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Water Can Destroy Concrete Foundations

Saturday, February 4th, 2023 by Aaron Stull

Water Can Destroy Concrete Foundations - Image 1

Have you ever wondered why your foundation shows signs of damage? Have you ever seen a white chalk on the walls that you couldn’t explain? The issue may be water, and this article should help explain what is going on in your basement.

Water is one of the major reasons why concrete deteriorates over time. Concrete is a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water. When water is added to the mixture, a chemical reaction or process occurs that causes the concrete to harden or “cure.” The curing process takes several days to an month and then concrete is then ready to be used as a building material. It would be called “load bearing” at that point. However, when water continues to penetrate the surface of the concrete over time, it can cause the concrete to break down. This process is called concrete degradation.

One of the ways that water breaks down concrete is through freeze-thaw cycles. When water penetrates the surface of concrete, it can freeze and expand, causing the concrete to crack. This process can repeat itself, causing the cracks to grow larger over time. The repeated expansion and contraction of the water can cause the concrete to weaken, leading to structural damage and eventually causing the concrete to fail. This type of damage is especially prevalent in regions with cold climates, where freeze-thaw cycles are common.

Another way that water breaks down concrete is through chemical reactions. Concrete contains minerals such as calcium hydroxide, which can react with water and carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate. Interesting stuff.  This reaction can cause the surface of the concrete to deteriorate, leaving it vulnerable to further damage from water and other environmental factors. Over time, this chemical reaction can weaken the concrete, making it more susceptible to cracking and crumbling.  You have likely witnessed flaking concrete from time to time and this is what is going on.

Water can also cause concrete to deteriorate by promoting the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. When water penetrates the surface of concrete, it can create a moist environment that is ideal for the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. These microorganisms can secrete acids that can penetrate the surface of the concrete, breaking down the minerals and causing the concrete to weaken and deteriorate. This type of damage is most commonly seen in concrete structures that are exposed to water for long periods of time, such as swimming pools and concrete docks.

In addition to causing concrete to deteriorate, water can also have a negative impact on residential foundations. Foundations are the base structure of a building and play a critical role in supporting the weight of the building and ensuring its stability. When water penetrates the surface of a foundation, it can cause the foundation to weaken and eventually fail. This can lead to structural damage and even cause the building to collapse.

One of the ways that water can damage residential foundations is through hydrostatic pressure. Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure exerted by water when it is held in place by an impermeable surface, such as the foundation of a building. When water builds up in the soil surrounding a foundation, it can exert pressure on the foundation, causing it to crack and weaken. Over time, this can lead to structural damage and can even cause the foundation to shift or settle, leading to serious damage to the building.

Water can also damage residential foundations by promoting the growth of vegetation, such as trees and shrubs. When water penetrates the surface of a foundation, it can promote the growth of vegetation, which can put pressure on the foundation and cause it to crack and weaken. Over time, this can lead to serious structural damage, as well as potential damage to the building itself.

To prevent water damage to residential foundations, it is important to take a proactive approach. This can include regular inspection and maintenance of the foundation, including sealing cracks and holes to prevent water from penetrating the surface. It is also important to manage the growth of vegetation around the foundation, by removing any trees or shrubs that may be putting pressure on the foundation. In addition, it is important to monitor the water table around the foundation, and take steps to lower it if necessary.

About the author
Aaron Stull is a second generation foundation repair specialist from the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

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