foundation water damage

Foundation Water Damage: Signs, Causes, and Prevention!

Most everyone knows how costly and devastating foundation water damage can be to your home. But not everyone knows what to look for, why it happens, or how to prevent it.

But that’s exactly what you’ll learn in this article.

Signs of Foundation Water Damage

When you think of home maintenance, you must start at the bottom and work your way up. If the soil beneath your foundation expands when it’s wet or contracts when it’s dry, the foundation can shift. This causes fractures and misalignment.

In some areas of the country, the issues are common due to their expanding soils and the periods of rain versus drought. Here are many of the signs of water damage to the foundation.

  • Doors that won’t close or open easily
  • Windows that bind when you try to open them
  • Cracks in the sheetrock, especially near the corners of doors and windows
  • Nails popping out of the sheetrock
  • Cracks in a brick or stone fireplace
  • A garage door that won’t open or close properly
  • Cracks or raised areas of floor
  • Raised ceiling joints (visible in the attic or basement)
  • Curling or loose wallpaper
  • Cracks in the exposed foundation around the house
  • Caulking that pulls away from exterior surfaces or around tubs and fixtures
  • Obvious cracks in brick or mortar
  • Cracks and uneven elevations in structures attached to the home
  • Termites or ants in or around the home
termite mud tubes on house - foundation water damage
Signs of termites (note the termite mud tubes). This has been caused by water damage to the foundation, which causes cracks and openings in the walls. Ants and termites (and other insects) seek out these cracks to invade your home, making them a sign that you might have a water-damaged foundation.

Causes of Foundation Water Damage

1. Surface Water

Water is the main culprit in most foundation problems. There is either too much, causing the soil to swell, or not enough, causing the soil to shrink.

If the ground beneath a foundation moves evenly, it is unlikely to cause a problem. But when only part of the soil heaves or settles, it can cause cracks and other damage.

Also, leaking outdoor faucets and other mismanaged water sources near the home will also cause water damage to the foundation.

foundation water damage - house sinking from poor drainage
This is an actual house that is sinking due to uneven surface water conditions and poor drainage around the foundation. Notice how the gutters do not extend far enough beyond the foundation and how rain puddles around the house.

2. Poor Drainage

Poor drainage can be a major contributor to foundation and basement water damage issues. Make sure that your gutters and downspouts remain unclogged and direct any runoff from the roof away from the house.

Use gutter extensions to direct water at least 3- to 5-feet from the foundation. And the ground next to the house should also slope away from the foundation, about 1/4-inch per foot to encourage proper runoff.

If your gutters deliver water to an underground downspout, make sure those pipes are maintained at least once every two years. Contact a plumber who specializes in drain cleaning to inspect the pipes with a camera.

foundation water damage - poor drainage system
This home’s foundation has a poor drainage system. As you can see, the water from the downspout gets dumped onto the foundation.

3. Underground Water

Water from an underground spring or nearby creek can cause water damage problems for your foundation. Broken or leaking plumbing can also wreak havoc, even under your home.

Contact your municipality and ask an inspector to check for subterranean water sources that might be causing foundation issues. Or call a trusted plumber with the proper equipment.

4. Trees

Trees that have grown on your land over a period of years, with roots too close to the home, can damage the foundation and can clog gutters and sewer lines with debris. This can also cause flooding of your property and home with sewage.

5. Poor Soil Foundation

Soil often sinks in areas where trees were removed during construction. This, of course, means your foundation will sink and crack as well. In addition, a home built on fill dirt instead of heavily compacted soil will also cause problems.

Prevention of Foundation Water Damage

The proper care of any concrete foundation or basement can help you avoid future water damage problems. It is imperative that the moisture content around your home remains as even and consistent as possible. These 3 tips will improve your situation immensely.

1. Discourage Excess Moisture

Be sure that gutter downspouts carry water well away from the foundation. Make sure water doesn’t puddle anywhere near the house during or after rainfalls.

If you’re adding new gutters, be sure they don’t affect the normal moisture content by creating dry or moist spots near the foundation. And make sure that water drains from around the house at an even rate that the drain system can handle.

what causes basement flooding - downspout extensions
Make sure that above-ground downspouts deliver water far away from the foundation. For underground downspouts, make sure they are inspected and cleaned out once every two years.

2. Regular Foundation & Lawn Watering

Watering your foundation and lawn during dry periods can help prevent soil shrinkage, which is a potential cause of foundation damage.

If you hydrate the soil that supports your foundation, never water the space between dried soil and the actual wall of the foundation. Instead, use a soaking hose placed about 2- to 3-feet from the house for several hours a day to keep the soil moist.

Don’t wait too long before cracks occur in the soil. Begin soaking as the Spring rainy season is ending and continue doing this until the weather turns cooler in the Fall.

ways to save water outside the home - sprinkler putting water on grass and sidewalk
Don’t wait for the soil in your lawn to crack before watering it. Begin a regular lawn and foundation watering routine right after the rainy season in the Spring and continue into the Fall.

3. Add Plants & Trees

Plants with shallow, strong roots can actually damage your foundation so it’s important to enjoy them at a distance.

Some types of trees have finger-like root systems that stay near the surface and starve the soil of water. Check with the nursery you buy trees from on how their root systems grow. A good rule of thumb is to place new trees the same distance from your house (or sewer line) as you expect them to grow in height.

In other words, a tree that will grow to 30 feet should be planted at least 30 feet from your foundation and sewer pipe.

PRO TIP: Always water your trees on the side opposite your home and sewer line to encourage root growth in that direction.

foundation water damage - exposed tree roots
This tree’s size, shallow roots, and location next to the building foundation are a problem. Its roots will eventually damage the foundation and any nearby sewer lines causing water damage and costly repairs.

Final Thoughts

Foundation damage is incredibly expensive to repair. Your best course of action is to understand the signs and causes of water damage to your foundation. If you follow that up with the prevention tips we’ve provided, you can significantly reduce the chances of having it happen to you.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you have water damage that might be causing foundation issues.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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