How Proper Water Drainage Can Protect Your Home’s Foundation

How Proper Water Drainage Can Protect Your Home’s Foundation

In many cases, the expansion or consolidation of the soil that supports your house results in foundation movement. This, in turn, can make the entire structure gradually sink. If the movement is minimal or happens only once, there’s no need to fret. But if you spot cracks or gaps in the foundation that seem to grow over time, it could be a sign that your house is settling enough that foundation problems will occur. Depending on how much and where the settling occurs, it could cause foundation problems that you’ll need the help of a professional to fix.

But why does differential settlement occur in the first place? More often than not, the answer relates to drainage. Read on to learn about the dangers of improper drainage and how proper water drainage can protect your home’s foundation.

What Causes Differential Settlement?

In general, differential settlement (sinking), occurs when soil under a footing compresses. The cause of soil compression could be due to:

  • Moistening of the subgrade soil by water infiltration
  • Drying of clay-like soils
  • Crumbling of decomposing organics in a subterranean layer
  • Inadequate or non-uniform compaction of the soil prior to construction of the foundation
  • Additional loading applied to an existing foundation through structural additions, expansions, or modifications
  • Hillside slope creep due to an adjacent slope slowly shifting

But the number one cause for foundation problems in Southern California is actually inadequate drainage. Inadequate drainage of surface water, either from rain or irrigation, often contributes to subgrade soil saturation.

What Causes Improper Drainage?

Inadequate drainage occurs when:

  • The topography is flat
  • The topography slopes toward the house
  • The irrigation volume is unnecessarily high
  • Torrential rains create ponding conditions
  • Water has no escape route
  • Drains are blocked
  • The adjacent yards and planter areas are flat or drain towards the house

In many cases, water saturates the soil adjacent to the foundation due to inadequate surface drainage during irrigation, past torrential rains, or an excessive use of the hose along the backyard wall. One of the most prevalent scenarios we see is rain gutters draining directly adjacent to the foundation, and often into a planter. This leads to pooling.

Which Homes are Most at Risk?

Homes that sit on clay soils are most at risk of settlement caused by inadequate drainage. Clay soils have a high expansion and contraction rate. Upon moistening, these soils expand. Upon drying, these soils shrink more than they previously expanded, which leads to differential settlement. Clay soil causes more yearly damage to residential structures across the U.S. than Hurricane Katrina and Sandy did combined!

How Does Proper Drainage Protect Your Foundation?

Proper water drainage protects your home’s foundation by keeping water away from perimeter foundations and preventing foundation movement. There are multiple ways to improve your home’s drainage situation, including constructing drains, pipes, rain gardens or creeks, and leveling the landscape.

If improper drainage has badly damaged your home’s foundation, don’t wait to get it fixed. Foundation Tech will work with you to find a permanent, affordable solution to the damage, such as foundation anchors or piers. Contact us today to discuss your foundation problems and needs. You’ll be glad you did!