Skip to Main Content

Glossary

A

Active Zone

The region of soil near the top where the water content consistently varies because of precipitation. Soil movement, shrinking and swelling, is most common in this layer.

Aggregate

A mixture of sand, rock, and crushed stone that improves the structural performance of concrete.

Anchor Pier

A pier that is connected to a structure to provide support and lift.

Apron

A concrete slab that is often at an entrance (to driveways/properties) for vehicles.

B

Backfill

The process of putting back soil that was excavated when digging a foundation or trench. This soil is more porous than untouched or virgin soil, and because of this, it absorbs more water.

Basement

A foundation type that is either entirely or mostly below grade. It can be made of cement blocks or poured concrete.

Basement Cove Joint

The cove joint is prone to water seepage. Learn what makes this area so likely and how to prevent water damage in your basement.

Basement Waterproofing

The process of stopping and managing water from entering and damaging your basement through a series of repairs.

Battery Backup Sump Pump

A DC power battery powered pump that kicks on in the event of a power outage or circuit breaker failure.

Bedrock & Load-Bearing Strata

Soil or rock that bears the weight of a building without becoming compressed or shifting. The soil is inert and doesn’t experience expansion or contraction.

Below Grade

A construction term that describes the space below ground level. Foundation types include a basement or crawl space.

Benchmarking

Benchmarking helps determine the severity of foundation settlement. Benchmarking is a measure that indicates the amount of settlement that has occurred. These reports track changes over time and help professionals determine the best solution for your home. In addition, benchmarking is also performed after piers are installed. The installation crew marks above each pier. A laser level is set up, and small rivets are installed into the foundation wall. This allows the contractor to perform future inspections to ensure your piers continue to work in stabilizing the home.

Black Mold

Black mold, or Stachybotrys chartarum, is a greenish-black mold that can grow when there is constant moisture present. Growth typically occurs when there is water damage, a water leak, condensation or flooding. It can produce toxic airborne spores. Those with allergies or asthma are at a higher risk of serious health outcomes.

Block Foundation Wall

A block wall uses masonry blocks that are stacked on top of each other and cemented into place using mortar.

Bowing Wall

Bowing walls is a term used to describe when your external foundation walls are bowing, leaning, bulging or showing signs of inward movement.

C

Carbon Fiber Strips

Carbon Fiber Straps are products that support and stabilize a foundation wall.

Cement

Material made of fine ground powders that harden when mixed with water. Cement is just one part of concrete.

Check Valve

A check valve is part of the sump pump discharge line that closes to prevent a backward flow of water.

Cinder Block

A cinder block or cement block is a hallow masonry lightweight building block made with cinders, sand and cement.

Class A Fire Rating

Fire class ratings classify materials by their ability to support and promote a fire. Class A, or Class 1, is the best fire rating, meaning any material with this rating does not burn well and is unlikely to contribute fuel to a fire. These materials include cement bricks.

Clay Bowl Effect

This natural process occurs after soil is dug out during construction and then used to backfill around the foundation with the same soil. No matter how hard the soil is packed, the backfill soil is looser and fluffier than the untouched soil around it. This creates an artificial water table around your home where water will be collected.

Clay Soil

Clay is a soil type with extremely small particles that has a massive expansion and contraction properties.

Closed Cell Insulation

A type of insulation made out of completely closed cells. The cells therefore are pressed together so no air or moisture can enter. This makes closed cell foam insulation more rigid and have a higher density. This type of foam also typically has a higher R-Value, meaning it insulates better.

Concrete

A rough building material made of sand, gravel or crushed stone. When mixed with a bonding agent, it can be poured, spread or made into forms.

Concrete Footing

A concrete footing is a structural element that’s made from poured concrete and reinforced with rebar. It’s used to support the foundation and to stop it from settling. The dimension of any footing depends on the type and size of the structure being built. When placed properly, footings can provide adequate support to the foundation and the entire house.

Concrete Piling

A reinforced concrete pile driven deep into the ground used to support a structure.

Condensation

Condensation is the conversion from vapor to liquid. An example of condensation is when water drops form on a cold glass on a warm day. When warm air makes contact with a cold surface, water vapor turns into droplets of water on the cooler surface.

Construction Joint

A construction joint is a tooled grove in a concrete slab to allow for movement and regulate the location of cracks.

Cove Joint

The cove joints are located where the floor and the wall meet around the edge of your basement. They are created because the walls of your home were poured separately from the footing, so there is a gap or separation between the two. This is a very common location for basements to leak.

Cracks

When concrete separates, either completely or incompletely. There are many reasons for cracked concrete, but excess water, which causes concrete to expand, is a common problem.

Crawl Space

A crawl space is one type of foundation that lifts your home off the ground, protecting it from rainwater and keeping it off the soil under your home. Typically 16- 30 inches tall. Commonly where HVAC and pipes are located.

Crawl Space Beam

Also referred to as girders, crawl space beams support floor joists and run perpendicular to them.

Crawl Space Door

Covering for the crawl space entrance. Typically builder grade doors are made of wood and tend mold and rot as they are exposed to the elements. Groundworks offers airtight crawl space doors to eliminate moisture and make it difficult for pests to enter.

Crawl Space Drain

Typically installed at the perimeter of the crawl space, the drain collects excess water that enters the crawl space and removes it to a safer, healthier location. This is commonly accomplished using a sump pump.

Curing

Often confused with drying, curing is actually a bit different. Curing occurs immediately after pouring concrete and involves maintaining desired moisture and temperature levels during a defined period of time. It helps ensure proper hardening occurs.

D

Dehumidifier

An appliance that removes moisture from the air. Determining the proper unit for a particular space is best left to the professionals.

Differential Settlement

The result of the underlying soils moving, or sinking unevenly. This settlement causes cracking to the foundation since one side of the structure is sinking faster than the other.

Discharge Line

A discharge line is how a sump pump moves water out of and away from the home. Consider the size of the discharge line and ensure it is large enough to capture all the water needed to be removed. Also, pay attention to where the water is being pumped to. Make sure it is far enough away from the foundation and the area is graded away from the home.

Downspout Extension

Downspout or gutter extensions attach to the end of the downspout and help move water out and away from the home.

Downspouts

Ensuring your gutters are clean flowing is important to your homes water management system. Downspouts are a pipe that carries rainwater from the gutters to a drain or out and away from your home’s foundation. Downspouts should be placed far enough away from your home’s foundation to prevent water from running back to the foundation.

Drain Tile

A system of pipes laid against the foundation of the basement. Small holes collect water and remove it from the home, usually with the assistance of a sump pump, before it can enter the home and cause damage.

Drainage Pipe

An exterior drainage pipe collects groundwater and directs it away from the home’s foundation before it can cause damage. The pipe is usually buried along your home’s perimeter at the base of the footing. They can be prone to clogging since they are buried in dirt.

Dry Well

A hole in the ground filled with gravel to help with drainage. Typically a sump pump liner, or pit, is placed inside the dry well. A drywell allows water to accumulate prior to kicking on the sump pump motor, extending the life of your sump pump.

Drywall

Drywall is used to as a finishing material for interior walls. Commonly made of pressed fiberboard or paper, this organic material absorbs water easily and mold growth is common.

E

Earth Anchor

A steel shaft screwed in to the earth to support structures.

Efflorescence

Efflorescence is a usually white, powdery salt deposit that forms after water evaporates. Efflorescence can appear on brick or concrete walls or cement floors, or anywhere masonry materials are used. It can often be a sign your home has a water management problem.

Egress Window

A type of window homeowner need in the case of an emergency. The window must be large enough to enter or exit. Specific rooms, like basement bedrooms, are usually required to have an egress window by law.

Encapsulated (or Conditioned) Crawl Space

An encapsulated, or conditioned, crawl space is a crawl space that has been sealed from outside air and included into the envelope of the home. Walls and floors are sealed with a vapor barrier and insulation and any water entry is addressed with a drain or sump pump. The air is often conditioned using a dehumidifier as well.

Erosion

The process of soil wearing down by natural causes, like water, wind or ice.

Evaporation

Evaporation is the process when water turns into a gas or vapor. Water vapor can be especially damaging to a crawl space since it is an area that is infrequently visited, and therefor commonly ignored.

Excavate

During construction when dirt is removed carefully to make a hole or channel.

Expansive Soil

A soil, clay for example, that is prone to expansion and shrinkage due to its amount of water content.

F

Flaking

Similar to spalling. Concrete flaking involves the top layer of concrete peeling away from the hardened concrete.

Floor Drain

A floor drain is a plumbing drain installed in the floor to allow water to drain in the event of a plumbing leak or flood. They can also be the cause of basement leaks, so be sure to have them inspected by a plumbing professional.

Floor Joists

Floor joists are typically made of lumber and support the structure of the building. They are typically arranged parallel and go above the home’s beam or grinder. They support your home’s floor and the weight of everything above it including walls, furniture and appliances.

Footing

A footing is concrete poured into an excavated trench. Footings support the weight of the foundation by evenly distributing the load to avoid settlement.

Foundation

The area of your home that has contact with the ground and transfers the load from the above structure to the ground.

Foundation Settlement

The process occurs when the soil moves beneath your home. When soil shifts, a void is created, and the home sinks or settles into the soil.

Foundation Wall

A footing is concrete poured into an excavated trench. Footings support the weight of the foundation by evenly distributing the load to avoid settlement.

Freeze-Thaw Cycle

The freeze-thaw cycle refers to the process that occurs when water content in soil freezes. When water freezes, it expands putting pressure on anything it comes in contact with, when it melts a void is created. This process effects your foundation and the exterior concrete around your home. The better drainage system your home has, the less moisture is available to freeze in areas you don’t want it to.

FreezeGuard Discharge Line

An attachment added to your sump pumps discharge line just outside your home that allows water to escape in the event your pipes freeze.

French Drain

A French drain is a perforated pipe installed inside or outside your home to address water issues. A trench is dug and the pipe is installed. Gravel or rock is added to the trench before it is covered with soil or cement.

Frost Heaving

As the ground around your foundation freezes and expands it adheres to your foundation lifting it up. This creates a void beneath it. In the spring, when the ground thaws the foundation lowers again, but because the soil shifted to fill the void, there are now gaps around the foundation edges.

G

Ground Water

Groundwater, or saturated soil, is water below the earth’s surface. The water table is the top level of ground water.

Grout

Mixture of water, cement and sand used to connect concrete, fill voids or seal joints.

Gutters

A horizontal length of trough attached beneath the edge of the roof to collect rainwater and snowmelt.

H

Helical Pier

A pier with a screw like structure on the end that is screwed into the ground. It is connected to a structure to provide support and lift.

High Water Table

The specific level where the ground below will be saturated with water if you go any lower.

Hydrostatic Pressure

The process of groundwater pooling against your foundation and adding pressure to your foundation walls.

I

Iron Bacteria

Iron Bacteria, or Iron Ochre, is a living microorganism that is commonly found in areas where there is a large amount of iron in the groundwater. Although the bacteria is not harmful to humans, it bright or rust color, and it’s slimy texture can wreak havoc on your homes waterproofing systems like interior drains or sump pumps. Regular maintenance must be taken to ensure the waterproofing systems do not fail.

M

Mil

A measurement equal to 1/1000 (0.001) inch.

Mildew

Mildew is a whiteish, musty-smelling fungus. It grows on organic material and living items and requires a damp environment to survive.

Mold

Mold is a living organism with many different varieties. It can be several colors and often has a hairy or fuzzy substance on the surface. Mold needs food, water and oxygen to grow. Unfortunately, your damp basement or crawl space is common for this growth.

Mold Removal

Removing mold from your home. Note, because the mold is removed, if the root cause isn’t addressed, the problem will reoccur, usually quickly.

Monolithic Foundation

A monolithic foundation is a foundation created by pouring the concrete for the slab and the footing at the same time.

Mud Jacking

The process of lifting sunken concrete by pumping a cement slurry under the slab. This solution does not address the underlying problem that caused the concrete to sink originally.

O

Open Cell Insulation

A type of insulation made out of open cells. This type of insulation can be bought at hardware stores and is commonly pink. Since it is open cell, moisture can pass through the porous material where it is absorbed. Once open cell insulation is wet it loses its effectiveness.

Open Crawl Space Vents

Old building code dictated crawl space vents be installed to allow air to flow in and out. We now know this simply doesn’t happen. Instead, outside air is trapped beneath floors where it finds its way into the living areas of the home. It’s best to seal vents if your home currently has them.

P

Permafrost

Permafrost is the layer of earth that stays frozen throughout the winter.

Permeance

Permeance is the rate at which moisture can pass through a membrane. Lower numbers indicate better performance.

Piling

Also referred to as a pier and is connected to the home to provide support and possible lift.

Pitch

Similar to grade, pitch is the angle or slope of the concrete to best direct water in the appropriate direction.

Pitting

Pitting is a concrete defect that creates small, deep holes. The edges of the holes are rough and irregular. Human error is most likely the cause of pitting, either an inadequate mix, or improper use of accelerator, however, old age can also cause pitting.

Polymer

Two liquid materials, when combined produce polyurethan foam.

PolyRenewal

A superior alternative for concrete lifting. PolyRenewal uses polyurethane foam instead of a cement slurry as in Mud jacking. The liquid is injected under the slab and a foam is created. As the foam expands, the void is filled and the concrete is lifted.

Porous Concrete

The walls of your basement are porous. There is a lot of water in the concrete mix and when the concrete is poured and it begins to cure, that water begins to evaporate. During this process, it leaves a trail of capillary pores in the concrete are larger than water molecules, meaning water vapor can pass through them.

Poured Foundation Walls

A foundation wall made of poured concrete. These walls have fewer joints and take less time to construct than cement block walls.

Pressure Grouting

Another term for ‘mud jacking.’ See mud jacking.

R

R-Value

R-value is the rating system to tell you how well insulation can keep heat from leaving or entering a space. The ‘R’ stands for resistance. The higher the R-value the greater the insulating effectiveness.

Relative Humidity

The amount of water vapor in the air measured as a percentage. The percentage expresses the amount needed for saturation at the same temperature.

Rim Joists

Rim joists are attached perpendicular to the joists and provide lateral support for the floor above.

S

Sealed Foundation Walls

A sealed wall is the process of adding a material to waterproof the wall. This process should only be done in conjunction with a properly functioning waterproofing system. These two products combined create a leak free basement and drastically lower humidity levels.

Settlement

Settlement is the term used to describe the problem when a foundation sinks into the void created beneath a foundation.

Slab Foundation

A foundation type that is made of concrete, typically 4-6 inches thick, and is poured directly on the ground in one pour.

Slab Jack

Another term for ‘mud jacking.’ See mud jacking.

Soil

Soil is mineral and organic materials covering the earth’s surface where plants grow.

Soil Layers

Soil layers are deposits that have formed over a long time. Some factors that facilitate the layer deposits include wind, water, glaciers, and human activities such as construction. The layers gain strength and capacity with time. Beneath the layers are bedrocks that keep it even stronger and stable.

Soil Types

Soil types such as man-moved, backfill, and native layers have various properties that make them suitable for different construction work.

Spalling

Spalling is a defect that occurs in concrete. Concrete slowly breaks because water has entered the concrete causing it to peel, or flake. This is common in colder climates where the freeze-thaw cycle is recurrent.

Spread Footings

A spread footing is a shallow footing in proportion to its width and usually made of reinforced concrete. They can offer additional support for the home’s weight.

Stack Effect

Stack effect is the movement of air in and out of a building. The air at the bottom (the hottest air) is pushed upward before being forced out of the home. The stack effect increases when the air outside is colder than the air inside.

Stair Step Crack

Stair-step cracks can occur in the foundation walls. The cracks follow the familiar step pattern and often follow the grout lines.

Stress

The force at a point within the soil mass that exerts pressure from the weight of the soil above the point plus any pressure exerted on the soil by the structure.

Structural Integrity

A measure of how structurally sound the structure is to support the weight of the building.

Sump Pump

A mechanical appliance to discharge water in a crawl space or basement out and away from the home.

Sump Pump Pit

The sump pit is a hole with a gravel base that is dug at the lowest part of the basement or crawl space. The sump basin is then inserted before the pumps themselves are added.

T

Tar Coating

Tar coating is the process of damp proofing the basement from the outside during construction. In cold, damp weather, tar can take up to seven days to dry properly.

Termiticide

Termiticide is a type of insecticide designed to exterminate termites.

Thermal Break

Thermal break refers to a material, like insulation, being added to prevent the flow of heat. The more continuous (unbroken) the insulation, the greater the thermal break.

U

Underpinning

Underpinning is the process of supporting the foundation of a building. It involves reinforcing the existing foundation and the surrounding soil.

Untreated Crawl Space

A crawl space that doesn’t include any waterproofing or sealing and air can freely flow. Often with a dirt floor and open cell, commonly pink, insulation.

V

Vapor Barrier

The specific definition of vapor barrier depends on what building code you are referencing. Generally, a vapor barrier is a material that resists moisture from passing through the material.

W

Wall Braces

A device used to support a bowing wall by anchoring the inside wall to stable soil beyond the home.

Water Leaks

Water entering the home from anywhere.

Water Leaks

Water entering the home from anywhere.

Water Resistant

Water resistant means it resists some, but not all, water. Products or items that are water resistant will eventually get wet after an extended period of exposure or pressure.

Water Seepage

The process when water travels through a porous material like soil or cement.

Water Vapor

Water vapor is water in the form of a vapor or gas. Water vapor can be especially damaging in a basement or crawl space since it can be easily ignored by homeowners.

Waterproof

Waterproof is a material that is impervious to water, meaning it is sealed from the effects of water.

Weep Holes

Weep holes are drilled in the bottom row of the cinder blocks, near the footing, to relieve water trapped in the hollow cavities inside the cinder block.

Wood Rot

Wood rot, or dry rot, is a fungi the digests the part of the wood that gives wood strength and stiffness. Although it can be confused with mold, wood rot can cause an infestation that threatens the structural integrity of your home.

Y

Yard Grading

The surface ground level. The rise and fall of the land.