Grouting for Structures: A Key to Preventing Below-Grade Water Infiltration

The Valcourt Group | Jan 30, 2024

Effective water infiltration prevention is of utmost importance for maintaining the integrity of buildings, particularly those with below-grade structures. Grouting, a specialized technique that is typically used when traditional waterproofing methods are not available, plays a pivotal role in this area.

Proper grouting can significantly reinforce structural integrity, prevent below-grade water infiltration, and save you from costly damages. While most commonly applied to below-grade structures, grouting may also be performed in above-grade structures for strengthening purposes. It is not just a routine procedure; it’s a strategic approach to ensuring the longevity and safety of structures.

Common Causes of Below-Grade Water Infiltration

Below-grade structures, such as elevator pits, basements, tunnels, and foundations, often encounter unique challenges related to water and moisture. Water can penetrate cracks, joints, or porous materials in the structure’s foundation and walls for many reasons:

  • Improper Drainage – Inadequate or poorly designed drainage systems around the structure can cause water to accumulate near the foundation. This excess water can seep through any weaknesses in the structure, causing infiltration.
  • Construction Flaws – Flaws in construction, such as gaps or cracks in the foundation, improper sealing, or low-quality waterproofing materials, can make below-grade structures vulnerable to water intrusion.
  • Soil Settlement or Movement – Over time, soil settlement or movement can create pathways for water to enter a structure.
  • Climate and Weather Conditions – Extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rainfalls, floods, or rapid snowmelt, can overwhelm existing waterproofing and drainage systems, leading to water infiltration.
  • Deterioration Over Time – Aging materials and the natural wear and tear of a building can lead to the deterioration of waterproofing barriers, making older structures more prone to water infiltration.

The risks are not just limited to the weakening of the structure but also include mold growth and potential health hazards for building occupants.

Grouting for Structures

In addition to effectively filling gaps, grouting is crucial in creating a protective barrier against water intrusion. By preventing water from undermining a structure’s foundation, grouting helps ensure its long-term stability and durability to avoid structural failures.

Types of Structural Grouting to Prevent Water Intrusion

The choice of grout — whether cementitious or chemical (i.e. urethane, epoxy, etc.)— depends on the specific needs of the building. Different types of grout offer unique benefits for combating below-grade water infiltration.

  • Cementitious grout is versatile and particularly effective in large-scale civil projects. Ultrafine cement grouts, a subtype of cementitious grouts, are predominantly used to stabilize soil and control water in various civil undertakings or infrastructure projects.
  • Urethane grout offers flexibility, making it suitable for various applications. These grouts exhibit either hydrophobic or hydrophilic properties. Hydrophobic urethane expands to block pathways to repel water, making it ideal for below-grade structures where preventing water ingress is crucial. In contrast, hydrophilic urethane grouts absorb water, expanding into cracks and fissures and replacing it to fill these voids. These grouts need a constant water presence to function effectively. This characteristic makes them ideal for dynamic cracks and shifting below-grade structures.
  • Epoxy grouting, known for its high strength and durability, is often used to repair and rehabilitate existing below-grade structures. It is effective in addressing leaks and cracks and strengthening weakened structures.

Choosing the right grout type is crucial in achieving the desired outcome, whether for stability, water control, or both.

Advanced Grouting Techniques for Structural Integrity and Water Infiltration Prevention

Using precise drilling, grouting, and sealing methods, technicians effectively address weak spots in concrete foundation walls, ensuring a robust defense against water intrusion. These techniques are not just remedies but strategic measures to enhance the resilience of structures against water infiltration and other related issues:

  1. Urethane/Epoxy Injection for Concrete, Brick, and Stone Walls: Injection grouting fills cracks, open joints, or voids in brick and stone structures. By implementing a grid pattern for drilling and injecting urethane or epoxy, this form of chemical grouting strengthens the structure and ensures comprehensive coverage against potential water entry points.
  2. Conduits/Pipe Penetration Sealing for Complex Structural Interfaces: This technique utilizes chemical grouts to create gas-tight and watertight barriers between pipes and structural openings. It’s especially beneficial for sealing electrical conduits and pipes through walls, floors, and other structural elements, providing an efficient and cost-effective sealing solution.
  3. Cement Grouting for Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU) Walls: As CMU units contain two hollow cells, cement grouting fills CMU foundation walls for structural support which is highly effective in stopping water intrusion.
  4. Chemical Grouting: Primarily used for rectifying leaks from within structures from the interior of the building. Depending on accessibility, technicians may opt for curtain grouting from the exterior or implement a grid-patterned chemical grout injection from the inside to address extensive water intrusion issues effectively.
  5. Slipline Grouting: A trenchless method involving the insertion of a carrier pipe into a larger host pipe, followed by grouting the annular space to seal gaps. This technique not only fills leaks in pipe walls or joints but stabilizes the surrounding soil, ensuring a tight seal and reinforcing the overall integrity of the piping system.

Experts in preventing below-grade water infiltration assess various factors regarding the specific structural requirements and desired outcomes. These include environmental conditions, the type of structure, and the level of flexibility or strength needed.

Comprehensive Grouting Services by Superior Grouting & Restoration Services (SGS)

Recently acquired by The Valcourt Group, SGS provides various grouting services designed to address specific structural needs. From leak sealing and investigation to specialized applications in elevator pits, water tanks, and more, the SGS approach is about offering tailored solutions.

Grouting projects for structural reinforcement, sealing conduits, pipe penetrations, and slip-line grouting for pipeline repair are just a few examples of how SGS adapts its services to meet the unique challenges of each project.

Securing Structural Integrity: The Critical Role of Expert Grouting in Water Infiltration Prevention

Water infiltration can be a silent destroyer, often going unnoticed until significant damage has occurred. It’s usually a result of structural cracks, subpar construction, or simply the building aging. The value of professional grouting to prevent below-grade water infiltration is a long-term investment in the stability and safety of a structure.

With a team like SGS, you have access to specialized expertise and a commitment to ensuring your buildings’ structural integrity and longevity.

Contact SGS today for an estimate.

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