Global Manufacturer of Foundation Repair Products

Water is a Foundation’s Biggest Nemesis

Water is a foundation’s biggest nemesis. Water causes the soil beneath a home to move, resulting in settling, cracks, bowed walls, and other foundation concerns. A home’s foundation comes in direct contact with the ground. The foundation’s primary purpose is to join the structure of the building to soil or rock beneath.

Graphic showing a home sitting on wet soil, surrounded by dry soil, which leads to foundation settling.
Pockets of wet and dry soil under a home create unbalance, leading to foundation issues.

However, the partnership between a foundation and the ground beneath can be volatile. The movement of the soil can seriously damage a home’s foundation.

While a foundation may seem like a solid, immovable force, the ground around it is constantly moving and changing.

Wet periods, which can be caused by rainfall, snowmelt, or a high water table, cause the ground to expand.

During a drought or other dry period, the ground contracts.

In the United States, the proportion of clay, silt, and sand contained in soil affects the amount of water it can hold.

Clay soil is considered an “expansive soil” and contracts and expands depending on moisture content. Other soils, such as loam or sand don’t absorb as much water as clay and offer better drainage.

The cycle of expansion and contraction puts pressure on a foundation, causing it to shift and move. Enough movement can crack walls, buckle floors and jar door or window frames.

USA map with soil moisture indicated in varying shades of green.
NASA’s Earth Observatory tracks the levels of moisture in soil across the country.

If there isn’t proper draining around a home, some areas of soil may swell more than others. At the same time, other areas may dry out quickly. The result is a foundation more supported in one section than another. The unbalance leads to foundation troubles.

With the soil eroded, foundation walls or flooring can settle and crack.

Vegetation, such as trees, shrubs or other plants, around a foundation can affect moisture levels.

Plants and trees can desiccate (remove moisture) from the soil around foundations during dry weather. Dry soil compacts and draws away from a foundation, allowing walls to move and shift.

Preventing foundation damage requires vigilance and awareness. Do a visual inspection of your house. Look for standing water, clogged gutters or ground sloped toward your foundation.

Major foundation issues will require a professional to fix or mitigate. However, small changes, such as cleaning gutters or re-directing downspouts can make an impact.

Leaking or improperly directed downspouts, clogged gutters, broken pipes, or runoff from a neighbor’s home or adjacent building can cause soil erosion near the base of a foundation.

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