Can Water Cause Foundation Damage? How Much?

Taking the first steps to protect your foundation from water may not be on your to-do list, but if you don’t have adequate moisture protection, your foundation could suffer expensive damage before you get around to it. Some homeowners feel that protecting their foundation from water isn’t all that urgent, and some may even wonder if it’s even important. So let’s explore four ways in which water can threaten the foundation of your family home.

1. Pressure on the Foundation

Moisture accumulation in the ground around and beneath your home can actually cause problems even if there’s not enough to cause erosion. The added moisture content causes the ground to swell and push in on the foundation’s walls. This is called hydrostatic pressure, or earth loading, and it can cause several different types of cracks, such as:

  • Stairstep cracks, which can present an immediate danger of collapse
  • Horizontal cracks, which can indicate structural damage
  • Vertical cracks (although these are more often caused by settling)
  • Diagonal cracks, depending on their shape and direction

Each of these cracks mean something different for your foundation. Horizontal or stair-step cracks can be especially dangerous and should be repaired by a professional who can help you determine and remedy the cause.

Stair-step Cracks

The amount of pressure that can be generated by the ground depends a lot on what type of ground your house is sitting on, because some soils hold more water and expand more than other soils when they get wet. If the concrete used for your foundation walls is porous, quite a bit of water could end up getting through, which makes sump pump installation a must. You can also use a basement waterproofing solution such as a water barrier to prevent this problem.

2. Tree Roots Causing Cracks and Crumbling

Pipes, gutters and other sources of dampness near the foundation can attract tree roots that are searching for water sources. These roots can cause even more frequent fluctuations in ground saturation just by being in the area and absorbing moisture.

Because water can’t evaporate from under the foundation, the roots will also be attracted to its underside and will remove any water they can reach. This often means that a tree near a house will remove the water from under one side of the foundation, making that side settle further than the other side so that the house “leans.” Cracks can also form if the settling is significant enough.

3. Soil Erosion Under Foundation Corners

Large amounts of water are needed to erode soil quickly, but even small amounts can erode the ground over time. Whether the flooding is from a huge tropical storm or a poorly placed downspout, the damage caused by erosion can be considerable. Once the soil under the corner has washed away, it’s easy for that section of the foundation to collapse if not shored up at once.

Rain puddle

4. Destabilization and Damage to the Concrete

Destabilization and uneven settling can also happen if you have too much water in the area. For example, leaks under your slab foundation that come from a compromised pipe — often called “slab leaks” — can exert pressure on the foundation and destabilize it. This can create more cracks and even compromise the concrete’s strength and encourage it to collapse.

These four types of foundation damage from water-related issues show that water damage isn’t something you can afford to ignore, even if now doesn’t seem like a convenient time to think about it. And if your home is showing signs of similar damage, please contact us right away – we can help!

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