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How to Prevent Your Basement from Flooding

The skies above your Maryland home are dark. A massive rainstorm is about to hit.

You’re thinking: “How bad will it be this time?”

In just a few minutes, the rain comes down in sheets, soaking your home, your lawn, your garden and, most of all, flooding your basement.

It’s a scary moment.

Once the storm ends, you break out the rags, mop and water vacuum. Here we go again. Last year was a record year for rain and flooding in Maryland.

If you own a basement, you have been through this more than once.

However, there are ways you can protect your basement from flooding. The threat of a storm doesn’t have to send chills down your spine. As a home foundation repair contractor, I can tell you: It can be done! Here are several basement flooding prevention tips that may help you stop the once-inevitable:

  1. Clean your gutters: When soil, leaves, branches and other debris clog up your gutters, the water naturally is pushed down to the basement and foundation. Have your gutters cleaned twice a year, in winter and fall, to clean out all the junk in them.
  2. Add downspout extensions: You may not have a quality drainage system around your house. If so, water may flood your basement after a storm.  Downspout extension should be installed so it will send water away from the buildings fill wedge.
  3. Replace leaking windows: Wood frames in basement windows sometimes can become rotted. Once they have rotted, they are so porous that water can leak into the basement. These old windows should be replaced by vinyl or aluminum windows that can impede or block water from entering the basement.
  4. Drain the yard: If you see ponding in your yard after a storm, you may be a basement flood risk, too. Hiring a contractor to install drainage would probably end some flooding, too. Proper  grading around the perimeter of the house helps keep house dry.
  5. Install a sump pump: Sump pumps pump water out of a pit in the basement away from the home. This keeps the basement or crawlspace dry.
  6. Hire a foundation repair contractor: If you are having flooding issues in your home or on your property, they may be beyond your capacity to correct. If that is the case, hire a licensed home foundation repair contractor. They will do an assessment of the foundation and basement. Then, they can make recommendations and repairs.

Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia experience a lot of rain during the spring and summer. Protect your basement from more damage by making the smart adjustments now.

M Taylor Enterprise, Montgomery County, Maryland, has experienced home foundation repair contractors who can assess the reasons your home is flooding, make recommendations and make the installations that you need. Call us for a consultation at (301) 649-3406 or email us at matt@mtaylorenterprise.com.

Don’t Take it for Granted: Make Sure your Home Foundation Contractor is Licensed and Insured

So you have chosen a home foundation contractor to do work on your home. You have their estimate, the date set for them to begin and payment agreement.

It’s exciting to finally get a contractor chosen and then get your foundation repaired. So, you are all done now, right?

Well, not exactly.

licensed home foundation repair worker M Taylor Construction

Have you researched whether the home foundation contractor is licensed and insured? If you haven’t, you need to do that immediately. You may ask: what happens if they are not licensed and insured? Here are some risks you take, according to www.maryland.com:

  1. Maryland has many unlicensed contractors who come from other states, so recovering money or stolen items can be very difficult.
  2. Unlicensed home improvement contractors defraud Maryland homeowners of millions of dollars each year.
  3. “Bait and switch” when an unlicensed contractor quotes a low price then demand more money.
  4. The unlicensed contractor may also have an invalid or no MHIC number posted on the side of their company vehicle.
  5. Unlicensed contractors may have had an MHIC but then it was revoked because they performed shoddy work, failed to complete jobs, or for other violations of law.
  6. Senior homeowners are victims of unlicensed contractors.

As you can see, failing to verify their license and insurance can not only be costly, it can also cause further damage to your home. Maryland citizens have lost millions of dollars due to fraudulent home repairs and the state has lost millions of dollars in tax revenue due to these shysters.

So, you need to protect yourself and your loved ones by demanding that the contractors show proof of licensure and insurance. You can do these several different ways:

    1. Request a COI (Certificate of Insurance).
    2. Also, have them show you a copy of a current worker’s compensation insurance certificate.
    3. They need to show you their MHIC license. You can then call MHIC to make sure the license is current. Go the website online or call 1-888-218-5925 (toll free) or 410-230-6231 (Baltimore area).
    4. Ask for local references. If they don’t give you any references, don’t hire them. Have them show you photos of the jobs they have done and if it was completed on time and budget.
    5. Make sure the contractor also has workmen’s compensation.
    6. Get two bids from two separate contractors.
    7. Remember the old rule, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Don’t accept a contracting deal that seems incredibly inexpensive. You will get what you pay for, certainly. Do the research before hiring the contractor.
    8. Get a detailed list of project material selections spelled out and signed in a written contract. (Have a lawyer look at it if you are not sure.)
    9. Pay only 1/3 down and pay by check. Never pay cash. 
    10. File all project documents including payments.

Your home is too valuable to let it be repaired by fake contractors. These unlicensed and uninsured frauds need to be removed from your property as soon as they are unmasked.  

All of the home repair and home foundation repair contractors at M Taylor Enterprise are licensed, insured and have workmen’s compensation. We care about our work and we will show it to you and give you references. Call us for a consultation at (301) 649-3406 or email us at matt@mtaylorenterprise.com.

When is a Licensed, Professional Structural Engineer Needed?

There are times in life when we need trusted advice of an experienced professional. It may be a physician, an accountant or a lawyer. We trust them as they are giving us unbiased, helpful advice to improve our health, finances or other important aspects of our lives. Their direction is crucial and we depend on it.

structural engineer M Taylor Enterprise

When it comes to our home and, specifically, our home foundation, we also depend on the experts to advise us on needed repairs. Most homeowners don’t even think about their home foundation until there is a disaster such as settling or even collapse.

The health of your home’s structure, as we have discussed in past blogs, is crucial to your family’s health. If there are cracks or settling that will affect the entire home, which in turn, may cause serious health problems for you and your family.

In some cases, your home foundation needs to be seen by a structural engineer. According to the Structural Engineers Association of California, structural engineers: is:

“…create drawings and specifications, perform calculations, review the work of other engineers, write reports and evaluations, and observe construction sites. A Professional Engineer’s license is required in order to practice Structural Engineering. Most practicing structural engineers design and analyze buildings, bridges, power plants, electrical towers, dams, and other large structures that are essential to life as we know it.”

Structural engineers will come to your home or business and analyze your structure. They know a lot about structural systems, foundation damage forensics, home foundation repair and residential foundation inspections. They should have a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering and, at least five years of guidance by a professional engineer prior before they are licensed. Their education along with a technical background make licensed structural engineers the most qualified to analyze a home foundation.

So, now that you know about structural engineers, the next big question is when should you bring in this “heavy hitter” to inspect your residential or business foundation? There are five signs of when your foundation needs a structural engineer:

  1. Termite, water, fire or wind damage: One of the most common reasons is from catastrophic damage caused by pests or natural disasters. These threaten the integrity of the foundation and can lead to costly repairs. A structural engineer can inspect the foundation and do a forensic investigation which will determine if there was a foundation issue before the event. This information is then used by the claims adjuster.
  2. Structural damage: You or your home repair contractor may have noticed cracks, water damage or other signs of structural damage. Damage may include bowing walls, windows, and doors that don’t close completely, cabinets that are askew, uneven floors or other issues we have covered in previous blogs.
  3. A new addition to the home (rooms, garage, etc.): Whenever a homeowner makes a major addition to their home, whether it be a garage, studio or even a pool, this can be considered a major change to the structure. A structural engineer can figure out if the home foundation’s integrity will be compromised by the new addition. They can confirm if the foundation is adequately reinforced and that it can carry the weight of the home’s structure.
  4. Buying or selling the home: You are about to make the largest transaction in your life when you purchase or sell a home. Should a home inspector report that there is a major structural problem, bring in a structural engineer to inspect the foundation. They may save the homeowner or buyer a large amount of money if it isn’t as bad as first reported.
  5. Building a new home: A structural engineer can look at your plans and property and determine if they are sound and best for their planned use.

As you can see, a licensed, experienced, professional structural engineer can be an invaluable asset in analyzing the home foundation. It is wise to get the structural engineer’s opinion along with the home repair contractor, home builder or home inspector.

M Taylor Enterprise, Montgomery County, Maryland, has licensed and experienced professional structural engineers and foundation repair specialists who can do a thorough review of your structure and make recommendations. Call us for a consultation at (301) 649-3406 or email us at matt@mtaylorenterprise.com.

 

Repairing walls: Carbon Fiber Strips

When there are cracks on walls, that is a shining red flag that repairs need to be done and soon.
carbon fiber strips walls M Taylor Enterprise
A licensed, home repair contractor will install carbon fiber strips.  Carbon fiber strips are epoxied to a foundation wall, either concrete or  block.
Walls that have developed horizontal cracks from bowing, due  to lateral pressure, are the best candidates for carbon fiber strips. Carbon  fiber is a high-strength strand that is woven into a fabric that is virtually unbreakable and does not stretch.  When used for structural foundation repairs, it is epoxied to the damaged wall at intervals determined by the type and severity of the damage.
Typically, they are installed four feet apart, nearly flush with the wall surface and painted to match surrounding walls. These strips often take  the place  of steel beam pilasters which are traditionally used to secure a  wall. Carbon fiber straps are not for all walls. Walls that have sheering in at the bottom, or walls  that have  bowed in more then two (2) inches.

Our experienced home structural repair team at M Taylor Enterprise will visit your home or business in the Montgomery County, MD, Silver Spring , MD or Washington, D.C. area and give you an estimate on your foundation wall repair. We get the job done quickly and efficiently. Call us at (301) 649-3406 or email us at matt@mtaylorenterprise.com.

Frost Heaving: How to Repair a Home Foundation Crack this Winter

Winter is coming but we have already felt some below freezing nights along with rain, snow and sleet. It may be fall, still, but it doesn’t feel like it. The nights in the Maryland/Washington, D.C. DMV area are only going to get colder.

In fact, meteorologists are calling for colder-than-normal temperatures this winter. So, brace up. Make sure your HVAC unit is working properly, you have salt packed away and there are no cracks in your home’s foundation.

winter home foundation cracks M Taylor Enterprise

Wait. You may ask what do cracks in my home’s foundation have to do with a frigid winter? It has a major affect. Frozen ground below your home causes dirt to heave and then contract. The “Heave Cycle”, as it is known, can cause your foundation to crack.

As the winter season goes on, daily exposure to ice and freezing temperatures can cause further damage to your home’s foundation. Three consecutive days of below-forty temperature may enlarge the cracks.

It all happens this way: Ice freezes beneath the concrete foundation. That is called “frost heave” where dirt moves from the formation of ice lenses (long crystals of ice). These same ice lenses can also cause a ground collapse, which can cause serious cracks and damage to the home foundation.

When the foundation starts slipping and cracking, this causes a domino affect in the home which we have discussed in previous blogs. Your foundation, floors, walls and other home structures will be affected. Then you will notice doors and windows not closing, stains on the walls and tilted cabinets.

Frost heave starts from the top as the soil freezes. The foundation never moves. In fact, it is locked as the ground freezes and pulls the foundation up. The soil then fills in the cracks in the foundation. Once the weather thaws, the foundation unlocks from the soil and settles. However, soil has been displaced under the foundation and when the home goes down, it is in a different location.

You can’t prevent cold weather, but you can prevent frost heave from damaging your home foundation any more in the future. Your licensed home foundation repair contractor can do the following:

  1. Drive the footing into the soil.
  2. A bell-shaped fitting is installed at the bottom of the footing to stop it from moving with the frost or other weather events.
  3. The concrete slab then has reinforcing steel installed.

Your holiday season has enough stress already not to be compounded by major home foundation problems. Contact your local licensed, home foundation repair contractor and have them inspect your home.

Our experienced foundation repair team at M Taylor Enterprise in the Washington, D.C.. Montgomery County, MD and Howard County, MD and we will visit your home, inspect your foundation and give you an estimate. We get the job done quickly and efficiently. Call us at (301) 649-3406 or email us at matt@mtaylorenterprise.com.

Don’t Settle for Less: Repairing a Home Foundation that has Settled

Most home foundations settle. It is a fact of life.

settling foundation M Taylor Enterprise

Settling happens when the following occurs:

  1. Time: A home that has existed for several decades, may settle over time. That is only natural. Soil has shifted or sunken. Much of this depends on the soil composition and the typical climate in the region.
  2. Improper soil conditions from changing weather: It may have been built in the summer in hot, soil. Since then, the soil has been hit with rains, then drought then flooding. The soil contracts then expands causing the home to settle.
  3. Poor construction: If the contractor used cheap materials for the home then it may settle much earlier.

So, if this has happened to your home foundation it, like anything in life that we use every day, will need maintenance. This is when you need to contact a licensed home foundation repair contractor.

Once your home foundation repair contractor has inspected the home and analyzed the repairs needed to your foundation, they will repair the settled foundation using one of the following methods:

  1. Install steel push piers: This method is a “forever solution” to home settling. Push piers are driven deep into the soil that lifts the foundation back to its first position when it was a new home. The load-bearing walls are supported and stabilized.
  2. Plate Anchors: Bowed or cracked basement walls are supported by anchors. These anchors are designed to be installed quickly. Plus, your lawn and landscaping are never touched during installation.
  3. Helical Piers: We covered this foundation repair in a previous blog, but it is excellent for slab structures or lightweight buildings. Helical piers are also convenient to install as there is no disturbance to your home.

Winter is around the corner and you may have noticed your home settling, you need to contact your local, licensed home foundation repair contractor. Your home is your most expensive investment. Don’t “settle” for letting the foundation deteriorate.

M Taylor Enterprise is an experienced, licensed and respected home foundation contractor in the Silver Spring, Maryland, Montgomery County, Maryland, Prince George’s County, Maryland and parts of Howard County MD area. We will visit your home or business, diagnose the problems and give you an estimate. We get the job done quickly and efficiently. Call us at (301) 649-3406 or email us at matt@mtaylorenterprise.com.

 

Home Drainage Systems Issues and Methods of Repair

Water is great.

We use it for our food, drinks, showers, sinks, clothes washers, dishwashers, commodes and landscaping. Without water you would be unable to function-that is the bottom line.

Water can also destroy.

home drainage M Taylor Enterprise

If it is not drained properly, it can cause massive damage to your largest property investment-your home. Most insurance policies do not cover water damage claims like these either.  

So, your home drainage system is crucial in protecting your home and your family. Poorly designed home drainage systems can cause the following problems:

  1. Standing water in spots around the foundation.
  2. Dying plants
  3. Basement water
  4. Muddy ground
  5. Insects (particularly mosquitos)
  6. Foul odors
  7. Wet or ruined turf

These problems can be costly, so the decision to correct home water drainage issues needs to be made. Once you have found the problems, call a home drainage system contractor to make the repairs.

Once that contractor arrives, they may one of these steps or several steps to alleviate the drainage problems:

  1. Control hard surface runoff and identify low spots in the landscape. Water must exit the property. A drainage system is then installed to alleviate puddles that form on the property.
  2. Gutters and downspouts must have proper grading or just a one-inch rain will pour over 1,200 gallons of water into your basement. Rain is the main source of stains to your basement. (How many times have you pulled out the wet/dry vacuum to get rid of the water pooled up in your basement?) Gutters must be repaired and rerouted. Water has to be at least 10’ feet away to protect the foundation. Downspouts should be directed into a basin or drain pipe system.
  3. Sump pumps are installed in basements and used to remove water that has accumulated in a sump basin. This pump keeps basements from flooding. Sump pump discharge should be drained to 3”-4” The sump pump discharge line should be drained to a 3” or 4” and run the water to sunlight or a pop-up emitter. This discharge line empties to a larger pipe eliminating pressure on the sump pump.
  4. Ground closest to the home is graded away from it. Clay soil or mulch is used to channel the water away from your basement. Sod and plants are also cleared away from the foundation.
  5. Perimeter drain can also be installed so it redirects ground surface away from the wet area. It has drain pipes along the bottom to move the water out quickly.

Any of these steps may alleviate the home water drainage issues. Consult your licensed home water drainage contractor and have them make the needed repairs.

M Taylor Enterprise’s experienced water drainage team will visit your home in the Silver Spring, Maryland, Montgomery County, Maryland, Prince George’s County, Maryland and parts of Howard County MD. We will inspect your home and basement and consult you. We get do the work quickly and efficiently. Call us at (301) 649-3406 or email us at matt@mtaylorenterprise.com.

 

How to Choose a Contractor for Your Foundation Repair Projects

You see cracks in your foundation. The doors and windows are not closing all the way. There are water stains on the walls. The drywall is damp and moldy. And your basement smells musty…like a vacant prison cell.

It’s pretty clear your home’s foundation needs repair. You don’t have any more time to put it off now. A home foundation repair contractor  and possibly a structural engineer needs to be hired to design and  deliver a correct repair plan.

So, all you need to do now is pick up your smart phone and call whichever contractor comes to the top of your Google search results, right!?

Not exactly.

In fact, if this foundation repair has not been addressed, it can wait a few days or weeks until you have taken a few well-planned steps.

Here are 6 things to do before you choose you foundation repair contractor:

  1. Research “home foundation repairs”: Educate yourself on what is happening to your foundation. Learn about what a home foundation contractor does and how they make repairs. (Read our blog on foundation repair.)
  2. Does the contractor actually do foundation  repairs? : There are many contractors out there, some reputable and some not so reputable. In fact, there are many building contractors out there, you might think that any contractor can do it. That would be a huge mistake. Only choose contractors who specialize in repairing foundations. If the contractor does it “on the side” then delete them from your list.
  3. Contractor licensed and insured: This one should be easy to find out. Any home foundation contractor should be licensed and insured. You can check with your state licensing board, in Maryland is the  Maryland Home Improvement Commission to see if they have the correct license to work on your home . Check for complaints Ask for a certificate of insurance [ COI] prior to starting any work. You  want to make sure contractor has Workmans Comp Ins and Liability insurance.
  4. Warranty: Most contractors offer warranties on their repairs. Ask for one and get the written list of what the contractor covers.
  5. Landscaping issues: Find out if any of your shrubbery, trees or other landscaping will be need to be removed. You will have to add that into the cost.
  6. Get three references: Any reputable, licensed contractor should have at least three satisfied customers. Get their names and contact information. Also, check their Facebook and Yelp pages for reviews.

Now you have done your homework. Hire the best home foundation repair contractor you can find from your research.

Once you have hired them, get a written agreement on what they will be doing with the total estimate on the cost. Then, arrange to have them start the project.

Hiring a home foundation contractor can be agonizing as you need to get the project under way. However, it is worth the time and the effort.

M Taylor Enterprise is an experienced, licensed and respected home foundation contractor in the Silver Spring, Maryland, Montgomery County, Maryland, Prince George’s County, Maryland and parts of Howard County MD area. We will visit your home or business, diagnose the problems and give you an estimate. We get the job done quickly and efficiently. Call us at (301) 649-3406 or email us at matt@mtaylorenterprise.com.

 

How to Grade the Soil Next to Your Home’s Foundation

Your home depends on its foundation.

And your foundation needs  proper soil grading around its perimeter. Grading prevents excess water from eroding , heaving, and cracking the foundation, causing the need for foundation repair.

Once the foundation cracks, the walls can  begin to bow, doors and windows don’t close correctly and a whole list of home structural problems ensue.

grading home foundation M Taylor Enterprise

It’s crucial that the home foundation grading is done properly.  A qualified contractor determines the required grade. An excavator uses the home  foundation footprint to create the grade.

Then, the home foundation grading begins. Here are the steps:

  1. Grading is most important in the fill wedge of the foundation. The fill wedge is the soil  next to the foundation that was excavated to build the home, then later soil is pushed back to ‘  backfill’ the foundation after the home is constructed . The backfill wedge is roughly the first 4’  of soil around the house The backfill wedge is rarely tamped in lifts for proper compaction. The soil settles over decades.
  2. Mulch is  added over time to add to the problem. To improve the grading remove mulch and small plants from around the house and area must be cleared of all rocks, tree roots and other debris.
  3. Grading begins. Use a clay based soil, once tamped clay sheds water much better than topsoil . The new graded soil must be tamped with a hand tamper or a plate vibratory gas tamper.
  4. Add mulch over the newly  graded area. Make sure the new elevation of the backfill  material is at least four inches  below the bottom siding piece.
  5. Make sure gutters and downspouts are clean, add downspout extensions as needed. Taller window wells are often needed during a regrading job.

Once this is completed, you should have a home foundation grade that will protect your home’s foundation and keep your property from being damaged by heavy rains and water damage.

If you suspect your home’s foundation may need to be graded, contact out experienced home foundation grade contractors at M Taylor Enterprises in the Montgomery County, MD, Silver Spring , MD or Washington, D.C. area and diagnose the problems and give you an estimate. We get the job done quickly and efficiently. Call us at (301) 649-3406 or email us at matt@mtaylorenterprise.com.          

Red Flags: When Your Home Masonry Needs Repair

If you have owned a home for any period of time, you know it needs care and maintenance. Whether it’s a masonry home built in 1925 or 2015, it will need repairs to its structure and foundation, sooner or later. You can count on it.

So, it’s good to have your eyes peeled and even inspect your masonry home and foundation on a monthly basis to see if there are problems. It doesn’t need a trained home masonry contractor eyes, either.

masonry repairs M Taylor Enterprise

In fact, there are several red flags you can see for yourself that may indicate that your home needs masonry repair:

    1. Mortar missing: Brick walls usually need to be re-pointed or repaired every fifteen years. Joints need to be filled with mortar.
    1. Masonry cracks: These would be cracks in the brickwork and masonry and these are serious. Even a small, thin crack can cause damage.
    1. Water infiltration: Water enters the home through cracks in the foundation and walls. Persistent exposure to water weakens the concrete and eats away at the mortar between bricks and concrete blocks.
    1. Interior problems: In a previous blog, we have detailed the many interior structural problems that occur from foundation issues: windows and doors that don’t close, water stains on walls and musty smells.  
    1. Problematic mortar joints: Mortar joints are the spaces between the concrete and the stone. After several years, those joints begin settling thus causing slanted or cracked mortar joints.  
    1. Chimney breaks and cracks: Chimneys that are deteriorating are a fire hazard. And, that deterioration can be seen. A rusted damper, cracks in chimney, blue tile bits piling up at the bottom, flaking brick or mortar breaking down.  
  1. Shoddy workmanship: If the home masonry contractors used inferior building materials, those can also cause cracks and breaks in the foundation and walls. In time, the foundation has uneven settling causing masonry damage. Vermin, rodents and in insects will then eat through the concrete and mortar unleashing serious damage.   

If you see any of the above issues, you need to consult a licensed home masonry structural or basement waterproofing contractor. The contractor will find matching bricks or mortar to replace the damaged sections of your home.

M Taylor Enterprise has licensed, experienced home masonry contractors who can do a consultation and then do the needed repairs, efficiently and help you improve the quality and appearance of your home in the Montgomery County, MD, Silver Spring , MD or Washington, D.C. area. Call us at (301) 649-3406 or email us at matt@mtaylorenterprise.com.