09/01/2005: "Do-It-Yourself Foundation Repair: The Outcome"
Many moons ago, I was blogging about the crack in my foundation and finding a do-it-yourself foundation crack repair kit online. Well, I've had said kit sitting around my house just waiting to be used for too many months now, and I finally got around to buckling down and just doing it. For the benefit of any who may be in the same situation and considering the do-it-yourself route, here is what I experienced.
As you may recall (if you actually followed the link back to the original post), I discovered a hairline crack in my foundation as I was preparing to finish my basement. Not wanting to put drywall over a potential leak, I decided to get it patched, despite the fact that no water had ever come through. I didn't want to take that chance. I called for some quotes, and quickly found out that it would cost at least $300 for a professional to come in and patch that crack for me. I wondered if there wasn't a Do-It-Yourself option.
Sure enough, I found Crack Seal online, and for US$69.95 (less than 100 loonies) I got a kit that would allow me to patch my crack all by myself. Score! Once I got it, however, the instructions mentioned that the foundation wall had to be above 5 degrees Celsius before it could be sealed. As it was February and I didn't feel like applying torches to the outside of my house to warm it up sufficiently, I had to wait for a warm spell. I think August counts, right? (I would usually procrastinate on projects like these, but I put that off until later.) Well, I finally found time to tame the crack.
The kit consists of two-part adhesive, sealant, sealant ports, and some other necessities. The steps for the whole procedure are pretty simple on the surface:
1) Clean and prepare crack with a wire brush (and chisel, if necessary), wipe with damp cloth.
2) Mix some adhesive, and install ports over crack.
3) Seal over crack and port bases with adhesive.
4) Check for leaks with a water sprayer when adhesive is dry.
5) Inject sealant with a caulking gun.
Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? I thought so as well, but found that there is an element of experience that I lacked. Funny, but the knowledge didn't come with my $100 kit that would have come with the $300 professional repair.
First, I had some initial difficulty with the two-part adhesive. The adhesive comes in two jars, one marked "A" and the other "B". Mix equal parts of each, and within 5 minutes it should harden to the point of being unworkable. With this adhesive you attach the ports (plastic tubes with a flat base on one end) on top of the crack, and these will be what you eventually inject the sealant into the crack through. My first batch of adhesive, however, remained extremely runny for about 15 minutes, which meant the first four ports I installed kept trying to fall off the wall, and required supervision for the next 30 minutes to ensure they stayed firmly attached. This may have been the result in a less than an exact 1:1 ratio of A to B, as subsequent batches worked much better. Unfortunately, with two tubs of sticky liquid, I had no way of accurately measuring equal parts to mix except by eye and trial-and-error.
Once the ports are installed and the crack sealed over, the kit instructs you to use a water sprayer (the hand-held variety used to mist plants and the like) to squirt water into each port to clean the crack out and check that water (and thereby sealant) can in fact make it from one port to the next along the crack, ensuring a good seal. The issues I encountered trying to compete this step may be due to the extremely thin nature of the crack I had, so your experiences may vary. However, using a hand-held sprayer for the job simply did not work with my hairline crack. Instead of simply going into the port and eventually coming out another, water would spray out from where my sprayer met the port. I could not get enough pressure with the sprayer to establish flow between ports, and try as I might I could not come up with another higher-pressure method of injecting water. In effect, I kind of skipped this step. The one benefit to this step was that I found leaks at three of the ports, requiring more adhesive. With the patching complete, I was ready to seal.
The instructions are very specific when it comes to injecting the sealant into the ports, in that you are supposed to use a "sturdy, quality caulking gun". I think I paid less than $5 for mine, so I was slightly worried about how my gun would hold up under the sustained pressure needed to inject the sealant. As it turns out, my caulking gun was indeed sturdy, perhaps too much so.
To inject the sealant, you cut the tip off the tube of sealant and screw on the injection tip, which includes both a threaded plastic nozzle and a short length of vinyl tubing, which fits over the port. Put the tube onto the port, squeeze until the bright blue sealant comes out the next port, cap the port you're on, and move on. It was during this step that I encountered three leaks from the sealant-tip-tube combination.
First, the vinyl tube slipped off the tip, allowing sealant to leak out back towards the caulking gun (and onto my floor). I pushed it back on and continued as best I could. Next, I thought I was getting excellent flow of sealant into the crack when in fact the seal in the tube of sealant broke and gushed sealant all over the inside of my caulking gun. At this point I discarded that tube in disgust, and opted for the second tube of sealant that was supplied with the kit. The second tube then leaked between the tip and the main tube, despite being tightened as tight as possible by hand. This tube also leaked out the back into my caulking gun, which I had to ignore in order to finish sealing. So while I finished the job (never having managed to get either water or sealant to travel from one port to the next), my caulking gun and floor were both covered in sticky blue goo. Thank goodness for disposable rags and latex gloves.
Overall, I'm glad for the experience. However, I'm not sure how well the crack is sealed. I'm not sure if I would repeat the experience for anything other than a crack of significant size, larger than my hairline (perhaps 0.020" by eye) crack. For anyone that has a crack in their foundation and is a cheap bugger like me, I'd recommend this kit. However, I'd also recommend first playing with the two-part adhesive before you start applying it, to ensure you know how to properly mix it to get the right consistency. I would also recommend that you get an empty ketchup bottle or something like that and figure out how to squirt water through the ports with it. A hand-held water sprayer just didn't cut it for me.
Bottom line: if you've got the cash, or if your crack is gushing water every time it rains, by all means use a professional. My crack was dry for as long as I've known about it, so my sealing it was only insurance before I drywalled over the whole thing. If you're in a tight financial pinch, however, this is the way you want to go, assuming you're comfortable working with your hands.