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What to Seal in between an old Stone layed foundation

 
Posts: 18
Location: Redfield, NY, zone 5, average snow fall 184", elevation +/- 1,072', tug hill
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I have an old farm house with a stone foundation. The problem I'm having is there is to much cold in my basement in the winter time and freezing my water lines all the while. Our wood stove is on our first floor so no heat in the basement. What could I use to fill in between the stone work to cut down on the cold?
 
pollinator
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Derek Wilson : I feel your pain, worse than frozen water is frozen drains - Any Flush beats a full house !

O.K. We truly want a house that breaths, windy is something else ! I am going to paraphrase current codes, and give a short explanation why.

Where the wooden foundation meets the stone foundation you have a sill log or sill plate and mud sill boards often multiple 2X12s, you also have
floor joists that cross the hose under your floor boards and set on the sill plate or are notch fitted into a Sill log !

We are going to assume you have noticed water condensing on upstairs windows and assumed it was from cooking, this may be a sign of a wet
basement!
The cellar or basement or crawlspace side of the stone/concrete foundation should be sealed at the sill plate, sill log and between every Joist box
where the joists meet the sill !

For years the current code was just to fill the pocket or box where the joist meets the sill with fiberglass insulation !

What happened with wet basements is the moisture easily penetrates the fiberglass insulation and then cools and condenses at the outside wall
and stone foundation -

This sweets up up for 1st mold, and then rot ! Better the last home owner never attempted to fill the rim joist pckets with fiberglas ! What is needed
and IS the current code is ridged foam board, you go in there and clean up the pocket seal with caulk ( large cracks use canned foam ) then
cut a piece of ridged foam to the size of each individual pocket place and seal with the foam !

See Link below :


http://howtohomeinsulation.com/insulation_basics_losing_money_sealing_basement_air_leaks.html

Now All the air leaks in your basement area are caused by an equal amount of warm air that has escaped from you house you need to do a ''Google Search''
for Stack Effect and Whole House Stack Effect, While you can think it at an intellectual level, understanding it on a gut level will get you up in your attic
to find and fix the worst of your leaks ! Good luck Good hunting And let us know how you made out !Big AL







 
Derek Willson
Posts: 18
Location: Redfield, NY, zone 5, average snow fall 184", elevation +/- 1,072', tug hill
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Wow, looking like I'm going to have my self a little winter project to work on. The link was very useful thanks al for your help.
 
allen lumley
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Derek : You have lived in the house long enough to know if you have a WET basement, but not long enough to truly know if it is dry, Generally if your basement
is nearly always bone dry you have few if any cob webs down there, no water, no insects, no food for Spiders !

This weekend when it is bright and sunny outdoors get down there and sit in the dark for a good 20 minutes to allow for your eyes to accommodate to the dark

This reconnaissance mission will give you an idea off what you need to do next !

Take a screw driver with you and poke all of the wood you can reach for soundness, mold can be deadly to you rot is deadly to your house, I personally have
replaced sections of sill logs I could push a pencil through ! Good luck and good BAD hunting* ! Big AL

* I never understood why when people have the sniffles they ask for something 'good' for a cold - thats when I want something "BAD" for a cold ! A.L
 
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As always, great advice from Pyro Al, but the more I use foam, the more I hate it. I am using building paper and rockwool more and more to seal and insulate these kinds of drafts.

If the foundation has voids that are letting in air, seal them with lime/clay/sand mortar. Age the lime putty, then mix with equal part local clay and 2 parts sharp sand. Put that in a grout bag and squeeze it in the gaps. Trowel smooth and when leather hard, lightly wet the mortar and burnish with a pointing tool.

If you have more questions, please post pictures, they make it easier for us to understand exactly what you're after.
 
Derek Willson
Posts: 18
Location: Redfield, NY, zone 5, average snow fall 184", elevation +/- 1,072', tug hill
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Al, for the most part it's a dry basement the house sits on a hill so the water drains away from the house pretty much the only time it gets real damp in there, I s during the summer when the floor sweats. But it does have all the structure you were talking about the big sill beam with the big floor board notched out, which I have a one to replace. I don't see any insolation stuffed in any holes around the sill and the notched part so heading to town and going to get some foam and get that sealed and see what that does for me. Thanks

Derek
 
Derek Willson
Posts: 18
Location: Redfield, NY, zone 5, average snow fall 184", elevation +/- 1,072', tug hill
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Rock wool huh I guess I'm not to familiar with that. I really like the idea of the motar, I'm going to look it to that a bit more. With these old houses come great challenges, which pushes me to learn again what we the people have started to forget with the modern technology.

Derek
 
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In some cases like this, it's not what old effective technology has been forgotten, but what they just couldn't or didn't do and worked around in other ways, like tolerating more cold seeping in as the price of a breathable wall that didn't collect moisture. Remember, when many old buildings were built, there was no indoor plumbing to protect.
 
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Location: detroit, mi
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Bill, hopefully you're still watching this thread a month later. Could you elaborate a bit on your method of sealing a crawlspace with alternatives to foam board? Especially the steps you would take to insulate after sealing. The house I'm living in how has fiberglass stuffed in every cavity between the joists and the stem wall, and as Big Al noted there's been nothing but condensation building up there. I'm actually just finishing up my bathroom work you had offered your suggestions on a month or so ago (I expect to get a few pictures up on that old thread shortly) and had to do a lot more work than I initially expected since large sections of the subfloor and bottom plate were rotted away, in part because of this very issue). I now have some leftover lime putty that I was hoping to use to plaster a barn/shed I'm going to start work on soon, but your thoughts on using natural plaster as an air sealer around the sill plate were intriguing.

Sorry if I'm derailing the stone work issue for more general foundational inquiries, but a further question for anyone else in this thread: does it make sense to leave poorly-installed fiberglass batts stapled up between the joists? Or should I seal off the crawlspace vents and focus my insulation towards the foundation wall? I know the contemporary recommendation is to do the latter, but since I have a general aversion to petro products when possible, I don't know if there's a solid way to insulate the foundation wall without foam board.

Cheers,
Kieran
 
Bill Bradbury
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Hi Kieran,
I'm glad to hear things are working out for you. Let's talk about polishing/burnishing your new plaster walls(in the other thread), even if you used drywall as a base.

As for air sealing, I typically rely on building paper. For interior use I like the stuff from Pro-Clima, expensive though, so you may want to use good old 30# felt.

I use a good silicone caulk on the paper to wood interface and where the paper is going to drywall, I just plaster it into the wall with some setting gypsum.

As I said earlier, I love the Roxul products! They are by far the best batt insulation and I even recommend their insulative sheathing though I haven't tried it yet, as my local builder's supply can't seem to get any. I am using a greenguard certified xps until they can. I use expanding foam in a gun to seal the edges and seams of xps; like for like.

The problem with foam is the lack of breathability can form a condensing plane, where water can run off the foam and wet surrounding surfaces and possibly cause mold.

As for vented or unvented crawl space/basement; either can work fine, but I like as much of the building as possible to be within the conditioned space.

 
Kieran Chapman
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Oh ok, so if I understand correctly, you're recommending that I go into the crawlspace and in the cavity between the floor joist and the foundation wall I caulk in building paper? And then I stuff in Rockwool for insulation?

I was going to cut some wood forms and caulk them into place to seal off the two crawlspace vents, that seems significantly easier than insulating underneath my entire floor. My two apprehensions are that I do not know what kind of insulation besides foam board I could then use to insulate the foundation wall (for now I probably just won't) and that I don't plan to install a plastic vapor barrier on the sand floor of the crawlspace. Does anyone think this will contribute to moisture issues? It is relatively dry under there, with no bulk water penetration even during storm events.

Thanks,
Kieran
 
Bill Bradbury
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Yes, but the other way around;
from exterior to interior - rim joist then insulation, then paper sealed to the joists and foundation wall
We want to stop air from blowing through, but allow vapor to pass slowly ensuring drying while limiting wetting.
 
pollinator
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This is my concern with a house we're looking to buy.

The inspector said "the foundation settles because people sealed with mortar, so the hyrdostatic pressure is unequal inside and outside the foundation."  This guy really knew his #@$.

It makes sense.  

But then there's protecting the plumbing...can that be done with a combinaton of insulation around it, dehumdification by means of an air well sort of pile of rocks, and electric tape heating the pipes in winter? by insulating just below the plumbing but leaving most of the basement open air? is there a mold possibility in that case? will copper pipes stlil condense water on them just from being so cold even if it's pretty dry down there from an air well?

I would rather not use foam and stuff, I feel the same way about it.  I have great respect for Big Al's opinions in general, but I'm also hearing the inspector's words and my inner Jay C. White Cloud saying "no, it's only going to make some future problems down the road!"

 
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Some photos will help show the issues.
Lagging , [insulating ] pipes goes a long way normally, but with the cold that you have in North America things can be different.
Read and ask questions s widely as you can.

As an Australian I have often wondered why the cellar cannot be sealed generally except for;
- an inlet that can be controlled
- a vent rising from the cellar to about the house so air is drawn through the cellar to get rid of moisture.

The bit about mortar being an issue is unclear to me. Its causing settlement of the foundations, that seems strange.
Do you have more information on that?
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks John.  

I may post pictures tomorrow, but for the moment I'll just describe.   I think I need answers from people with cold climate experience + fieldstone foundation experience in old houses specifically.

The inspector said it's because the original structure was designed (pre 1900, without plumbing) to have the water come in to the basement and evaporate out, and then there would be equal hydrostatic pressure in the soil inside the stone wall and outside.  

At some point people didn't like the water coming in, so they had the idea to seal it.  But the problem is then there's uneven hydrostatic pressure inside the stone wall and oustide, so it starts to shift.

My theory is that then hte brick wall began to fall apart, and they replaced it and the mason used portland cement, so then that fell apart even faster.  But I don't really know.  All I know is that the report says spalling of bricks and bricks falling out, cracked mortar, and the house settling.

I would love to hear that there's a much cheaper, permie/natural building solution to this.

I would even love to hear that there's an expensive solution but have a definitive price quote that we could go on, even if it's just a ballpark estimate.  If anyone on here is a mason or has the expertise, please post here or maybe better to purple moosage me.

 
John C Daley
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Ok, I understand.
But I can research and its an interesting problem for me to hear of.
But I am guessing the stone may be sandstone, which sometimes does not like water.
If portland cement is used it prevents the stones from breathing and they spall and fall apart.

Why stone walls spall and erode
Stonework damaged with portland cement repointing

Here is a note from Minnesota University
moisture-basements-causes-and-solutions
 
Glenn Herbert
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Any foundation wall strong enough to hold up a house should not normally crack just from hydrostatic pressure. If water is being held up outside and freezing in the ground, or perhaps softening the soil so much that it flows like mud, that would cause cracking; this is an outside drainage issue and needs to be addressed outside.

An old drystone wall may not be possible to completely seal, as the slightest shifting will reopen cracks. Portland cement is harder than many kinds of stone or brick, so if there is any shifting, it is the stone or brick that will crumble. Likewise, portland can trap moisture and increase the saturation of the masonry material, so any freezing temperature has more water to use to cause it to crumble.

My best friend has an early 1800s house with a drystone foundation, built literally on the edge of a small creek in bedrock (shale). There is dirt beneath the floor and walls, while a previous owner lowered the floor level below the wall base and poured a thin concrete slab on the lowered part. Fortunately there is little drainage through the walls, and the furnace in the basement keeps it dry in winter.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks Glenn.  So you're saying the drainage outside the house needs to be a bit better, and it's almost impossible to truly seal the basement anyway, correct? it sounds like Portland cement in this context would not do much real good, and could do some actual harm, is that accurate?  If we're not concerned about the basement having water in it for brief periods per se, then we can just let it get wet in rains and drain and blow dry after?  

I think the hydrostatic differential did happen in this case--the eves are pretty short, the drainage around the house is OK but not great, and this year was the wettest we've seen in a long time, maybe in a hundred years.  They said they'd never seen water in the basement before this year.   So maybe the hydrostatic differential was a significant problem only very recently?
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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PS the fieldstone didn't crack from the hydrostatic pressure differential, it just shifted a little...enough for the brick foundation on top of the fieldstone one to crack a bit, spall out, spit a few bricks, roll over go back to sleep, and leave crack lines through the entire house.  And a few doors not quite cooperating with their doorframes.  Nothing major at the moment, but clearly an indication of bad things  to come if it didn't get addressed, and possibly a reason to freak out, as I don't have decades of experience dealing with this.  

Again, it's fieldstone basement and up to grade, then brick foundation on top of that, probably wasn't done right.  As a point of reference, the oil furnace was installed wrong, there were multiple heating devices sharing a flue, the plumbing was venting sewer gas into the basement and in-law apartment, and almost none of the electric plates were on the right way.  Lots of red flags or pink flags, but how much of this is a real problem and how much an easy fix I am unsure of.  

I just want to really really learn from history and experience on the foundation issue, I think understanding that right can save future generations a lot of pain!
 
Glenn Herbert
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If the problem is recent, and you just had a very wet season, that certainly seems like drainage is an issue. What is the ground like around the house, especially adjacent to the cracking? Does it slope away from the house? What are the surfaces? Are there gutters? What impediments are there to excavating?

 
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