Chicago’s North Shore, towns north of the city along Lake Michigan, is well-known among movie-goers for the many popular films, from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” to “Home Alone,” that have been set in its leafy environs. To Chicagoans, it’s the home of Northwestern University, Ravinia and sports icons Michael Jordan and Mike Ditka. Locals are attracted to the beautiful older homes, great schools and views of the lake.
Great place to live, right? Sure is, but even on the North Shore, basements still leak and foundations still sink just like everywhere else. And, many of the things that make the North Shore an attractive place to live and raise a family can make basement water problems worse.
The North Shore area has a bit of a split personality. Communities directly on the lakefront, like Kenilworth, Glencoe and Winnetka, typically have older and larger homes, many more masonry foundations and a higher water table due to proximity to Lake Michigan. In towns located west of the Edens Expressway, like Glenview and Northbrook, homes tend to be newer and more likely to have poured concrete foundations.
In lakefront homes:
Masonry Foundations – Because most of the homes in this area are older, some more than 100 years, there are many more foundations constructed of concrete block, brick and stone and even telephone tile. Unlike poured concrete foundations, masonry foundations are not monolithic and usually crack only in the mortar joints, but they present other problems, like deteriorating mortar, which can be addressed from the outside, usually by applying an exterior waterproofing membrane, or inside by installing interior drain tile.
Older Construction – Even though the typical older home on the North Shore is well-maintained, houses still get old and their foundations deteriorate, leading not only to basement water problems but structural foundation damage. In addition, older terra cotta pipe, whether used as drain tile or sewer line, is prone to cracking and clogging over time unlike the plastics used in newer construction.
High Water Table – One of the main reasons for a high level of ground water, known as the water table, is proximity to a body of water. Because homes on the North Shore sit close to the world’s 5th largest lake, water tables are high throughout the area. When factored in with the expansive clay soil found throughout the Chicago area, the hydrostatic pressure resulting from the high water table is responsible for many leaky basements.
Finished Basements – Because many North Shore homeowners look for additional living or recreational space in their homes, there are many finished basements in the area. A finished basement doesn’t cause basement seepage but it can complicate repairs when it occurs. For example, a homeowner may choose to install exterior drain tile, even with its significant excavation and added cost, to avoid tearing up a finished basement space. It can also be difficult to find the source of seepage in a finished basement.
Homes on the western side of the North Shore have their own commonalities, a topic for a later article.
Regardless of the reason, homeowners on the North Shore need the services of an expert that knows the area when they experience basement water problems or structural foundation damage. At U.S. Waterproofing, we have been helping homeowners keep their basements dry and safe in Wilmette, Highland Park and Lake Forest and other North Shore communities almost since the day we started out in business. Our experts know the homes, their typical basement water problems and the best and most cost-effective way to fix them so why not ask for their free advice?
Live on the North Shore and have questions about your basement? Please ask them in the Comments box below.