New homeowner - Basement disaster - Please help

Old 09-06-05, 08:16 AM
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New homeowner - Basement disaster - Please help

First off, this site is great. I've recieved lots of useful advise for other projects. I'm sure this forum is filled with just as many knowledgeable and helpful people.

Anyways, my basement is a mess and I could really use some advice.

The house is roughly 60 years old with a field stone foundation. One half of the basement is unfinished, and the other half was finished into a bedroom/family room. The home inspector mentioned that the unfinished basement foundation was in excellent shape for it's age and construction. He then specifically told me that he could not comment on the other half because the walls blocked his view - fair enough I thought.

The finished basement was a rather shoddy DIY project by the original owner, so I decided to clean things up a bit. First I pulled off the ugly wood paneling. This revealed hundreds of square feet of black mold in the sheetrock! Not knowing any better, I ripped it all down (with no mask) and decided to replace all the sheetrock as well. Probably took 10 years off my life - but I didn't know any better. Too late now I suppose...

Anyways, the story gets worse. I found that one corner has serious foundation issues. When I pulled the sheetrock out, about 5 feet of dirt fell out from between the studs! I then proceeded to clean that mess up, and now I'm staring at a fieldstone foundation that appears to have lost all of it's mortar! There was no concrete in the wall when I took it down, so I'm assuming this problem is older than the walls.

So now I'm in the process of tearing EVERYTHING out. Walls, floors, studs and all. I simply LOVE owning a home Anyways, I do not know how to repair this foundation. The stones themselves are solid, none have come loose, and they appear to be in as good shape as the other half of the basement. There's just no mortar between them anymore.

Question #1
Being ignorant, I figured I could just mix up some mortar and trowel it in the spaces. But then I read through 10 pages of threads here and someone mentioned "Tuck pointing?" I thought this was for bricks? Should I call a mason or is this a DIY project?

Question #2
Once the foundation mortar is fixed - I'll be faced with waterproofing. I want to do it right. Someone pointed me toward sanitred products. The webpage is a bit shoddy as far as web pages go. However, the product seems to be exactly what I need to fill in all the cracks and small spaces between the fieldstones and the mortar. However, noone here mentions this product. Everyone talks about Drylok or Thoroseal. Same thing? Can anyone reccomend a product line that:

1) Will plug the unavoidable cracks between fieldstones and mortar?
2) Can be painted over fieldstones and mortar to waterproof completely?

Any help will be appreciated - I just don't know what to use. There's so much conflicting information out there...

Question #3
A thread or two here mentioned that interior waterproofing methods via question #2 would trap water in the foundation itself leading to damage. I find this hard to believe - should this be a consideration? I REALLY don't want to spend 50K to dig around the perimeter of my house. For that kind of money I can build an addition and leave the basement a wet, soggy unused space.

Sorry for the long post, but I really don't know which way to go.

Old 09-06-05, 09:31 AM
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No advice, just a question for you.

The house is roughly 60 years old with a field stone foundation. One half of the basement is unfinished, and the other half was finished into a bedroom/family room. The home inspector mentioned that the unfinished basement foundation was in excellent shape for it's age and construction. ..

The finished basement was a rather shoddy DIY project by the original owner, so I decided to clean things up a bit.

I am in this position right now. The finished area is only about a quarter of the basement, and the work wasn't too shoddy. I've alway suspected it's hiding some bad news. I don't think we'll be in the house for more than five more years.

I want to tear down the walls to see how bad it is, but maybe I really don't want to know. What do you think?
Old 09-06-05, 10:25 AM
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My walls looked fine when I bought the house. The carpet was glued to the basement floor, and it obviously had seen water. However, it's amazing how well walls and carpet can hide problems. I am a bit sorry I started this project - blissful ignorance might have been better. However, the mold was pretty bad - and I was planning on letting my 2 year old daughter play down there. Better to have the headaches and know the dangers, then let my family be unsafe for years.

I vote for ripping it apart. If you suspect there's hidden problems, then you're probably right. If it's not bad, you can sheetrock the walls right back up - that's the easy part. What you find may be depressing however, (as in my case) but at least you can fix it up right with some time and elbow grease. I'm convinced this can be a DIY job, it's just a new experience for me... I just need a little masonry guidance and waterproofing product reccomendations.

Old 09-06-05, 06:25 PM
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New homeowner - Basement disaster - Please help

For Questuin #1 -
Do not rely on tuckpointing to solve your foundation problem if you have dirt coming in. Tuckpointing is generally a cosmetic treatment that tightens up a masonry wall and makes the joints more weather resistant. It is NOT a structural process. Without mortar, it is not structurally souns. The wall that is letting in dirt also supports your house and it needs a structural solution.

For Question #2 & #3
After the wall is fixed, you can start on the waterproofing and cosmetics.

Old 09-08-05, 08:29 PM
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Wow--sounds like my house. Stone foundation with stucco over it. Half the wall (in unfinished area) looked smooth and covered in drylock. Rest was finished with wood paneling. Wood paneling was framed 2 feet from the wall to allow an old sewer pipe to run along the wall. Amazingly, the plywood even covered up 2 windows that were so corroded they were almost open to the outside. Let's just say that I'm glad I tore it down. Mice were living back there, TONS of spiders, and all had entered through these windows and lived behind the walls. Also, lots of crumbling masonry due to years of water. We even had 6" of water after 1 storm. Amazingly--never so bad that the previous owners hadn't made full use of the basement--it was obviously quite lived in. I think the 6" of water was because we forgot to clean the rain conductors and they overflowed. But there was always some penetration. Anyways, I had a handyman patch the stucco and punch out the windows to install mortared-in glass block. I personally drylocked the walls. I had a bit of water penetration under a pipe that entered the wall, so I drilled it out and used hydraulic cement (Waterplug, etc). I also had some digging done outside to improve water flow in my yard. Haven't seen a drop since.

In addition to removing wood paneling and wood framing, I also removed the ceiling which was dry burlap stapled to the joists. Oh--it was covered in mouse droppings as well (I'm sure that was good for me). And I removed the mildewed carpet and the vinyl-asbestos tiles the carpet was glued to. I'm down from a finished rec room that was the previous family's favorite place to bare concrete.

Next step will be to put up metal framing (NOTHING ORGANIC), some electrical and plumbing upgrades, lighting, green-board sheetrock, drop ceiling, and vinyl tile floor. There was no way to know the extent of the problems when I bought the house, but I'm glad it's all ripped up because I also have a 2 year old I was going to let play down there. Not much advise in this long post, but just encouragement. Already, we've stopped getting mice and spiders and crickets and ants upstairs (from removing all organics and sealing it up downstairs), so it was already worth it. Once it's refinished, I'm sure I'll be glad I tore it all up!
Old 09-09-05, 07:46 AM
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You might consider blocking up a new foundation wall next to the stone wall. My grandfather had an old farm house with 5' headroom in the cellar [stone foundation] with dirt floor. He dug out 3' [by hand I might add] and poured a concrete floor [extra deep where used for footer] and blocked up a new wall about 4' high. That was in the late 50's, the house is still there and I assume the basemnt is in as good a shape or better than it was when he died in 82.

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