Leaky Foundation? Determining Why a House Foundation is Wet

May 25, 2021

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If you’re a homeowner asking, why is my house foundation wet, you’re certainly not alone! Concrete is porous so that it absorbs water from the air and surrounding soil; if it then doesn’t dry properly, you might notice damp foundation surfaces inside and outside your home, and even standing water in the basement.

Wet soil outside and trapped humidity inside the house are common reasons for a damp foundation. Improper drainage, incorrect grading, and heavy rains or snowfall often result in wet soil around a home. Poor ventilation can risk trapped humidity inside and, in turn, damp foundation surfaces.

Knowing why your home’s foundation is wet is the first step to correcting this issue and protecting concrete from damage, while also ensuring your home is clean, dry, and safe for occupation. Making a few needed changes to your property and some protective measures are also typically far less costly than foundation repairs.

wet foundation

Rather than overlooking that damp foundation or assuming that basements are naturally damp and musty, you might consider some common reasons for a wet foundation in more detail. You can then discuss your concerns with a foundation repair contractor near you and ensure your home is always in good repair.

Why Is My House Foundation Wet?

Don’t ignore a damp foundation on your property, as that dampness can lead to cracks and crumbling areas. Check out these reasons why your house's foundation might be wet and then schedule a foundation inspection and needed repairs as quickly as possible, so you know your house is in good condition and has a strong foundation under it.

  •  Poor drainage is a common cause of wet soil around a house and, in turn, a wet foundation. If a property is not graded or sloped properly, or if nearby drains are blocked, this can allow moisture to collect around the foundation.
  •  Heavy rains and snowfall can overwhelm area drains so that soil absorbs that moisture, which then collects around a foundation and leads to dampness and water damage.
  • Gutters are designed to capture rain and melting snow so that water can run to nearby downspouts, which then direct that moisture away from the home. When gutters are clogged, that water washes over their sides and collects around a home’s perimeter, leading to a damp and damaged foundation.
  • Plumbing leaks inside the home as well as leaking wells and septic tanks on or near your property can result in excess moisture collecting around the foundation.
  • Tree roots collect moisture, to keep a tree hydrated. When roots are close to the home, this can mean moisture collecting around its foundation and wet soil around a house.
  • Basement walls and floors absorb trapped moisture and humidity inside the home, while lower levels in the house can also absorb moisture trapped in a crawl space.
  • Poor ventilation inside a home can lead to trapped humidity; foundation concrete can absorb this humidity, leading to a damp basement.

Can Water Ruin a Foundation?

damaged foundation from water

Water is a common cause of foundation damage and can risk cracks, chips, spalling, and softening or weakening. Concrete is porous and absorbs water, as said; water breaks down cement binders in concrete, softening it and risking cracks, chips, and other damage.

Water absorbed by concrete can also freeze in cold weather. As that water freezes and expands, it pushes on cement binders. This can also risk cracks, chips, and breakage. (see https://gg-nc.com/water-damages-foundations/) Wet soil can also shift or become soft and crumbly, putting pressure on the foundation or not providing it with proper support.

As basement walls absorb water, they might start to bow and expand. This can weaken those walls so they cannot hold up the weight of the home properly. In extreme cases, those walls can outright crumble, exposing the home’s framing to outside elements and leading to more severe settling and cracking.

Moisture Coming Up Through Concrete

Concrete absorbs water vapor from the soil and that moisture can saturate the concrete, so that basement walls and floors can seem damp from outside moisture. Concrete slabs are also prone to absorbing moisture from the soil.

Concrete foundations typically include a vapor barrier, to help repel water and moisture and keep the material dry. Waterproof coatings are also helpful in keeping concrete dry and clean and reducing the risk of cracks and other damage.

How Long Does It Take for Water to Damage a Foundation?

broken foundation from moisture

There is no easy answer as to how long it takes for water to damage a foundation, as this will depend on the overall dampness of the soil or levels of trapped humidity inside a home, and how quickly concrete might dry out after absorbing water. The answer also depends on whether or not you’ve added waterproof coatings to the concrete over the years.

The more water exposure and the more frequent freeze-thaw cycles concrete goes through, the sooner you might see signs of concrete damage. Concrete might also become weakened by exposure to snow-clearing salt and lawn care chemicals, and to added weight on the home; these can also hasten the risk of cracks, chips, and other damage.

Since more water exposure can mean a higher risk of premature damage, a homeowner might do all they can to address wet soil around the house and other risks, and have the foundation inspected every year or two. You can then repair cracks and chips as soon as they’re visible so they don’t spread, and your home’s foundation will remain in good condition throughout the year.

Fixing a Wet Foundation

There are several steps you can take to fix a wet foundation and keep it dry over the years, protecting a foundation from premature damage. Some of these are quick DIY fixes but others might need the attention of a professional.

  • Waterproofing basement walls and exposed concrete, and crawl space encapsulation or vapor barriers, are excellent choices for keeping out moisture. A homeowner might apply waterproof paints to interior basement walls but call a foundation company near you for more extensive applications including crawl space services.
  • Ensure the home’s roof vents are not blocked so humidity can escape properly. A dehumidifier in the basement is also an excellent investment and will absorb excess moisture in the air, keeping it away from basement walls.
  • Downspout extensions are an excellent investment if you live in an area prone to heavy rain and snow. All that water might run out the downspouts too quickly, so it then pools around the home’s foundation. Downspout extensions help direct large volumes of water away from your home and its foundation; these are affordable and easy to install, but just remember not to run over them with your lawn mower.
  • Have a roofer check the home’s gutters for needed repairs and note if they’re undersized for local weather conditions. Undersized, clogged, and damaged gutters let rainwater wash over them so that water then collects and pools around the foundation. Upgrading to larger gutters and ensuring they’re clean and clog-free will keep that moisture away from the home.
  • The soil around your home should slope downward about six inches over the first ten feet; this allows rain and snow to run away from the home. If water pools around the home’s foundation, try rebuilding this “crown” to encourage proper water runoff.
  • French drains are excellent for redirecting moisture in the soil away from your house. A French drain is a series of PVC pipes installed a few inches underground, sloped toward the street, a nearby drain, or even a landscaping feature. These pipes collect moisture which then rolls down that slope, draining away from the home.
  • For trapped humidity inside the home, consider a sump pump installation. Sump pumps are installed in a pit along the lowest point of a basement or first floor; these pits collect moisture which is then pumped to a drain or outside the home.

fixing a foundation

Do Most Older Homes Have Foundation Problems?

Foundation concrete does tend to break down as it ages, just like any other building material. However, not all older homes have foundation problems, as high-quality concrete can last for decades without needing repairs or patching.

Also, when a homeowner ensures their property has proper drainage, keeps the gutters clean, and applies waterproofing to the foundation or crawlspace over the years, this also helps protect concrete and extend its expected lifespan. Regular maintenance and these simple preventative steps can even help concrete withstand cracking indefinitely so that it might not ever need repairs.

Note, too, that a repaired foundation is not necessarily weak and unreliable. If you’re shopping for a new home, don’t assume that a patched foundation or new piers and beams are “red flags.” Patching injections might need replacing after so many years but are only a few hundred dollars per visit, and new piers and beams or foundation underpinning can last indefinitely, keeping the foundation strong and stable over the years.

A homeowner or potential homebuyer should also consider investing in a foundation inspection if you’re concerned about your own home or are considering a new home purchase. Your foundation inspection cost is an excellent investment in ensuring your property is in good condition and can help you decide if a home on the market is the right choice for you.

Signs of a Bad Foundation

A damp foundation is not necessarily a bad or damaged foundation; if you can remove that moisture and apply waterproofing or other drainage measures, your foundation might stay in good repair. Polyurethane injections in small cracks can also help seal them up and keep them from spreading, also protecting the foundation from severe damage.

However, a homeowner might note some signs of a bad or damaged foundation in need of repairs, so you can schedule an inspection as needed. Making those repairs quickly will also ensure they don’t get worse over time, saving you money in the long run.

  • Interior and exterior wall cracks and cracks along ceiling tiles might indicate a foundation that is settling and sinking, pulling on those materials and causing cracks.
  • Note if there are interior gaps or cracks around door and window frames, or if the frames seem to be separating from exterior brick or siding.
  • A settling foundation pulls on a home’s subflooring, often resulting in soft, spongy floorboards underfoot or floor tiles that pull away from grout and become uneven even or “pop up” along one end.
  • Drywall panels and nails, baseboards, and crown molding pulling away from framing can all indicate foundation and even structural damage to your home.
  • Since foundation cracks let in moisture, schedule an inspection if your basement or lower levels are damp and musty or if you notice mold growth behind walls and elsewhere.
  • Damaged foundations allowing a structure to settle will also pull on roofs; you might notice missing nails, torn shingles and flashing, or buckled and cracked areas.

checking for foundation damage

Is It Safe to Live in a House With Foundation Problems?

Rarely will a house collapse because of foundation problems, but this doesn’t mean it’s safe to live in the home or okay to overlook that damage. For example, foundation cracks let in moisture that risks mold growth, as said; mold is damaging to a home’s framing and materials but also unhealthy and downright dangerous for people in some cases.

Foundation cracks and excess moisture in the home can also mean pest infestation, as rodents and insects are attracted to water sources and use cracks as points of entry. Those pests can mean even more damage, as rodents might chew on electrical wires while termites and carpenter ants bore through wood framing. They might also carry diseases that are also unhealthy for your home’s occupants.

While walls and ceilings might not outright collapse in a home with a damaged foundation, buckled floors and damaged tile create dangerous tripping hazards. Uneven door and window frames might also make it difficult to lock those pieces properly, which can compromise your safety.

A damaged foundation can also lower your home’s values, and will continue to do so the longer you ignore those needed fixes. To find out more about your home’s foundation and its condition, and if it’s time for repairs, call a foundation inspection contractor near you.

Montgomery Foundation Repair Pros is proud to offer this information to our readers and hopefully, it helped answer the question, why is my house foundation wet? If you need foundation repairs or an inspection, turn to our crew of trusted Montgomery foundation repair contractors. We offer convenient appointments and cost-effective repairs for virtually every foundation material and design in use today. To find out more, call today!

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