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Miscellaneous Basement Q's and A's

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Slab-Related | Wall-Related | Oil Cleanup | Cellar Doors | Fixing Leaks | Sealing Around Pipe

Fastening Shed Base to Concrete Block Basement Wall

We are removing an old shed to build new, approximately size is 9x1. The shed built on top of a basement constructed from concrete block. We found the old shed was not anchored to the block. 1. What is the best way to start the base of the new shed on top of the block basement and 2?. How should we anchor to the block?.

Fill several of the block holes with mortar and insert anchor bolts. Then use a treated pine base plate over the top of the block. You drill holes through the plate so the anchor bolts pass through, then use nuts and washers to hold the plate firm. Then frame over the plate.

Making Concrete Slab for Washing Machine

Our basement floor is sloped so that the washer is unlevel. Right now we have boards underneath the front of it to keep it level but if the load is uneven it rocks off the boards. We want to install a concrete pad underneath so that this won't be a problem. If I build a form out of lumber for the pad, is there anything else I need to do the existing concrete before I pour concrete into the form? How do I go about making this pad?

Make the forms out of 2x4s... and make sure the top of the boards are level.

Cracked Slab

We are considering purchasing a house that has a cracked slab. The crack runs the full length of the house and the house has dropped on the one side of the crack. The questions are how would we fix this crack? Would we be able to fix it and then be able to get building permission to place a second story on over the crack area.
Would you buy a house with a cracked slab? Should we ask for a reduction on the price?

How long ago did it crack, and the house settle. If it was a long time ago, and it has been stable since then, I would think it is not a worry. If things are still moving, well then you don't know what you will be getting into..
As for adding the second story, I don't know. I think you should talk to an architect. The slab may be the least of your concerns. The walls, depth of the and thickness of the slab and interior walls may not be right to support a second story.

Deteriorating Walls

Our basement walls are deteriorating. They are leaving dusty piles at the base of the walls and leaving dents in the wall. Is this easily fixed? Will this pose a problem with leakage or structural integrity?

The house is nearly 100 years old and in Wisconsin. As near as I can tell, it looks like there is a rock wall covered by cement. Some of the dents in the cement go back as far as the rock. Would this require major repairs or can it just be recovered?

What has happened is that at the time your house was built it was common practice to make the basement walls by forming them with lumber stacking a layer of stone in-between the form and pouring concrete around them then repeating the process until the proper height was reached. Most of them were built using sand and rock from a local pit not the washed sand and rock used today.
What you are describing is the breakdown of the surface concrete both from age and contamination of the mix. Most of these footing are quite thick and you should have no problem simply recovering the walls. If you wish to plaster them back to the original wash them with a muriatic acid solution and remove all loose pieces paint the area to be plastered with a bonding agent, mix your plaster as directed on the bags and trowel it on. Again unless there are large cracks not hairline fractures you should not have a problem structurally.

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Foundation Window Reduction Leaves Gap

I want to put smaller windows in my foundation when I remove the larger ones I will have to fill in the gap with block. Is this difficult and how would I go about doing this.

To change the opening size in a foundation wall first remove all small or half block around the old window. I recommend sawing the joints first to reduce damage to surrounding block. WARNING; All masonry contains silica wear a respirator when sawing! This can be done with a circular saw and carborendum blades which may be needed to cut pieces for the new window.

After the opening is cut to full block position the new window in the opening and count the number of block necessary to fill in around it. Please remember to measure the thickness of the wall to get the right size block, also when getting the block ask for jamb block to get finished ends on them. If the new window is vinyl all anchors for the window must be made inside the wall this can be done with metal wall ties and small screws placed in the new mortar joints.

Tools required small trowel, jointer to finish the joints, and a straight edge or level to position the block. Small wooden wedges may help to keep the block straight when fitting up to the sill plate, remove them after mortar has partially set. Most block suppliers have precast window sills or you can form your own out of mortar.

Backfilling a Basement Wall

I have dug out a basement under an existing house. After laying footers about 4 feet in from the existing footers I will build a cinder block wall about 4 to 5 feet high. I have plastic under the footer and I will have a continuous piece up from the footer - behind the cinder block wall. How do I backfill the cinderblock wall? Compressed soil (loam like) or gravel?

Use gravel up to about 1-2 ft from the surface and use dirt(loam on top of that.

Oil Spill Smells

When our oil burning furnace was filled up some of the oil spilled into our basement. Our entire house now smells like oil. How can we get rid of the smell?

Try and soak up as much oil as possible with rags,soap etc.IF they are cement floors the oil may have penetrated the cement and it impossible to get out. HOWEVER, visit any home center in the driveway garage section and you can buy oil spill cleaning and sealing kits which basically have a cleaner and some white shellac to seal IN the stain since it will endlessly seep.

Cellar Doors

I have an old-fashioned cellar door which goes from my basement to my backyard. It is a steel unit where a hinged overhead door is integrated with a set of stairs. The number of the stairs and the angle at which they are set puts the landing at about 2 feet above the grade of my backyard. The previous owner built a deck around it, but I'd like to change this take out the deck and have the stairs end even with my grade. Is there a way to do this, or can I buy a new cellar door unit? Do I need one? I'm guessing I need something similar for waterproofing, but maybe there is new technology out there? Any suggestions?

You probably do need one. Check out the bottom of the stairs, if there is no way to drain away the water, if you eliminate the basement door, you may just be looking at turning your basement into a pond.

If you have a door into the basement at the bottom, and can install a drain at the foot of the steps down to it. You may be able to eliminate the old door and not replace it. But if you live in a northern area, rememeber that area will fill with snow too.

BILCo, makes several models of steel basement doors which can be painted, function well and last basically forever. I would recommend one of these. They have models which angle more, so you won't need to come up so high with the steps like the present one.

Repairing Plumbing Leak

We discovered a leak in the basement along one of the supporting pillars - seemed that every time we used the bathroom shower on the 2nd floor, it leaked..... the shower is directly over the pillar and we cant seem to find out how to go about doing this repair.

If the leak is a major leak, then check the connection where the pipe comes out of the wall for the shower head. If it is a minor leak, then check all the tiles for openings in the grout, check around the base between the base and tiles, check along the floor, behind the faucet plate and at the drain port for any openings in the grout or tub sealant. These are the prime areas where water will travel while you are taking a bath. This water, once behind the wall, will make it's way downstairs by way of a path of least resistance.

Sealing Foundation around Septic Pipe

I have a large opening where the septic pipe comes into the house through the foundation. Water does not come in through the hole but I want to seal it up anyway. I was going to fill it in with conventional Quickcrete concrete. I remember seeing in newer houses that the pipe was sealed in the foundation with an epoxy type sealer. That was on a PVC pipe, I have cast iron. Is the concrete OK or should I use the epoxy to seal the hole?

The concrete should be just fine.

Click here for our Concrete Walks and Slabs Article
Click here for our How To Keep Your Basement Dry Article
Click here for our Vapor Barrier and Moisture Article
Click here for our Solving Drainage and Runoff Problems Article

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