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What is the relation between a foundation crack and water infiltration in basements (Québec)

Foundation cracks and water infiltration in basements are closely related issues that homeowners often face, especially in areas with significant seasonal weather changes or where the soil composition facilitates water retention near the foundation. Understanding this relationship involves knowing how foundations work, why cracks form, and how water finds its way into basements through these vulnerabilities.

### Foundations and Their Purpose

The foundation of a home serves several critical functions:

1. Supporting the Structure: It carries the weight of the entire building, ensuring stability and integrity.

2. Separating Wood-based Materials from Ground Contact: This prevents rot and insect invasion.

3. Insulating Against Cold: Especially the below-ground portions contribute to thermal efficiency.

4. Resisting Movement: Designed to maintain its form and position despite soil movement, freeze-thaw cycles, and moisture changes.

### Why Foundations Crack

Foundations can crack for several reasons:

1. Settling or Shifting Soil: Over time, the soil beneath the foundation can settle or shift, especially if it wasn't compacted properly before construction. This uneven pressure can cause cracks.

2. Freeze-Thaw Cycles: In colder climates, water in the soil around the foundation can freeze, expand, and then thaw, creating a cycle that exerts pressure on the foundation walls.

3. Hydrostatic Pressure: Water accumulating in the soil around the foundation increases hydrostatic pressure against the foundation walls, potentially leading to cracks.

4. Material Shrinkage: Concrete and other materials used in foundations can shrink over time, leading to the formation of cracks.

5. Construction Errors: Mistakes during the construction process can lead to weak spots that later manifest as cracks.

### Water Infiltration through Cracks

Water infiltration occurs when water finds its way into the basement through these cracks. The mechanisms include:

1. Direct Seepage: Water can seep directly through new or widening cracks due to hydrostatic pressure or simple gravity.

2. Capillary Action: Water can move through small cracks and pores in the concrete by capillary action, even against gravity.

3. Vapor Transmission: Moisture can also penetrate foundations in vapor form through cracks, then condense back into water inside the cooler basement.

### Consequences and Solutions

The infiltration of water into basements can lead to various problems, including mold growth, property damage, and decreased indoor air quality. Solutions may involve:

- Exterior Waterproofing: To prevent water from reaching the foundation walls.

- Proper Drainage: Ensuring that water flows away from the foundation, not towards it, by grading the landscape appropriately and installing drainage systems like French drains.

- Interior Solutions: Using sump pumps and interior drainage systems to manage water that does penetrate.

- Crack Repair: Sealing cracks either from the interior or exterior to directly prevent water entry.

Understanding the relationship between foundation cracks and water infiltration is crucial for maintaining a healthy, safe, and dry basement environment. Early detection and repair of foundation cracks, along with appropriate waterproofing and drainage strategies, can significantly reduce the risk of water damage and associated problems.

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