Improving the Foundation

Our fully enclosed back porch sits on a concrete slab that is surrounded on its two exterior sides by another concrete slab. We call that exterior slab a patio. Not because of its extrinsic beauty but calling it a patio seems more convenient than calling it “that big slab of flat concrete that surrounds or porch on its two exterior sides.”

There is a crack or seam buffering the two aforementioned concrete slabs. Since we’ve had issues with water seeping into the basement in the general vicinity, I thought filling that seam with special caulking might help reduce the frequency of this particular annoyance. So, I started cleaning the joints last weekend, figuring that might increase the likelihood of a successful bond between the concrete and the caulk.

With the pressure set at around one-hundred-and-ten psi, I used my air compressor to blast out the collected bits of leaves, stems, sticks, sand and grit that had accumulated. While doing that, I noticed some sagging pieces of yellow fiberglass insulation at the southwest corner where the patio joins the main part of the house. “Probably some insulation that has fallen down from behind the vinyl siding,” I figured.

I figured wrong.

As it turns out, there was a sizable wad of wet insulation that had been stuffed into a hole where there was supposed to be a foundation block. This house, which seems to be impressively sound and solid over one hundred years after it was built, is supported by what look to be ceramic construction blocks made of terra cotta tile. The hollow core blocks are about six inches wide, six inches tall, and twelve inches long. As long as they remain intact, which most of them appear to be, they are apparently quite strong.

When one gets broken, that quality seems to diminish considerably. In case you’re wondering, stuffing the cavity with fiberglass insulation is not a structurally viable option. I found that a small batch of concrete seems to be a considerably superior solution. Much better at supporting weight and keeping varmints and critters out. Even though it wasn’t easy getting it into the hole with only two inches of vertical access space between the bottom of the siding and the concrete apron.

Ease of repair shouldn’t be the controlling factor when it comes to addressing the deficiencies on which we are building our lives. Insulation is a wonderful invention saving us a lot of money on energy bills and keeping us comfortable during the thermal variations of our climate. But it is worse than worthless as a substitute for a foundation. It takes more than blocking out the cold to keep a house—or a life—on solid ground.

H. Arnett


About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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