What Causes Wet Basements and Foundation Damage?
In nearly all cases of foundation damage, water is the root cause. There are many conditions that can contribute to, or outright cause leaky basements and severe structural damage to your home. Finding and addressing all of these factors is the only way to ensure your home will stay stable and dry for as long as it’s standing.
Wet walls, puddles of water trickling across your floor and stair-step cracks climbing up your walls are all warning signs of structural damage to your foundation. These signs indicate that something is wrong, but aren’t conclusive about what.
Before any repair or waterproofing can be guaranteed to work, the conditions that caused damage to your house be determined and addressed first. Below are some of the most common causes of wet basements and foundation damage.
Soil should be compacted prior to the foundation being laid. Failure to compact fill dirt or native soil will eventually lead to severe settling.
Footers of your foundation are horizontal concrete pads that define the perimeter and provide support to foundation walls. When footings are too small, the lack of support will cause your walls to lean. They must also be deep enough so as not to be affected by frost heave - an upward swelling of the soil caused by the presence of ice as it grows toward the surface.
Concrete is one of the most commonly used materials in home construction for foundation blocks, walls and floors. When contractors don’t allow the concrete to cure correctly, or they don’t work out air pockets, the concrete will crack as it dries, compromising the foundation before construction even begins.
Backfill is the soil that is used to fill in the excavation site around house foundations. If soil is backfilled before concrete for your foundation has cured, perimeter walls will shift. If foundation walls aren’t level and stable, framing for the rest of the house is affected, leading to cracked walls and water leaks.
Your car requires regular tune ups, oil changes and other maintenance to keep running. Likewise, your home also requires the right maintenance and care to remain standing and structurally safe.
Gutters and Downspouts
Gutters catch rain water as it falls from your roof. Downspouts discharge the water away from your foundation. When rain gutters or downspouts are missing, broken or clogged, rain water falls from the roof and pools next to your foundation. These pools of water can seep through your walls, which is one of the leading causes of foundation damage.
Beds containing compost or planting soil are often used for landscaping around house foundations. If the soil isn’t graded to allow runoff down and away from the foundation, the soil becomes saturated with water. This leads to soil shifts and water seepage through foundation walls.
Trees and shrubs are used to beautify the exterior of your home. When plants with large root structures are too close to your foundation, they may push foundation walls as they grow. New plants or removal of old plants close to your foundation will also change the amount of moisture in the soil surrounding your house. The moisture levels in soil will cause it expand or contract accordingly, causing the soil to shift and move your foundation.
Weather & Seasonal Precipitation
The changes in weather patterns each season brings have a tremendous impact on the soil surrounding your home. As moisture levels rise and fall, soil will expand and contract accordingly. Constantly shifting soil around your foundation leads to structural damage.
Melting ice or snow leads to more water being absorbed by the soil around your house. The water seeps into the porous concrete of your foundation walls, which freezes as temperatures drop and thaws again as they rise. This eventually leads to cracked walls and wet basements.
Excessive or consistent rain over-saturates the soil surrounding your foundation. The soil begins to swell, exerting hydrostatic pressure against foundation walls. If the pressure isn’t released, it will cause walls to crack and water to seep into your basement.
Lack of rain causes soil to dry out and contract. Contracting soil can lead to further settlement or sinking of your house. It can also cause deep-rooted plants to expand beneath your foundation in search of moisture. The vertical movement and lateral pressure can cause foundation walls to crack.
Western Pennsylvania has a long history of mining and expansion that is causing the soil in our area to deteriorate at an alarming rate. There are more residential areas in danger of the negative effects of a changing geological environment than not.
Subsidence is the downward motion of soil, often caused by water saturation or as an after-effect of mining. As the soil shifts downward, your house shifts with it, leading to uneven settling or worse. Find out if your house is in a mining region.
Heaving is the upward motion of soil. When large vegetation is removed, the remaining soil in the area becomes over-saturated because the plants are no longer absorbing ground water, which causes the ground to expand upwards. Over time, this expanding soil can physically lift your house from under your foundation.
Soil erosion is the act of wind and water removing layers of earth. Over time, sediment deposits carried by normal weather patterns can be found in the drainage pipes surrounding your house. The sediment deposits prevent the drainage pipes from carrying water a safe distance from your home.
What You Should Know About Foundation Damage and Wet Basements
Old or new, your house is susceptible to foundation damage from the time it is built. Structural damage to your foundation could affect the stability of your home and the safety of your family. Attempting to make these repairs without finding and addressing the causes of damage will result in additional work as new damage is sustained.
To avoid additional foundation repairs in the future, take advantage of our FREE 68 Point Inspection and find out what caused the existing damage to your foundation.
Any repairs made by Keystone Basement Systems’ certified foundation specialists include regular maintenance, and are backed by our Lifetime Warranty.