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Can Water Really Damage a Building Foundation?

Water Damage

People sometimes wonder whether or not leaking water really poses a hazard to a building? For instance, in some low lying areas, homeowners frequently discover water in basements after periods of wet weather. Should these discoveries cause concern?

Answering this question depends to some extent upon the source of the water. If you sustained a broken window in your basement and rain poured inside during a thunderstorm, for instance, you may remove the problem by mopping the floor and fixing the glass. Unfortunately, water leakage issues in low-lying areas often prove far more complex than this simple scenario. Let’s consider some long term concerns associated with basements that do not remain waterproof.

The Awesome Power of Water

Have you ever observe the Colorado River flowing within the mighty Grand Canyon? If so, you’ve witnessed first hand the power of water! Over the course of time, water possesses the ability to erode stone surfaces. It may seep inside a porous (seemingly solid) structure and gradually reduce it.

Of course, the mighty Colorado River did not hollow out the Grand Canyon quickly- that transformation, which still remains poorly understood, likely required millions of years to accomplish. Yet across the world, people have discovered numerous instances in which flowing water can cut deep channels into the earth, hollow out caves and even break apart building foundations.

Short Term Problems Associated With Leaking Water

In certain areas of low elevation, waterlogged soil following a heavy rainstorm or the melting of a snow pack will cause water to seep inside the ground levels of buildings. A basement or an underground garage may remain at high risk for encountering this type of damage.

Over the course of time, water entering a basement in this way may pose a significant problem. Just consider some of the hazards this process imposes on residents:

Water pooling in a basement creates a mess requiring frequent mopping;
Standing water may provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insect pests;
Leaking water often contributes to the growth of mildew and mold;
A dank, wet basement may pose a safety hazard if electrical wires come into contact with the water.

For all these reasons, property owners usually seek to prevent water from seeping into the lower levels of buildings. No one appreciates a smelly, unhealthy basement!

Longer Term Water Leakage Issues

Unfortunately, over the course of a longer period of time, leaking water may even threaten one of a building’s most important systems: its foundation. Water constantly penetrating the pores of a cement slab will eventually create cracks. When these become visible, property owners may need to complete expensive repairs to prevent catastrophic damage.

Consider that a building foundation provides the chief support for the structure. Homes and offices with broken or cracked foundations sometimes experience structural problems over the course of time. These changes typically won’t become apparent overnight, but they can necessitate significant repair expenses.

Consider Corrective Measures

In the short term, applying waterproof sealants may help protect basement rooms against the development of moldy, dank conditions. Taking the comparatively inexpensive step of applying waterproofing coatings often holds benefits.

For a longer term solution, owners of property subjected to leaks seeping into the foundation may find it helpful to consult with a civil engineer. In some cases, for example, landscaping to provide adequate drainage around a foundation provides a way to safeguard the structure of the building from seeping water.