How Does Water Get Into the Foundation of a House?

September 18, 2023

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 How does water get into the foundation of a house

Water getting into the foundation of a house can cause serious damage if left unchecked. There are several ways that water can infiltrate and lead to foundation problems

So, how does water get into the foundation of a house? Water can enter a house foundation through cracks in the concrete, porous concrete material, utility line penetrations, hydrostatic pressure from surrounding soil, inadequate surface drainage, capillary action drawing moisture upwards, flooding from heavy rains or high water tables, and leaks from plumbing fixtures or pipes.

Understanding the main causes can help homeowners prevent issues or address them quickly when it comes to water infiltration.

1. Cracks in Foundation

One of the most common ways for water to enter a foundation is through cracks. Concrete foundations inevitably develop minor cracks over time due to settlement, shrinkage, extreme temperatures, or stress. If these cracks are not properly sealed, water can seep in through the openings.

Cracks often form where the foundation meets other building materials, such as where the footer meets the foundation wall. These are areas that experience a lot of pressure and movement. Large cracks visible to the naked eye allow substantial water intrusion. But even hairline cracks or voids in the concrete can let water in slowly over time.

cracks in a wall

2. Porous Concrete is One Way

While concrete is generally a strong, impermeable material, some foundations are made with substandard concrete. Excess water, too little cement, or poor curing conditions can cause the concrete to be excessively porous. This enables water molecules to pass through the material.

Older foundations are particularly susceptible to having a more porous concrete composition. Concrete also becomes more permeable as it ages and deteriorates over decades. What starts as minor permeability can get progressively worse year after year.

 How does water get into the foundation of a house

3. Leaking Utility Penetrations

Utility lines for plumbing, electrical, gas, sewer, and other services have to penetrate the foundation wall to service the home. These penetrations are potential pathways for water intrusion.

Over time, sealants around piping and conduits can crack or shrink, allowing gaps to form. If not re-sealed properly, these gaps give water access behind the foundation walls. Even small leaks from damaged utility lines themselves can lead to moisture issues.

cracked foundation and leaking pipes

4. Hydrostatic Pressure

Water in the surrounding soil applies hydrostatic pressure against the foundation walls and floor. This comes from rainwater, irrigation, or high groundwater levels. Under some conditions, the pressure can exceed the ability of the concrete to resist moisture intrusion.

During heavy rains, water can saturate the soil and essentially be forced through the concrete. A high water table, poor site grading, or defective drain tiles can also create outward pressure that pushes water through the foundation. This is most common in basements or below-grade foundations.

crawl space foundation repair

5. Inadequate Surface Drainage

Improper drainage around the foundation allows surface water to collect and penetrate the foundation. Gutters and downspouts should divert rainwater at least 5 feet away from the building. The ground around the home should slope downward at a grade of 6 inches for the first 10 feet.

Downspouts that drain too close to the home's perimeter, low spots, soil erosion, clogged drains, and other inadequate drainage give water a path to the foundation. Proper drainage directs it away to prevent puddles, saturation, and seepage.

french drain installation

6. Capillary Action

Capillary action describes the ability of porous materials like concrete to draw water upward through microscopic pores. When the soil around the foundation is wet, moisture can wick up through the concrete even without immense hydrostatic pressure.

Landscaping materials, trees and shrubs planted too close poorly draining flower beds, or lack of a vapor barrier under the slab can all provide avenues for water migration. As moisture evaporates from the concrete inside, it pulls more water up through capillary action.

cracked concrete foundation

7. Flooding

Houses located in flood zones are obviously vulnerable to water intrusion through foundations. But even heavy rainfall that causes temporary ponding around the home can lead to water getting into the basement or crawlspace. Amounts as little as 1-2 inches accumulate quickly with saturated soil.

Unusually high tides and storm surges near large bodies of water can also flood homes not normally within identified flood zones. Hurricanes, tropical storms, and nor'easters are meteorological events that often cause foundation flooding in coastal areas.

flooded basement foundation

8. Leaky Plumbing

Leaks or bursts from supply lines, drains, sewer pipes, water heaters, washers, sinks, bathtubs, and other plumbing fixtures can allow large amounts of water to penetrate a foundation. Left unaddressed, hundreds of gallons can ruin the integrity of foundations and lead to mold growth.

Even small, undetected leaks from pipes in foundation walls or beneath concrete slabs will provide a steady supply of moisture. This can happen for months before signs appear on the upper floors of the home. Preventative maintenance and early leak detection are key.

evaluation of foundation in New Braunfels

Wrapping Things Up

In summary, water entering a house's foundation is often due to inadequate sealing, drainage issues, exterior pressure, or plumbing leaks. Periodic inspections, proper repairs, and moisture management can help homeowners minimize the risks over time. Addressing water intrusion quickly is key to preventing long-term damage and expensive repairs.

About New Braunfels Foundation Repair Experts

With decades of experience assessing foundation cracks, moisture intrusion, sinking slabs, and other common issues, their team knows exactly how to stabilize and level foundations for the long-term. No foundation problem is too big or small for New Braunfels Foundation Repair Experts. Call (830) 202-6346 today for your free inspection and estimate.


How do you fix water coming in through foundation?

To fix water intrusion through a foundation, it's important to first identify the entry points and causes, which may include cracks, porous concrete, insufficient sealing around utilities, poor drainage, or plumbing leaks. Once the sources are found, repairs like sealing cracks, installing proper drainage, waterproofing, trenching, or rerouting gutters can help keep water out of the foundation.

How long does it take for water to damage house foundation?

Water can begin damaging a house's foundation in as little as 24-48 hours if left unchecked. Continuous moisture intrusion weakens foundations and leads to cracks, shifting, and sinkholes over time, so it's critical to address any water issues immediately to prevent costly structural repairs.

Can water come up through concrete foundation?

Yes, water can come up through a concrete foundation due to capillary action drawing moisture upwards through the porous concrete material. To prevent water intrusion from below, it's important to have proper vapor barriers and drainage systems like sump pumps and drain tiles installed around the foundation.

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