When it comes to historic brick homes, inspecting and maintaining the mortar joints to keep water out is important. This is much easier on the visible exterior than it is for basements. However, it is critical to keep an eye out for damage. The below-grade bricks are subject to environmental pressures your above-ground bricks are not, creating the potential for severe leaks and structurally compromised foundations. Preventing cracks is always the most economical solution, and coupled with proper maintenance through traditional tuckpointing, your home’s foundation will remain solid and dry.
How to Prevent Water Damage in Your Basement
The longer that water stands near your home's foundation, the more time it has to erode the brick and mortar, eventually creating small cracks. Once those cracks form, the water will continue to work into the gaps, widening them and carrying more water along for the ride.
Don’t think that just because you can’t see the pooling water, it doesn’t exist. Depending on your soil, water can rapidly penetrate the ground and still sit against the foundation. Waterlogged soil puts unnecessary pressure on the foundation brick. In addition to cracks and leaks, it can also cause the interior brick to bulge, in which case you have an emergency on your hands that needs immediate repair.
To prevent water from pooling around the foundation of your historic brick home, ensure that your house is properly graded. Proper grading means that the ground gradually slopes away from the building instead of sloping toward the house. Grading helps ensure water can freely flow to safer areas. Installing eavestroughs and downspouts which will channel water at least four to six feet away from your foundation is also essential.
Improper Foundation Plantings
While foundation plantings look beautiful against the backdrop of historic brick homes, you must make sure that the root systems will not harm your brick.
Trees should be avoided as they have root systems extending far beyond the leaf canopy. The same is true of most shrubs. All types of willows are even more destructive, sending roots as far as necessary in search of more water. As plant roots spread toward your home, they exert tremendous pressure against your foundation, causing cracks and even interior bulging brick.
If you have these types of foundation plantings, they should be removed. There are still plenty of beautiful choices for front garden curb appeal, and an expert on historic brick can give you some ideas of non-threatening plants to use in your urban garden to help achieve the look you’re after.
Tuckpointing Your Historic Brick Basement is the Key to Prevention
It’s not always easy for a homeowner to tell the difference between what’s normal and what’s a problem. A historic brick expert can inspect both the interior basement walls and the visible exterior brick and determine the source of any leaks.
Once the cause of the problem is located, professional tuckpointing using historically accurate materials and methods can fix the mortar and damaged brick in the basement walls. While significant structural damage will require the services of a separate foundation specialist, tuckpointing will still be needed on the interior to complete the repairs. When caught early, most brick repairs can be corrected with proper tuckpointing. By applying the traditional methods and using lime mortar, you can rest assured that your basement will remain leak-free for many years to come.
If mitigating or preventing water damage in the basement of your brick home is on your to-do list, call Renaissance Development to arrange an appointment. We are experts in traditional tuckpointing methods for historic brick homes in the DC area. Remember to ask about our special January Promotion (15% off any project when the estimate is signed by 1/31/24).