Adequate foundation drainage is essential to a happy and healthy home.
Water has long been one of the greatest enemies a homeowner can face, for a laundry list of reasons. From mold to structural instability, homeowners have been battling the effects of water and moisture for years. It's an enduring problem, but it can be avoidable and fixable. In this blog, we'll go over some ways to spot foundation drainage issues and ways to avoid costly foundation repairs in the future.
Common Signs Of Foundation Drainage Issues
If you're concerned that you may be experiencing some foundation drainage issues, there are a number of common signs to watch out for that can alert you to a larger foundation repair problem on the horizon. These signs include:
- Damage To Concrete or Asphalt Close To The Home
Asphalt or concrete close to the home should remain level and in one piece, so any cracking or sinking that you spot is cause for concern. This could indicate that something has affected the soil beneath, most likely water or lack thereof.
- Damage To The Foundation/The Home's Structure
Foundation damage may present itself in a number of ways. Depending on the way that your home's foundation was constructed, using poured concrete, cinder block, or stacked stone, the damage could manifest differently. Water that has been absorbed into the soil may be pushing against your foundation walls, creating hydrostatic pressure that can cause the walls to bow and lean inward. Alternatively, you may notice cracking, usually going in a stairstep formation. There could be water intrusion in the home's basement or main level if you don't have a basement.
- Deterioration Of Building Materials
Foundations are most commonly constructed with one of three materials: stacked stone, cinder blocks or poured concrete. When stacked stone begins to break down, it's usually the grouting between that is most affected--the stones may become loose and could even fall out of place, leading to an eventual collapse of the wall. Poured concrete could begin to crack, bow outwards, or crumble and flake. Cinder blocks could go either way, or have a combination of these two problems, with both the grouting and the blocks themselves deteriorating over time.
- Erosion Close To The Home
The soil around your home's foundation should be pitched away from the structure to allow proper drainage. When the soil around the home begins to erode due to heavy rain or water from the gutters, you should act quickly to prevent serious water and foundation damage. Soil erosion can manifest in large areas of sparse soil, dips where water can collect, and cracks and loose soil that easily crumbles and falls.
- Insects, Spiders And Reptiles
Many types of pests are attracted to water. You may begin to notice an increase in the amount of bugs that you spot in or around the home, like: cockroaches, earwigs, silverfish, ants, termites, mosquitos and pill bugs among others. Snakes and other reptiles are often attracted to damp areas like basements, drawn in by the promise of food in the form of other, smaller pests and shelter.
- Mold Growth
Mold is an organism that feeds on organic material such as wood, cotton, paper products and traditional drywall and spreads at an alarming rate. There are hundreds upon hundreds of strains of mold, some of which are highly toxic to people and animals. Where water goes, mold is usually quick to follow. This is just one of the many reasons why proper drainage is so important. Mold spores spread through the air and can be easily inhaled, which can put you and your family at a huge risk to your health.
- Wood Rot
Wood, being a natural, porous material absorbs water when it is not properly sealed. In many homes, wood is used as a supporting structure in the form of piers, joists or beams. No matter the way your home is constructed, if there's wood in the basement or crawlspace, it should be routinely checked for wood rot. Wood rot can look lighter or darker than the rest of the material, and often if the rot has progressed far enough, the wood is soft and crumbles at the touch.
Tips To Avoid And Repair Foundation Drainage Issues
Now that you've been made aware of some of the signs of foundation drainage issues, you can start putting measures in place to avoid them. If it's too late to avoid the problem, these same tactics can help to repair the damage and keep the foundation from deteriorating.
- One of the easiest ways to protect the foundation from water damage is to check on your gutters and downspouts. Gutter systems should be cleaned at least twice a year to ensure that there are no major stoppage, plant growth, or misaligned sections that could affect drainage. Gutters and downspouts can become misaligned due to storms and falling debris, and the gutters can sometimes be inhabited by pests like mice, birds and squirrels, stopping the gutters from performing their proper function. If it seems like your downspouts aren't long enough to allow water to flow away, there are also downspout extensions on the market that can help with this.
- Make sure that the soil around your home is graded properly and slopes away from the structure of the foundation. The typical recommendation for the proper slope around your house is about 5%, or 6 inches in slope for the first 10 feet away from the structure itself. This will help with draining rainfall that's funneled out of the downspouts away from the house, lowering the risk for water damage. This will require the help of a professional landscaper to ensure that the job is done right.
- Another way to protect your home from foundation drainage issues is to invest in basement and foundation waterproofing. There are two ways to waterproof the foundation: exterior waterproofing and interior waterproofing. Exterior waterproofing' is designed to stop water from ever penetrating the foundation. This process utilizes a membrane or coating of some sort (plastic or bentonite clay) to cover all possible entry points. With interior waterproofing, the idea is to redirect water out of the space nearly as soon as it's entered. To do this, sump pumps and interior drainage systems are used to route the water up through a series of pipes and back out, a safe distance from the house, where the water can then drain away naturally. Interior foundation drainage systems also sometimes include dehumidifiers and moisture barriers for extra protection.
- Take some time to inspect the foundation for signs of visible damage. Foundation damage could manifest in a variety of ways, including foundation cracks. Most often, you'll find small hairline cracks, and maybe gapping around the floor and wall joint.While no foundation crack should be overlooked, many small cracks can be caused by normal settlement and concrete shrinkage. The most important type of crack to watch out for are stair step foundation cracks. Typically, these cracks branch off of windows and doors, and appear in a stair-step formation. If you notice these types of cracks in the basement and foundation, it's time to call a professional for foundation crack repair services.
- If the damage has progressed significantly and you're noticing bowing or bulging walls, a professional will recommend bowed wall repair, a process that utilizes carbon-fiber strips to support the foundation walls and counteract pressure from the soil forcing the foundation inward. Some homes have retaining walls that can be affected by poor drainage as well. Retaining walls are built to retain soil, often in an effort to reduce soil erosion and for landscaping purposes. Like foundation walls, retaining walls can also start to bow and bulge due to pressure of shifting soils. This is often caused by poor drainage, allowing excess water to soak into the soil and create hydrostatic pressure.
- Floor joist repair and replacement is often necessary when foundation drainage issues occur. Being composed of wood, floor joists are vulnerable to the destructive effects of water--such as mold, mildew and wood rot. Over time, you may notice sagging floors and unpleasant smells coming from beneath your feet, signaling a problem with your joists.
- Foundation replacement is obviously a last resort, being the most extreme of all the possible solutions. To achieve a full foundation replacement, the house will be supported above the old foundation, allowing for demolition and the replacement. While this process can be prolonged and disruptive to the daily goings on, if damage to the foundation has progressed enough to warrant foundation replacement, then it is the best option.
Finding a Foundation Repair and Drainage Contractor
If you're concerned that you may have foundation drainage issues, it's always best to reach out to a foundation repair contractor to properly assess the structure and the surrounding soils before attempting to do the work yourself.
Foundation drainage issues can quickly become much larger structural problems, leading to unhealthy living environments and costly repairs. HomePro Match is here to help you find the best local foundation drainage and foundation repair contractor--allowing you to choose from highly qualified, well established local businesses for your peace of mind and assurance. Find your local foundation repair contractor and get started today!