No matter how new or old your home is, flooding is a common occurrence that most homeowners face at some point. Unfortunately, it is rarely a one-time occurrence, and your home could experience multiple floods throughout the course of your homeownership.
There are two important factors that contribute to basement and foundation leaking — the clay bowl effect and hydrostatic pressure.
If you’ve experienced any flooding in your home, give the experts at Foundation Recovery Systems a call today. We offer free foundation waterproofing inspections in central Missouri and Eastern Kansas, including Kansas City, Columbia, Moberly, and Springfield.
The “Clay Bowl Effect” and Your Foundation
Imagine your home as it was being built. The contractors begin by digging a hole in the ground to make room for your basement and foundation. To do so, the contractor must dig a hole that is a little larger than the space your home will need. The foundation is then built inside this space, and the concrete floor is poured.
After your foundation is built, soil is used as backfill to fill in any gaps around your foundation walls. This backfill can become loose from the excavation, and any untouched soil around the area could have been settling for decades.
What does this mean for you and your foundation waterproofing? The backfilled soil surrounding your foundation will always be looser and more absorbent of water than the dense, hard-packed soil around it, which can result in damage to the foundation. This forms a sort of “clay bowl” around your house — one that creates an artificial water table around your home. Water collects the most right around your foundation — exactly where you don’t want it to be.
Hydrostatic Pressure and Foundation Soils
Water in the soils can put a lot of pressure on your foundation. As water builds up and saturates the soil, it becomes very heavy and can compromise the structural integrity of your foundation walls. This is known as hydrostatic pressure.
Not only is the structural integrity of your foundation in jeopardy, but the buildup of the hydrostatic pressure can also push water into your basement or crawl space. Water can seep through any cracks in the walls or floors of your foundation, or any gaps in windows or openings around pipes. Even the smallest of cracks or opening can allow water to enter your basement or crawl space and cause damage.
However, the most common way that water enters a home is through the foundation wall-floor joint. We find that most flooded basements start with a leak here, where the floor and wall meet. For these reasons, a waterproofing system is vital for protecting your home.
Your foundation is more than just the rock on which your home rests. It prevents your home from sinking into the ground and keeps your other structural supports in their proper places. If your foundation begins to show signs of damage, you’re going to have to contend not only with your home’s destabilization but also with the side effects that come with it.
Your foundation can be more sensitive to changes in the soil around your home than you might expect. While this isn’t always a bad thing, you may see that sensitivity resulting in unexpected structural damage.
Understanding the Clay Bowl Effect
The Clay Bowl Effect refers to the way soil settles under and around your foundation post-construction. Contractors will excavate a hole in the earth that is slightly larger than the borders of your home. In this space, the foundation is laid.
Contractors can then use backfilled soil to pack the space between the foundation walls and the surrounding hard-packed soil. This creates a bowl of dense soil and clay around your foundation that acts as an artificial water table. Water is then collected by the looser soil inside the bowl and around your foundation.
The Clay Bowl Effect and Your Home
The Clay Bowl Effect on its own can destabilize your foundation after it’s been set into place. The gaps that appear within the soil beneath your space will make it easier for your slab or for other structural supports to start to sink. In turn, the walls of your foundation, basement, or crawl space can start to fall out of place.
The faster your foundation starts to sink, the more likely it is that you’ll see leaks or other types of damage appear throughout your home. Unfortunately, leaks tend to beget additional leaks. If you find yourself contending with hydrostatic pressure in your home, you’ll want to act quickly both to eliminate that source of damage and to bring your foundation back into its original position. There’s little point in trying to waterproof your home before fixing a damaged foundation. If you do, you risk damaging your waterproofing solutions before they can do any good for your home.
Hydrostatic pressure serves as the force behind the vast majority of foundation failures. This force builds up outside of your home when water, be it ice, humidity, or rain runoff, comes into contact with the materials making up your foundation.
Hydrostatic Pressure and Your Concrete
Water can force concrete and other foundation materials to change temperature. In response, those materials will change size on a molecular level. These molecules shrink if their temperatures are rapidly decreased and expand, in turn, when they warm up again.
If your foundation comes into contact with an extensive amount of moisture on a regular basis, your slab and structural supports are going to change size on a frequent basis. Unfortunately, those supports can develop stress fractures in an attempt to try and compensate for the frequent dimensional changes.
The Hydrostatic Feedback Cycle
Hydrostatic pressure is also a force that tends to feed itself. For example, if hydrostatic pressure cracks your foundation, it is going to be easier for additional moisture to make its way into the rest of your home. As such, your internal supports may begin to show signs of damage.
Similarly, your pipes may begin to leak, adding to the amount of moisture in the air. Effectively, hydrostatic pressure begets hydrostatic pressure unless you take the necessary steps to either eliminate it or prevent it from coming into contact with your foundation.
Water can get into your basement through cracks in your foundation, but the matter is actually more complicated than that. To reach your basement, a variety of different forces, moisture included, can work against the structural integrity of your home. These forces can include:
Water Begets Water
The materials that make up your foundation are especially sensitive to changing temperatures. Come summer, you may find yourself contending with concrete creep, or the process through which concrete expands on a molecular level. Freezes can have a similar effect on your concrete, albeit in the opposite direction. The cooler the weather gets in your area, the smaller the molecules making up your concrete foundation are going to become.
On average, frozen water particles expand by up to nine percent of their normal size. If those particles are absorbed into your concrete or any of the structural supports surrounding your home, you may find yourself contending not with slow damage but supports that seem to break open overnight. While a single freeze may not cause your foundation to crack, a series of freezes and warm days can. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to control the temperature or the weather in general. You can, however, invest in the waterproofing measures that can keep moisture away from your home. If you think freezing weather is bad for your foundation, imagine what frozen moisture might do to its structural integrity.
That said, moisture isn’t the only force working against your home’s structural integrity. Insects like carpenter ants and termites will readily eat into your home’s wooden supports if given the opportunity. Burrowing animals like to make their nests beneath warm homes. The burrows animals like rabbits and groundhogs create can destabilize the soil around your home, creating an effect much like the Clay Bowl Effect. Your home can sink into those burrows, causing your foundation to buckle and other signs of structural damage to appear throughout all levels of your home.
Tree roots can have a similar impact on your home’s overall structural integrity. Roots, like burrows, destabilize the soil beneath your foundation if they are planted too close to your home’s perimeter. In turn, your foundation may sink into the gaps these tree roots leave behind them, causing it to buckle and otherwise destabilize your home’s other structural supports. Waterproofing measures help prevent this kind of damage from evolving into a leak, but you may also want to work with the landscapers in your area to determine what means of protecting your home or treating your trees may suit you best.
Luckily, there are several different ways for you to waterproof your foundation. You can work with area professionals to first inspect your home for damage and then determine which of those available solutions may best help you get back on your feet.
If you aren’t contending with any structural damage and are more seeing an influx of water into your home, you may be able to invest in interior waterproofing measures over exterior ones. These measures can include but are not limited to:
- Sump pumps. Sump pumps drive standing water and flood runoff out of your home using electrical force. These pumps are excellent for concentrated moisture control in your home, and they serve to keep unwanted moisture from reaching your foundation. That said, sump pumps have a more difficult time contending with widespread flooding throughout your home. Similarly, if the power goes out in the middle of a storm, your sump pump will no longer be able to protect you from the worst of your flood damage. That’s why it’s in your best interest to have a backup battery installed along with your sump pump system to protect your home.
- Interior Drains. Interior drains are cousins to sump pumps. Both systems work to remove unwanted seepage or moisture from your home. Interior drains, however, do not require an electrical charge to work. These systems are placed in the sub-floor of your basement, and they work to collect water that leaks in through your walls or wall-floor joint. Any water collected by these drains is then redirected to the sump pump so it can be pumped out of and away from your home and its foundation.
- Dehumidifiers. If you’re more concerned about the general degree of moisture in your home, you can install a dehumidifier. Non-commercial dehumidifiers help to absorb the moisture in the air and force it back into its liquid state. This way, you can remove that unwanted water from your home at your own rate. But if you opt for a self-draining unit, it will automatically drain into your perimeter drainage system or sump pump so you don’t have to worry about emptying any buckets or reservoirs. Of course, dehumidifiers are not the best waterproofing measures to invest in if you are actively seeing seepage or standing water in your crawl space or basement. However, you can pair a dehumidifier with other foundation waterproofing measures to extend the lifespans of those devices.
If your foundation is sinking, or if you believe it may begin to sink in the months to come, you can talk with professionals in your area about piering solutions. Foundation piers help take the weight of your home off your foundation, allowing it to remain in place should the soil shift or your foundation show signs of damage. Note that while you can use piers as home waterproofing measures, they often work best when utilized after damage has appeared in your foundation. Even so, if you want to try and get ahead of the damage that might do your home harm, you can talk to area contractors about a pre-emptive installation.
If you want to stabilize the ground outside of your home at the same time as you stabilize your foundation, you can talk to the professionals in your area about PolyRenewal™ concrete lifting. The process allows you to inject a special polyurethane material underneath your concrete slabs. Once underneath, this material hardens to lift a sinking foundation up and to create a barrier between your foundation and any standing water in the ground. At the same time, that material makes it more difficult for your soil to shift as it will, meaning you’ll be less likely to face issues.
Reaching Out to Area Professionals
There’s no need for you to try and take on the process of waterproofing your foundation on your own. Not only is this ill-advised, but this kind of hard work is much simpler when you have multiple hands to help you. As such, you can reach out to the professionals in your area instead. Together with local contractors, you can assess the overall health of your foundation and determine what foundation waterproofing measures may best suit your needs. Professionals at Foundation Recovery Systems can provide you with a free services quote to help you better understand how much any repairs or installations may cost. In the meantime, you’ll have the opportunity to work within your budget while also protecting your home’s value and structural integrity.
How do you dry a wet basement? By stopping water at the point where it enters the structure.
Since most basements flood from the wall-floor joint, one of the most common ways to stop the flooding is to install a perimeter drainage system along the edge of the basement floor. This would collect the water and direct it to a sump pump, which would then discharge it out of your home.
At Foundation Recovery Systems, we have a foundation waterproofing approach to solving water problems of all types. Our solutions cover all surfaces of the basement, including the foundation walls, basement floors, and even wet crawl spaces.
We are dedicated to your home, and dedicated to you. Have peace of mind when you work with our team as we provide constant communication throughout the entire project to make sure you are completely satisfied. We offer free basement waterproofing inspections throughout Missouri, including Kansas City, Columbia, Moberly, and Springfield. Contact us today to get started!
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