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What Is a Cove Joint?: Where to Check for Basement Leaks

cove joint

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to notice that after every storm or prolonged rain, there’s water on their basement walls and floors. This usually indicates that their cove joints are leaking. 

Cove joints are located where basement walls and floors meet. You might experience seepage at the cove joints in your basement as a result of hydrostatic pressure, which pushes against any surface in its way. In this case, that surface would be a basement wall or floor. This force is strong enough to cause damage in walls and cove joints are usually the weakest link.

What Is a Cove Joint?

repaired basement cove joint

Cove joints are the space between foundation walls and floors. The reason why they leak goes back to the construction of the property. During construction, builders pour concrete footings first and let them cure. They then build walls on top of the cured footings. Lastly, the builders pour the basement floor over the top of the base and against the basement wall.

Although this is a standard procedure for building a new home, the fresh layers of concrete poured on top of cured ones often don’t bind with them. This, in turn, leaves gaps and holes between the two surfaces. That space between them is what we call a cove joint in construction terms.

Unfortunately, these joints are prone to water seepage. Due to water pressure, moisture will pass through them and the foundation wall. When this happens, we call it cove seepage and in the following we’ll explain how to spot the early signs.

Warning Signs of Cove Joint Seepage

water in basement cove joint

In case you’re suspecting that you have cove joint leaks in your basement, there’s a simple way you can resolve your dilemma. Namely, go down to your basement and examine the area where your basement walls meet with the floor. Remember that cove joints don’t look like cracks, but more like straight lines. As long as your cove joints are compressed, you won’t have to worry about any serious structural damage.

Nevertheless, you can’t always see cove joint seepage that clearly. The leaks might be so small that you won’t be able to identify them. But if you allow them to build up, the problem can soon become a living nightmare with pooling water in your basement. It’s key to understand that this is a major problem since it will not only ruin whatever you’re storing down there but will also affect your foundation and pave the way for mold infestation.

How to Repair Cove Joints Properly

interior basement drainage installation at basement cove joint

It’s essential to repair cove joint leaks before they become a much bigger issue. Some contractors might recommend that you seal any cove joins you may have in your below-grade area. This sounds like a logical solution, but it is only a short-term one. Just sealing the cove joint won’t keep water out of your basement; in some cases, it will make leaks worse. Hydrostatic pressure won’t go away on its own and will continue to build up. Hydrostatic pressure will eventually break the seal, or worse, cause your foundation walls to crack, bow, and even cave in. 

One of the best and most popular ways to deal with this issue is to reduce the hydrostatic pressure acting on your foundation walls and redirect water away from your home. You can do this by installing an interior drainage system and a delta membrane. Working together, these two will keep water away from the cove joint. 

A sump pump is also a great waterproofing solution. This appliance will collect any water intercepted by the interior drainage system and remove it from your home. 

In some cases, you can always contact professionals to install an exterior drainage system along the foundation walls. However, this often involves a lot of digging which will be dirty work and is a last resort.

If you’re looking to prevent water from seeping through your cove joints, you can schedule a free basement inspection and waterproofing estimate with FSM. Our team works with residents in the Detroit area, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and surrounding areas in Michigan. Contact us now and make sure hydrostatic pressure doesn’t get the best of you and your basement.

Cove Joint FAQs

Cove joint seepage can cause numerous problems and endanger the health of your home and your loved ones. Therefore, it is an issue that should be addressed as soon as possible. Some waterproofing companies recommend sealing this joint. However, this is not a good solution. Let’s see why. 

Problems with Sealing the Cove Joint 

While it may seem like an easy fix that should keep water out of your basement, sealing the cove joint is not a good solution. In fact, it is only a short-term one. It will prevent leakage for some time, but it won’t address the hydrostatic pressure. 

When this pressure increases in the near future due to a rainstorm or snowmelt, one of two things will happen. Either your walls won’t be able to endure the pressure anymore and will begin to crack, or, more likely, the sealant will be penetrated by water and completely removed. When the sealant becomes damaged, it will also become useless. Since this solution doesn’t address the hydrostatic pressure in any way, this force will keep causing basement leakage. 

The Best Way to Address Cove Seepage 

Sealing this gap is not a good solution, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any that will properly address this problem. By installing an interior drain system you can protect your home from water damage. This pipe is installed along interior basement walls and quickly collects water that comes in through the cove joint. 

Unlike the exterior drainage system, this one doesn’t require any excavation and can be installed in just one day. Since it is placed out of the mud it is not prone to clogging issues. In addition, it is a more affordable solution that will also address wall seepage. The water that is collected is then directed into the sump pit, from where it leaves your home for good.

Rainwater can increase hydrostatic pressure on basement walls and floors, seeping through existing cracks or imperfections.

While leaky basement floors are most commonly a result of cove joint seepage, sometimes foundation cracks are the main culprit. These cracks are often a sign of foundation damage. In this case, schedule a foundation inspection and a professional will determine which solution will suit your home the most. 

Problems with Concrete Patches 

If there is a leak in your basement and you quickly want to patch it before more water enters this area, you can discuss using a concrete patch with your local contractor. However, keep in mind that these patches are just short-term solutions and they can only be used to buy you time while you explore more permanent options.  

Furthermore, concrete patches do not address the underlying problem in any way. Foundation cracks can be a sign of settlement, a problem that needs to be urgently addressed. Otherwise, it can lead to various structural issues and even put the safety of you and your loved ones at risk. 

Foundation Piers 

If after inspection your contractor determines that your foundation has been severely damaged and has settled, installing foundation piers may be your best option. During the installation process professionals will excavate the soil around your foundation and then install the durable steel pier sections. 

They will place them beneath the areas that have suffered the most damage. There are several types of piers, but they are all designed to support your foundation and even lift it toward its original position.

Leah Leitow

Leah Leitow

Content Writer

Leah is a Content Writer for Groundworks with nearly ten years of experience working in the foundation repair industry. Her experience ranges from working with homeowners to find the right solution to training inspectors and staff. In her background as a Michigan journalist, she gained invaluable insight into people's lives throughout our state. Leah lives in metro Detroit with her husband and two sons.

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