Water Damage Due To Home Foundation Problems

When you think your home’s foundation has developed a problem, how do you identify the issue? What signs can you look for? What additional damage can occur if you delay or wait to take action? These are important questions that you should seek answers to immediately. The longer any type of water damage is left untreated, the more severe the damage may become and the bigger the hit to your pocketbook.

Just as you personally need a strong foundation to be successful in life, your home needs a strong foundation to support itself. Two very specific examples of a home’s foundation problems are the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Pyramids of Giza. The pyramids were built on a strong foundation over 4500 years ago. They are still as straight today as when they were first built. The tower in Pisa is about 644 years old. It is famous only because it leans. It began leaning just 5 years after it was built because of a foundation problem.

Do you want your home to have a “Giza” foundation, or a “Pisa” one? It’s a simple decision; we all want our home to have a strong foundation just like the pyramids. Unless you used those Pisa engineers and builders, your home started out with a strong foundation. It all comes down to recognizing a home’s foundation problems when they first appear and taking quick, decisive action in correcting any problem that pops up.

home foundation problemCracked tiles due to foundation issue

Warning Signs & Causes of
Home Foundation Problems

Inadequate Drainage

Inadequate drainage around the outside of the home is one of the more common issues that can lead to home foundation problems. As the ground around your home settles over time, it allows water to pool around a home’s foundation. As the water level builds up, it exerts tremendous hydrostatic pressure on walls and floors. It will literally force its way through concrete or concrete blocks.

Early warning signs may include cracks in the floor or walls. Sometimes you may not see any cracks, but instead will see darker areas in corners or at or near the base of the walls, or extending downward from around basement windows. If your basement is finished it may be impossible to see these indicators until it’s too late and substantial damage is done to the drywall and floor coverings. Sometimes a musty, earthy odor may begin to be noticeable. This odor may be more noticeable after a period of rain.

There are simple remedies to this drainage issue. Check to be sure all gutters are securely fastened to the gutter boards, that water is not running off your roof and directly down around your foundation. Make sure the gutters are not clogged with leaves or debris and install downspout extenders or splash blocks on all downspouts to aid in moving rainwater away from the home. Check the slope of the ground around the home to make sure water is moved away from the foundation. Flowerbeds with mulch should be graded higher up against the foundation to assist in moving water outward and away.

As water builds up, the earth around and under the home’s foundation may shift. Ground expansion and contraction can often times be 10% or more. As the ground shifts around a foundation, cracks may appear in walls or floors. Doors may not seal as tightly as they used to. In severe cases, bowing in walls may be detected.

crack in wall and door frameCrack in wall and door frame

Pipes/Sewer Lines

Another source of home foundation problems is again related to earth expansion and contraction. This upward and downward movement can cause footer and sewer drain lines to either crush or bow. Crushed pipes usually completely stop the flow of water and the bowing causes high or low places in the piping, stopping or severely limiting the flow of water through the home’s drainage system. When your foundation was first constructed, drainage tile/pipe was placed on both the inside and the outside of the foundation to help collect and disperse water.

Again as hydrostatic pressure builds, the water is forced into the home through the foundation or floor. Cracks may develop where the walls meet the floor or in the floor itself. Concrete, whether in walls or floors, should be a light gray color as it ages. If you see a crack that appears darker than the areas around it, you may have a water buildup problem at the floor level. If you have a sump pump, it may be working flawlessly, but if the water around the foundation can’t flow properly through the drainage system, it will never be completely removed.

This is one reason that a basement or lower level will have higher humidity levels, or have a mustier smell, than the rest of the home. If humidity levels get high enough, for a long enough period of time, there is a possibility of mold developing.

crack in foundation floorCrack in Concrete Floor

Identifying Home Foundation Problems

  1. Inspect the walls carefully. Any signs of cracking in drywall, especially near the ceiling, could be signs of a water intrusion. Also be aware of any cracks that appear in concrete or concrete block walls.
  2. Look at baseboards and trim. If the baseboards show signs of separation where they meet the wall or in mitered corners, water may be the culprit.
  3. Problems with insects such as silverfish, ants or roaches may also indicate a presence of too much moisture. These bugs are drawn to warm, dark areas where water can be found.
  4. Standing water in a crawlspace is a sure sign of a drainage problem or leak of some kind. If left alone and not properly addressed, it can result in damage to floor joists, plywood subflooring, and the foundation itself.

You May Need Professional Assistance

Many home foundation problems require professional assistance to remedy successfully. These problems are hard to identify and even harder to solve on your own. If you think you may have a home foundation problem that is allowing water to enter your home, seek professional help immediately. These issues never solve themselves and the longer they go on the more costly they are to fix. There are experienced professionals available in your area simply by calling 877-960-0491 day or night. They can answer any questions you may have and help solve any water damage or foundation problems you are dealing with. The initial visit to your home, and estimate, are free.

Additional Reading:

Foundation Crack Diagnosis - How to determine why the crack(s) occurred, and what steps need to be taken to fix the issue.

How to Repair Foundation Cracks - DIY guide to repairing foundation cracks in your home. Products to use, when to call a professional....

Foundation Repair Cost - Costs of repairs for cracks, settlement, upheaval, foundation sealing, etc.

Landscape Drainage Issues - How poor landscape drainage can lead to foundation issues. Common landscape drainage issues and how to correct them.

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NFRA - Signs of a Foundation Issue

Written by Mark Huey.