty downspout. Even if there are no indications of past or current water seepage, the exterior problem conditions should be corrected.
As previously discussed, there are many causes for water seepage, and depending on the cause, a single rain might not result in seepage. For example, if water penetrates through the floor slab as a result of a seasonally high water table and the foundation is 1 or 2 feet below the high level, a heavy rain will not raise the groundwater level sufficiently to cause water to seep through the floor slab. It takes time for rainwater to percolate into the ground and raise the water table.
Water puddles or flooded areas around the foundation are obvious signs of a water problem. In most cases, however, you will not see standing water, and you must then make an evaluation whether there is a condition of water intrusion based on other, more subtle signs. Water-seepage signs indicate only that water has seeped under the foundation in the past. They do not indicate the frequency of the seepage or its extent. Consequently, if you see indications of water seepage, you should not engage a contractor to waterproof the house immediately upon taking possession. If you do, it could prove quite costly.
First, talk with the homeowner about the condition. It is possible that whatever it was that caused the past seepage has already been corrected. If the problem was corrected by installing buried drainpipes or coating the outside surface of the foundation wall, the correction would not be visible. If the homeowner indicates that the problem has been corrected, you should ask to see a copy of the paid bill. Or get the name of the contractor so that you can call to find out exactly what corrective steps were taken. Quite often a contractor provides a guarantee against water seepage. If there is such a guarantee, you should find out whether it is transferable.
The possibility exists that, even though there are signs of water seepage, the actual seepage might occur very infrequently - such as only after an excessively heavy rain as might occur every few years. In this case, depending on the exterior seepage, the best approach when considering the correction of water seepage is to correct immediately any obvious problem conditions such as faulty gutters, downspouts, leaking faucets, improper grading, cracks through which water is actively leaking, and so on. However, before undertaking any major water-seepage control measures, such as excavating and coating the exterior surface of the foundation wall, inserting perforated drainpipes below the floor slab, or trenching and installing buried drainpipes in the yard, you should live in the house for at least one full year. This will enable you to evaluate the degree and extent of the seepage over a full weather cycle. If it turns out that the year is particularly dry so that there is no seepage, well and god. Wait another year. By not taking a "shotgun" approach and waterproofing everything, as recommended by many contractors, you might be able to resolve the problem at a cost that truly reflects the work needed to stop the seepage.
Moisture Problems: Indications in Stucco and Masonry
When looking for indications of water seepage, you should check the walls and floors, and bases of all the items stored or standing on the floor. Specifically, look for white powdery deposits on masonry foundation walls and floor. The deposits, called efflorescence, are mineral salts in the masonry that dissolve in the water as it passes through the walls or floor. When the water evaporates from the surface of the walls or floor, it deposits these salts. A thick layer of efflorescence is usually an indication of considerable seepage.
Moisture Problems: Walls
Look for efflorescence, peeling and flaking paint, and scaling sections (surface deterioration) on the foundation wall. Any one of these items can indicate some degree of seepage. Porous walls, such as those made of cinder blocks, may have damp spots. Masonry block walls are constructed with interior voids. When the hydrostatic pressure on the exterior portion of the wall is high, the voids often fill with water. As a result, the wall might be quite wet to the touch. (CAUTION: This might also be caused by condensation.) Vulnerable areas for seepage are cracks and the joints around pipes passing through the wall, such as the inlet water pipe and the drainpipe leading to the sewer. Look closely at these areas for water streak stains and efflorescence.
A poured concrete foundation wall is supposed to be more watertight than a concrete-block wall. This, however, assumes that the poured concrete wall is properly constructed. Quite often, it isn't. If the entire wall is not constructed with a single pouring, the joints between the sections constructed with each pour are vulnerable to water leakage. I inspected a house in Riverside and found water leaking out of the joint at the seam between the individually poured sections of the foundation wall. The builder's mason apparently had not properly prepared the joint for a new pour, and consequently a cold joint with a poor bond was formed.
Look for seepage in a poured concrete wall around the tie-rod holes - holes in the concrete wall around the small diameter metal rods that are used to hold tie the forms together when the wall is being poured. More often than not, these holes have been patched over. Also, these tie rods can corrode away over a period of time and when below grade are vulnerable areas for water intrusion. Sometimes you see efflorescence and water streaks just under the hole or patched sections. Occasionally I find these holes plugged with corks. This is not considered a permanent patch, and if seepage should develop, they should be plugged with epoxy or hydraulic cement.
Moisture Problems: Floors and floor joints
A vulnerable space for water seepage is the joint between the foundation wall and the floor. Water stains and efflorescence are an indication of seepage. You might find silt deposits at the joint. This is also an indication of some degree of seepage. The fine silt is in suspension in the water as the water seeps in from the exterior. When the water evaporates, the silt is deposited. If you find evidence of water seepage through the joint between the floor slab and the foundation wall, you should record it on your worksheet for later correction. The joint should be sealed with either hot tar or a hydraulic cement.
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