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3 Ways Water Damages Foundations

Thursday, May 4th by Kristina McGovern


Stained crack in a concrete foundation wall

Water in the soil around a home puts pressure on the foundation that can cause cracks, leaks, and structural damage.

When water pools and saturates the ground next to the house, it can cause significant foundation damage.

You might not think that clogged gutters or overwatering the flower beds around your home can affect your home’s foundation. But it’s what happens when the water is allowed to “pool” next to the home that can cause the foundation to crack and sink.

When water from heavy rain, flooding, melting snow, plumbing leaks, and broken water lines saturates the soils around the home, this weakens their load-bearing capacity.

First, let’s discuss the three main ways that water affects the soil around the home, often resulting in significant foundation and structural damage.

Animation showing water from soil leaking into a basement foundation

Water from the soil surrounding the home leaks through the basement foundation.

  1. Hydrostatic Pressure

    When water from rainstorms, melting snow, broken water lines, landscaping, and bedrock collects around the house, this exerts “hydrostatic pressure” against a home's foundation. This pressure can cause foundation walls to crack and bow, which can result in foundation leaks.

  2. Expansive Soils

    Expansive soils are present in every state and contain minerals that absorb water; the more water that’s absorbed, the more the volume increases. Expansive soils push against the foundation causing cracks in the walls or floor. When expansive soil dries out, it will shrink. This repeated cycle of expansion and shrinkage puts stress on homes and the resulting damage can get worse over time.

    According to geology.com, on average in the United States, expansive soils cause more financial loss than earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes combined.

  3. Erosion

    Rainwater or underground springs can slowly wash away the soil that supports the foundation, causing foundation settlement. Early foundation settlement signs aren’t always obvious and can be easily dismissed by the homeowner – until they become serious enough to demand professional intervention. Signs include sinking, uneven floors, doors and windows that do not close properly, drywall cracks, and tilting chimneys.

What are the signs of foundation damage caused by water?

There are several signs to look for to determine if a water problem has caused damage to the foundation.

  • Standing water caused by basement leaks
  • Cracked concrete floor or slab
  • Uneven floors
  • Cracks in block walls
  • Bowed basement walls
  • Drywall cracks

How to effectively prevent and repair a water-damaged foundation

Depending on the source of the water in the foundation, there are several ways to fix a water problem and prevent future leaks and foundation damage. 

Keep water away from the foundation

One of the easiest and least expensive solutions is to stop water from pooling around the foundation with clean gutters, extended downspouts, proper grading, and yard drainage. If there’s a more significant water problem, a sump pump and drainage system can be added to pump water out of the basement or crawl space.

Check for signs of damage inside and outside

A puddle on the floor or a small crack on the basement wall is often something homeowners feel like they can deal with, and many actually put up with for many years, before they consider calling a professional.

On the other hand, a sinking foundation, or a bowing, cracking basement wall, can seem more serious. It's frightening when the very structure that keeps your whole house standing is compromised. Fortunately, in many cases, the structural damage is not as bad as it looks and most problems can be solved with minimal disruption to the home using proven foundation repair techniques and products.

The right repair for your foundation damage depends on the cause of the problem, the type of floor crack or wall crack, and the other symptoms you might be dealing with, such as bowing walls or a sunken concrete slab.

Hire a foundation repair expert

Are you worried about waterproofing problems damaging your foundation? Learn about the 5 Elements of Effective Basement Waterproofing or contact your local Basement Systems waterproofing contractor to schedule a free evaluation and estimate. In addition to comprehensive basement and crawl space waterproofing solutions, many of the experts in the Basement Systems network also repair foundation cracks and other structural issues caused by a water problem.

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