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Ignoring Water Problems Risks Structural Foundation Damage

Nov 2, 2012 • By Matthew Stock with Barry Schilling.

Ignoring Water Problems Risks Structural Foundation Damage

Structural foundation damage to your home is serious business.  At best, it’s a pain in the neck – stuck doors, tilting floors and jammed windows.  At worst, it’s really bad – open cracks in the above-ground structure, chimneys separating from the house and additions sinking.

It’s true that most, if not all, of these things are repairable but structural foundation repair and the repair of the above-ground damage it causes are neither inexpensive nor convenient.  Most structural foundation repairs can be avoided, though, if you just take some simple preventative steps.

Most Structural Foundation Damage is Caused by Water

When you see the signs of structural foundation damage, the culprit is usually water: 

If the soil outside the foundation becomes over-saturated, it can swell and put tremendous pressure on foundation walls.  This causes bulging and bowing in concrete block construction and cracking and tipping in poured concrete foundations.  Either may cause the foundation to separate from the above-ground structure, compromising the stability of the home.

When the surrounding soil has all the moisture removed from it, a process called desiccation, the soil around and under the foundation will shrink, causing the foundation to sink or collapse, usually at the outer corners.  Such desiccation typically occurs during droughts, when unwisely placed trees and shrubs draw moisture from much deeper soil than normal in order to survive.

Smart Water Management can Prevent Structural Foundation Damage

So, how you can you keep these things from happening?  It’s simpler than you might expect – manage the water around your home!

Proper Grading – If the top of your foundation is buried under soil and/or the slope of your lawn is graded toward the house instead of away from it, you’re asking for trouble.  During heavy rains, water will run toward your house and saturate the soil around your foundation and seep into the basement over the top of the foundation.  Regrading may be a big job but it’s far better than dealing later with a broken foundation.

Clean Gutters – Yep, something as simple as clogged rain gutters can lead to structural foundation damage.  Backed-up gutters will allow rain water to spill from the roof and soak into the soil right against the foundation.  Regular maintenance will keep them clean and flowing.

Downspout Extensions – Once your gutters are clean, take a look at your downspouts.  Where do they discharge?  If it’s right next to the house, the cleanest gutters in the world won’t prevent over-saturating the soil next to the foundation.  Downspouts should be extended at least 10 feet away from the foundation to carry the water past the zone of danger.  Underground downspout extensions are preferred for appearance and easier lawn and landscape maintenance.

Landscaping Design – In this summer’s drought, many homeowners discovered that those trees that shade the house and the shrubs that look so nice under their windows have caused their foundations to sink.  Keep major plantings away from your foundation to avoid desiccating the soil around it the next time rainfall gets scarce.   An added advantage – it will help keep roots out of sewer lines and drain tile.

Most of these are maintenance issues and paying attention to them now can help you avoid major problems later.  At U.S. Waterproofing, we can repair your structural foundation damage but we’d rather help you prevent it through proper water management.  You’ll rest easier once our experts have explained it during a free consultation.

Tags: yard drainage, overflowing rain gutters, foundation damage, structural foundation damage

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