Glass Block Window for BasementOver the years I’ve worked on dozens of stone foundations under old farm houses, many of which were basements.  I’d say half of the basements I’ve worked on either didn’t have windows or the window openings were boarded up. A few years ago a customer asked if we could install windows in her basement so I looked into possibilities.  The window openings on this particular stone basement would require a special ordered window, I couldn’t find any the right size at the Lumber yard.  I recalled a foundation I had worked on previously that had glass block windows installed and they were really nice. I ran it by the homeowner and she chose the glass blocks.

Why I like Glass Block Windows in Stone Foundations

There are several reasons I like the Glass Block option when it comes to old stone foundations.  First off the are a high quality option that doesn’t cost a lot.  Another benefit to glass block windows is the security they provide.  I usually use the frosted glass blocks which prevent a person from seeing in your basement.  They are also much harder to break than a traditional window.  Glass blocks come in many different sizes and they can be configured to fit just about any window opening, which is nice on older foundations that don’t have standard window sizes.

If you have a stone basement with windows you probably notice the opening is wrapped with some sort of lumber.  Long ago they didn’t have treated lumber so regular lumber was used and it rots pretty fast.  Usually I can install glass block windows in a stone basement without even using lumber, thus eliminating a material that will just rot and attract bugs.  Another option with glass block is a 8″ x 16″ screened vent that can be opened and closed which is nice for airing out your basement area.

Letting natural light into your basement also makes it seem like less of a “dungeon” and glass blocks are a great, long lasting, good looking way to get that done.  If you would like a quote on getting glass blocks installed in your stone foundation in Michigan or would like a price to get stone foundation repair done, just get in touch, we do good work at an affordable price.

Many of the foundation repairs I do are on stone basements of older farm houses, but over the last 15 years or so I’ve worked on just about any project you can think of.  In this article I’m going to share some of the costs of foundation repairs I’ve encountered.  I like doing interesting and challenging projects and I’m open to consider any project whatever the location, that said, most all of the foundation repair projects I do are in Michigan.  More than 80% seem to be south of Lansing MI and they stretch from one side of the state to the other.

Some of the towns I’ve worked in over the last couple years include:  Grand Blanc, Big Rapids, Jackson, Dundee, Ann Arbor, Blissfield, Ithaca, Clare, Gladwin, Mt. Pleasant, Flint, Stockbridge, and several more.  South eastern Michigan is more populated, which is probably why I get a lot of inquiries from that area.  Regardless of the location of a project there are costs of getting there, it’s a rather insignificant amount, but it is one of the costs of every project I do.  I’ve found I can offer a more affordable quote because of my very low overhead and the fact that I perform each project myself lets me be very efficient.  Good judgment is crucial in doing a foundation repair project correctly and I like to be the one who make the decisions on my projects.  I use the flat rate of $150 dollars per day for figuring the cost of me staying in a hotel near the project if the location is more than an hour and a half away.

Cost of Stone Foundation Mortar Joint Repairs

Fixing rotten mortar joints in stone basements is what I specialize in, these type of projects account for around 75% of the foundation repair projects I do.  I also pour concrete driveways and concrete pole barn floors.  Most of these old stone basements are under older farm houses.  Back when they built these homes builders stuck to a standard 20X30 (ish) size basement, then additions were added on crawl space foundations.  It’s common to find the addition foundations to be constructed with cement blocks.  Most of the repairs I do include a couple “bad” spots which may be corners or under windows and then spot repairs around the remaining basement walls.  I call these structural maintenance projects.  If the areas that are bad, have falling or loose rocks, aren’t fixed they will begin to cause problems in other areas of the home.  Hence, Structural Maintenance .  These types of foundations tend to run between $3,500 and $6,500, some are less but few are more.  I’ve done repairs on small stone basements for under $1,500.

Around 1/2 of the calls I get are stone foundations that have crumbling mortar joints, or sometimes they are just dried out lime mortar and turning into dust.  These require most all of the basement wall area to have the mortar joints removed and have new joints installed.   These projects take more time, materials, and removal of debris which all increase the cost of the repair.  If your stone foundation needs all of the mortar joints between stones to be completely re-tucked then you’ll pay a little more.  Going with the traditional 20×30 traditional stone foundation size, I’d estimate this foundation repair to fall in the window of $4,000 and $8,000. It depends a lot on how the joints are to work with.  Some just fall right out and can be done in a couple days, which would obviously cost less.

There are several options that can add or subtract cost on these stone basement projects.  Most of our clients choose to have a damp proof coating to be applied after the joints are repaired, this can add between $300 ~ $800 dollars.  Here are a few other things that affect the cost foundation repairs:  Access to basement, is water available, can debris be disposed of on site, or repairs being done in the past.

Costs of Wet Basement Repairs

One of the most common and effective ways to fix a wet basement is to install a drain tile and sump pit below the floor of the basement.  Without having to excavate the exterior of the foundation costs can be quite economical.  I usually estimate a below floor grade drainage system between $35 and $50 dollars a foot.  That should give you a good ball park if you are wondering how much it costs to repair a wet basement.  Sometimes there are other simple and inexpensive solutions to a wet basement, some include:  Make sure you have slope AWAY from your basement walls.  Install rain gutters so water isn’t running into your basement. If you have a sump crock, make sure your pump is working.


fixing crumbling mortarMany of the field stone foundations we work on throughout Michigan have the same common problem which is crumbling mortar joints between the stones.  Often times there are other issues that are project specific, but the degradation of the mortar joints is pretty common regardless of the other items homeowner want us repair.  There are several factors that determine how we go about repairing a particular stone foundation.  Field stone basements  under old farm houses need to be treated differently than a crawl space or an Old barn foundations.  Unwanted water is often times an issue too, whether its just dampness or standing water in basement.  Repairing bad mortar joints isn’t a big deal if it is done before the walls start to move and stones start to fall.  It’s much less expensive than a complete rebuild of a section of wall.  You can get more information on our stone foundation repair page, and get a quote.

Most of the Michigan basements we repair fall into 3 categories of use, this makes a difference how we go about repairing crumbling mortar and repairing walls as well.  Some people actually have living areas in their stone basements, though this is rare, some of these living areas are quite nice.  The second category, and most common, is a basement that is used to house the water heater, furnace and other utilities.  There might be a light down there, but for the most part its an oversized utility room.  Then I’d say the third category is a basement that is simply a foundation and that’s it.  They have nothing in them, they are basically just a place for duct work and are more like a tall crawl space.

How We Fix Crumbling Mortar In Stone Basements

The first thing I look at is how the basement is used by the homeowner, this makes a big difference in how the repairs are approached.  For instance if a person uses their basement for a living area, they usually are concerned with the appearance of the finished product.  It takes a considerable amount more work and time to create a nice looking finished stone wall when doing repairs.  These basements tend to cost more when we go in a repair the crumbling mortar joints.  Usually we are working with a basement that is used to house utilities and maybe light storage.  Most folks with these type of basement aren’t too concerned with the aesthetic look of the finished wall, they are more concerned with function and structural integrity.  The stone foundations that are just foundations and never accessed are again a group of clients who are concerned with structural integrity and that’s about it.

The process of fixing crumbling mortar in a stone wall is quite tedious, but it’s also pretty simple.  We take out the crumbling rotting mortar and put new in.  The type of mortar used to repair the crumbling joints is the most important factor.  We determine this by what type of stone the wall is made of and the condition the stone is in.  We are usually able to get a pretty clean joint environment but we usually use a bonding agent just to be safe.  Once I know the type of mortar I will use to repair the rotten mortar joints I start removing the old mortar.

How to Remove Crumbling Mortar Joints

I usually find that most foundations have areas that are completely rotten, some that have been repaired, and others that have held up well over the years.  Ultimately I have to work with what is there.  Using a brick hammer I investigate the joints by a constant tapping on the joints, when I hear a hollow I work the mortar out of the area until I come to a place that is solid, then I continue on to the next area that needs removed.  The work is tedious, but quite simple really.  I’ve worked on old barn foundation where I used a high pressure garden hose and simply blasted the mortar and dirt right out of the wall.  It’s important to be careful when removing the mortar so the stones themselves aren’t disturbed.  Most walls we work on are still standing and straight, we just need to keep them that way by removing the motor debris and replacing it with a new mortar joint. I prefer to remove the old mortar with the brick hammer because I can hear, see and feel what is going on.  I’ve used pneumatic hammers before and just don’t like the way the work for most projects.  It’s noisy, dusty, and you really don’t know how much force you are using and I don’t feel it’s good for the stone.

I typically remove and from the top down and work an area of 6′ or so.  I like to remove the bad joints, clean the wall and “re-tuck” new mortar joints in that area then move to a different area and do the same.  This maintains the structural integrity of the wall and saves on supporting the beams and such you may be working around.  It’s crucial to make sure the new mortar goes in and behind the stone so it bonds and binds.

How to Preserve A Crumbling Stone Foundation

One thing I see people do in old stone basements is try to shore up or support beams and floor joists.  Most people think that by taking the weight off the stone wall they will keep repairedstonewalleverything from moving and stop the wall from crumbling.  The opposite is actually true.  A stone, or even block wall gets it’s lateral strength from the weight or pressure applied down onto the wall.  In other words, if you take the weight off the wall it is much more likely to move, buckle, or fall in.

Best way to preserver your stone foundation is to repair the crumbling mortar.  In the meantime you are better off leaving it alone.  The degradation of a stone wall is a slow process and leaving it be is usually the best bet, until you can get it repaired that is.  One thing that can help is to make sure the ground water around the foundation is running away from the house at ground level.  Water moves dirt and it moves mortar, you don’t want water running into and through your stone foundation wall.

When Is the Best Time to Repair A Stone Basement?

There are many factors that play into when you decide to get your foundation fixed.  Things like budget, work schedule, and summer travel and other plans impact the decision when to start a foundation repair project.  In terms of cost, I’d tell anyone to consider getting a stone foundation repaired during the winter.  By far the largest portion of foundation work will happen inside the basement.  There is more area to cover on the interior walls and usually only a couple feet sticking out of the ground on the exterior.  More than anything it is a supply and demand thing.  I have a lot more time in the winter and cash flow slows down to a trickle for me in the winter months.  Most people call and want their projects done in the spring and the spring thaw seems to start it all off.  It doesn’t really matter when you start your project in terms of weather, you’ll save money by doing it in the winter months.  I’ve went back when it warms up to do the exterior portion of several projects.  This also gives me a chance to look at work previously done to see if I missed anything or need to do anything else.

Would You Like a Quote To Repair Crumbling Mortar in Your Foundation?

If you would like to get a quote to have your foundation problem fixed or just have some questions I’d be happy to help.  You can send me a about your stone foundation repair and I’ll be in touch. Give me a little information about your foundation, some things to include are:

  • Is it a Basement or Crawlspace?
  • Approximately how old is your stone foundation?
  • When do you want the project started?
  • Where is the job located?
  • What budget are you working with?

You can get a stone foundation repair quote by visiting that link.  I’ll get the note and send an email with a few questions and my phone number.  If you’d like me to call just leave me your number in the quote request.  I work all over the state of Michigan and look forward to learning more about your project.


J. Crawford