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Understanding Hydrostatic Pressure & Ways to Avert It

October 28, 2021

Water always finds a way to enter your basement. This coupled with the force of hydrostatic pressure can result in severe water damage in your basement. Hydrostatic pressure can effortlessly drive groundwater into your basement through cracks and gaps in the masonry. Here, we help you understand hydrostatic pressure, what’s behind it, and ways to prevent its buildup. 

hydrostatic pressure cgi

What is hydrostatic pressure? 

Hydrostatic pressure is the force that is created by standing or resting water. It is the constant force that water pressure exerts on your basement walls. While hydrostatic pressure can come from runoff flowing down a hill, most of the time, it comes from the saturated soil around your home’s foundation.  

What causes hydrostatic pressure? 

Hydrostatic pressure may occur in homes where water pools around the perimeter of the structure, especially after a rainstorm or during the snowmelt season. It is also more prevalent in areas with a high-water table. A high-water table exerts pressure on your foundation walls causing dampness.  

The type of soil around your home also substantially affects how much hydrostatic pressure is exerted on your walls. For instance, clay soil absorbs more water than other types of soil. And the more water it absorbs, the more pressure it exerts on your basement walls.  

How hydrostatic pressure affects the foundation 

As the soil around your foundation becomes saturated with moisture, it expands and puts pressure on your foundation walls. This pressure pushes groundwater into your living space through tiny cracks and floods your basement. 

It also may cause more cracks to form and in severe cases, it may cause your foundation walls to bow and fail. You want to take care of it as soon as possible before it can cause any considerable damage to your home. 

Ways of preventing hydrostatic pressure 

Ideally, averting the buildup of hydrostatic pressure should start with the construction process. You can avoid it by planning it into the site and foundation design. If, however, you are already past the design stage, you will need to take on some extra steps toward prevention.  

Improve your drainage 

Too much water around your foundation spells disaster. Find ways to direct water away from your property and prevent it from pooling around your foundation. A professionally installed and maintained drainage system removes water before it has a chance to build up into destructive hydrostatic pressure. You can achieve this by: 

  1. Draining gutters and downspouts away from your foundation 
  1. Ensure that the grade of your yard and all other surfaces surrounding your structure slope away from it 

Install interior drains around the perimeter 

A well-designed drainage system and landscape go a long way toward preventing hydrostatic pressure. But you may still experience issues with subsurface water and underground water that has soaked the soil rather than drained away. This water fluctuates seasonally with changes in rainfall, resulting in hydrostatic pressure. The most effective solution to this is installing interior drains.  

The beauty of these drains is that they alleviate hydrostatic pressure before it can rise to the point of bending or pushing water into your basement. Interior drains relieve the buildup of pressure against the structure and block moisture from seeping through your walls and causing a wet basement. Install your interior drain deeper into the ground than the bottom of the slab. Also, ensure the drains flow downhill and away from the building. 

Seal cracks as soon as they appear 

Inspect your basement walls and floor for cracks. If you notice small cracks, ask your local foundation specialist to come and seal them. This will stop them from expanding and letting in water into your basement. 

Invest in professional waterproofing 

Basement waterproofing is a vital aspect, especially for homes prone to the effects of hydrostatic pressure. In this case, the goal is to remove water that accumulates around the footing and foundation. This will help prevent the accumulation of water, which results in hydrostatic pressure. A sump pump is designed specifically for this purpose.