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How Quickly Can Water Damage a Foundation

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

Water damage to a foundation is typically an evolving process. But, it can occasionally manifest as a sudden event, too. Concrete foundations are generally sturdy and long-lasting—many existing homes built in the 1920s still have intact “original equipment” foundations with no modifications or repairs. However, the geology of the site where the house was constructed, the natural local weather patterns and even the attention to maintenance provided by its owners are variables that influence foundation water damage and the speed at which it may occur.

Here are some examples of slow and fast foundation water damage:

  • Natural groundwater. Rising ground water beneath a foundation may be a feature of local geology that occurs seasonally or year-round. Over a period of years, continuous upward pressure from rising water may permeate foundation concrete. It may generate foundation cracks, trigger leakage into the basement and generally degrade the structural integrity of the foundation.
  • Absorbent soil. Certain soil types drain water efficiently and dry rapidly. However, other types, particularly expansive soil or clay, retain a large volume of water during rainy seasons and expand, exerting lateral pressure against foundation walls. As time passes, this on/off water damage may crack the foundation and eventually even make the house shift or “heave,” causing severe structural issues.
  • Plumbing leaks. A leaky or ruptured plumbing line within or below the foundation provides a 24/7 source of water likely to fast-track foundation damage. While water damage such as foundation deterioration and cracking that results from ongoing plumbing leaks is similar to that due to natural causes, the rate of progression is accelerated and the effects will be more rapidly evident.  
  • Flooding. Outdoor floodwater moving just 10 mph exert as much stressful force on the house structure including the foundation as winds in excess of 250 mph. In just a matter of minutes, flooding may separate the house structure from the foundation. Floodwater also rapidly penetrates beneath the ground surface, undermining the foundation, moving and breaking foundation pilings and causing the entire foundation to shift.

Water Damage Causes: Foundation Cracks

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020
water damage foundation cracks

While water damage causes foundation cracks and other issues, this same process is likewise the origin of indoor or structural damage that frequently ensues later on. Because a concrete foundation is porous, water pooling on the surface or contained in the soil surrounding the home soaks into the concrete foundation and initiates gradual deterioration. Eventually, foundation cracks develop and/or the foundation destabilizes. Subsequent water damage causes a variety of long-term issues including the following:

Basement Damage

Water infiltration through a cracked foundation can be an intermittent problem as groundwater occasionally seeps upward through a cracked basement floor or leaks through damaged basement walls.  Eventually, however, occasional water damage causes long-term issues inside the basement, such as toxic mold growth as well as rotting exposed wooden structure. Vulnerable electrical components like the main breaker panel installed in the basement are at risk from water, as are the home’s furnace and HVAC ductwork. A finished basement usually includes drywall that readily absorbs water and deteriorates, as well as carpeting and other materials susceptible to damage.

Structural Changes

Defects in the house structure are also among the water damage causes that can that be traced back to foundation issues.  During winter weather, water infiltrating foundation cracks may freeze and expand, gradually deforming and/or shifting the foundation. As changes in the foundation may eventually cause separation at the joints between exterior walls and/or between walls and the roof, subsequent water damage occurs to the structure during rainy weather.

Plumbing Issues

Among the major water damage causes inside a home, broken pipes rank high on the list. These events may actually be initiated, however, by previous foundation water damage. When severe outdoor flooding—or long-term standing water from any cause—occurs, the ground beneath a house may become unstable and the foundation may gradually tilt and/or sink. Foundation instability and movement eventually stress house plumbing, particularly water supply lines, potentially triggering an indoor pipe rupture that causes flooding inside the house.