The great city of Milwaukee is known by a number of nicknames, like “Brewtown” and “Cream City” but there’s another possible nickname that Milwaukeeans would probably rather not claim, “Leaky Basement Metropolis.” According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, the city of Milwaukee and its surrounding suburbs are above the national average for both outside water leaks and foundation problems, estimating that nearly one home out of seven in the city proper suffers from water problems.
Much like when we discussed Basement Waterproofing in Chicago, Milwaukee’s proximity to Lake Michigan and the corresponding effect on the water table contribute greatly to seepage problems in the area. There are other factors that make basement water seepage problems and their solutions different in Milwaukee than in other nearby cities, so let’s take a look at them.
Concrete Block Foundations: Like any older city, there is a variety of foundation materials to be found in Milwaukee, but the predominant type is concrete block. The blocks used to construct these foundations are hollow so filling foundations cracks from the inside is ineffective in stopping seepage. On these foundations, as well as any made of brick or stone, other ways to waterproof a concrete block foundation are needed, including interior and exterior drain tile or a waterproofing membrane applied on the outside foundation wall.
Of course, poured concrete foundations are also to be found in the Milwaukee area and cracks in these foundations can be effectively repaired by urethane injection.
Interior Drain Tile: Homes in Milwaukee are more likely to have interior drain tile installed in them than homes elsewhere. In fact, both interior and exterior drain tile are required for new construction. This means that any seepage problems in these homes is less likely to be caused by hydrostatic pressure but will more frequently arise from another source, such as foundation wall leaks, inadequate or failed sump pumps or poor exterior water management.
Separate Sewer Systems: Ninety-five percent of Milwaukee’s sewer system consists of separate sanitary and storm sewers. Milwaukee homeowners can’t connect a source of ground water discharge, like a sump pump or downspout, to the sanitary sewer. Homeowners are permitted to discharge downspouts on to their own property, provided certain requirements were met, but could also connect to storm sewers.
There is a new movement in Milwaukee toward disconnection from storm sewers to prevent backups during heavy storms. Homeowners are encouraged to develop rain gardens on their property and direct downspout discharge to irrigate them.
Palmer Valves: The Milwaukee area seems to be the home of a unique piece of waterproofing history, the Palmer Valve. A Palmer valve is a type of gate valve or check valve that is used where interior drain tile connects to a floor drain rather than a sump pump, found mostly in older houses. With the floor drains typically connected to the sanitary sewer system, flow from the sewer could back up through floor drains and drain tile without the Palmer valve, which allows flow down into the drain but prohibits backflow.
To make things even more interesting, sometimes the Palmer valve is found several feet below a clean-out in the sewer line.
Hilly Terrain: In the suburbs and neighboring towns west of Milwaukee, the lay of the land is decidedly hillier than in the city or to the south in Northeastern Illinois. Having neighboring homes at different elevations causes storm water runoff to collect at low points, increasing the chance of water infiltrating a home over the top of a foundation, through exterior stairwells or other entry points.
Basement Waterproofing in Milwaukee has its own unique challenges and peculiarities, so doesn’t it make sense to hire a basement waterproofing company that really knows Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin and the problems unique to the area?