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What Is Hydrostatic Pressure?

Sam Smith Foundation Repair Consultant

Closeup of manometer and pypes

Are you curious as to what hydrostatic pressure is and why you should care about it as a homeowner? Great! In this Regional Foundation Repair guide, we cover common questions like:

  • How Does Hydrostatic Pressure Affect Your Foundation?
  • How can you Tell if Your Home Is Affected by Hydrostatic Pressure?
  • How Can You Protect Your Home From The Effects of Hydrostatic Pressure?
  • How Can Damage From Hydrostatic Pressure be Fixed?
  • How Much Does It Cost to Fix Damage Caused By Hydrostatic Pressure?
  • How Can you Save Money When Fixing Damage From Hydrostatic Pressure?

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Let us know about the details of your project in the form and one of our foundation repair technicians will reach out to you shortly, or keep reading to learn more about hydrostatic pressure and its effects on your foundation.

What Is Hydrostatic Pressure?

Hydrostatic pressure is the force exerted by fluids in confined spaces. Water is a dense substance, and as a result, the pull of gravity on it is very strong (over 60lbs per cubic foot). When it is in a restricted space, say a container, the force of gravity will cause it to push hard against its restrictions, in this case, the walls of the container.

An important application of hydrostatic pressure is in our circulatory system. As blood moves through the blood vessels, hydrostatic pressure causes it to push against the walls. This is what is measured and referred to as blood pressure. In the capillaries, this pressure is responsible for pushing fluids and other substances out through the capillary pores.

Hydrostatic pressure increases with an increase in the volume of the water, meaning the more water there is, the higher the pressure pushing against the walls of the container will be. But how does all this relate to your home’s foundation?

How Does Hydrostatic Pressure Affect Your Foundation?

Unless your home is in an area prone to flooding, hydrostatic pressure should never be an issue above ground. In most cases, the water never gets deep enough to generate any significant amounts of hydrostatic pressure.

The problem lies below ground. When your foundation slabs or basement walls block the natural movement of groundwater, especially during heavy runoffs, the soil will become saturated with water. The high volume of water combined with the force of gravity will exert a lot of pressure on your foundation slabs and basement walls, which are not as impenetrable as they may appear.

How To Tell If Your Home Is Affected By Hydrostatic Pressure

If the soil near your foundation wall is always moist, the constant hydrostatic pressure will impact the structural integrity of your home and lead to some noticeable changes. Here is how to tell if your home is suffering from the effects of hydrostatic pressure.

Cracks On The Foundation Wall

As water continues to push against your foundation wall, it will exploit and enlarge spaces within the concrete structure, leading to the formation of cracks. These cracks provide entry points for water to get into your foundation and are also indications that your wall is in the first steps towards breakdown.

Fixing the cracks without first addressing the hydrostatic pressure problem will only cater to the cosmetics of your walls while it continues to deteriorate. Therefore, when you see signs such as cracks on your foundation or basement walls, you should get them inspected by a professional before trying out a solution.

Bowing Of The Foundation Wall

Especially for old homes built with old cement that was not as strong as the types of cement produced today, the constant hydrostatic pressure will eventually cause your foundation walls to buckle. The result will be bowing walls that have fallen out of plumb. If the bowing causes the foundation to shift or sink, the effects could spread to the living areas, as evidenced by cracks on the floors and walls.

Water In Your Crawl Space

The unrelenting hydrostatic pressure and small size of water molecules will eventually cause them to penetrate through your foundation floor and collect in your crawl space. When the cement dries, it does so unevenly, resulting in the formation of microscopic tubes within its structure.

Hydrostatic pressure will push the water into these tubes, which will expand the tubes to connect from one side of your wall to the other. Moisture will then seep through these tubes, and the result will be moisture, and possibly even standing water, in your crawl space.

Water in your crawl space is a nightmare that will not just affect the quality of life you live but also expose your home to gradual structural degradation. Some of the signs that your home is suffering from the effects of moisture in the crawl space include:

  • Discolored or peeling paint
  • Dampness and musty odors that never go away
  • Mold and mildew in your crawl space
  • Discolored or damp areas on walls and floors
  • Damaged insulation like fiberglass
  • White, chalky mineral deposits on your foundation walls (also known as efflorescence)
  • Rust interior metal surfaces or appliances
  • Cold floors and walls

crawl space

If not repaired quickly, water in your crawl space could lead to respiratory health issues that could even be life-threatening.

At Regional Foundation Repair, our specialists have helped thousands of homeowners get rid of moisture in their crawl spaces to create healthier, safer, and more comfortable homes.

How To Protect Your Home From the Effects of Hydrostatic Pressure

The best way to prevent hydrostatic pressure from wearing down your walls is to avoid the accumulation of water near your foundation. This can be done in the following ways.

Constructing French Drains

French drains are a proven method of preventing water from soaking into the soil near your foundation wall. They are made of a perforated pipe surrounded by a protective layer of crushed rock, gravel, or small stone. Since the gravel and rock are less compact than the surrounding soils, hydrostatic pressure will push the water out of the soils and into the drain pipe.

The best location for the drain is parallel to the uphill side of the wall facing the highest amount of hydrostatic pressure. You can identify this side by looking at where the soil is most damp. If more than one wall is facing the problem, you can dig your trench to curve around your house.

The size of your trench will depend on the humidity of your area or the extent of flooding. If a runoff facing your house is the source of your water problem, the trenches will be shallow and could be dug by hand, using shovels. If your home is located in an area with a naturally high water table, you will need to install your drainage pipe deeper in the ground.

Landscape Grading

The direction of the slope around your home will determine how much water will be trapped against your foundation wall. To prevent or reduce the effects of hydrostatic pressure, you should ensure that the land around your house slopes away. For the first few feet of the grade near your house, avoid using topsoil as it is highly porous and will allow water through without much resistance. Instead, use clean fit dirt that is compact and will let the surface water flow away from your foundation.

Proper Installation of Gutters and Downspouts

One way water could be soaking up the soil around your foundation is if your gutters and downspouts are faulty or improperly installed. Inspect your gutters to ensure they are functioning correctly and delivering all the collected water into the downspouts. An efficient downspout will drain the water away from the house, where it will not find its way to the foundation walls.

Sump Pump Installation

In areas with extensive flooding or where other methods are not sufficient, a sump pump can be used in combination to prevent water from collecting around your foundation walls.

Instead of depending on gravity like in the case of the french drain, a sump pump utilizes motors to push the water out of the area. It could also be used in combination with French drains and gutter downspouts to push the water even further away from the home.

Can Damage From Hydrostatic Pressure Be Fixed?

After stemming all the sources of hydrostatic pressure on your foundation walls, the next step is to fix the damages suffered by your home.

Thanks to experts such as those at Regional Foundation Repair, there is an effective solution for almost all foundation issues. This applies even to damages caused by hydrostatic pressure.

One effect of hydrostatic pressure is pushing water into the crawl space. If this is the case, the issue can be resolved by removing all the water from the area and waterproofing it.

To remove the water, you can use a sump pump for large amounts, or a dehumidifier and ventilation fans for small amounts of moisture.

Hydrostatic pressure could also result in the bowing and cracking of walls. For cracks, you can use a waterproof sealant to prevent water from seeping through and causing further damages. Bowing walls, on the other hand, will require more extensive repair methods to fix. This could be achieved either by the use of carbon fiber straps, wall anchors, helical tiebacks, or other wall straightening procedures.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix Damage Caused By Hydrostatic Pressure?

The cost of crawl space restoration will depend on the method used. For instance, cleaning the crawl space to remove mold, mildew, and other pests and rodents could range from $200 to $4000 depending on the condition and accessibility of the crawl space. A sump pump, on the other hand, will cost from $1500 to $4,000.

Waterproofing your crawl space by encapsulation or installing a vapor barrier will also cost an average of $4,000. For a dehumidifier to keep your crawl space dry, you can expect to spend from $1300 to $2800.

Repairing bowing walls is perhaps the most expensive repair hydrostatic pressure will cost you. Most homes pay an average of $6300 – $7500 to restore a bowing wall and hold it in place. The price depends on the method used, the extent of bowing, and the size of your wall. For carbon fiber strips, you can expect to pay from about $350 to $1000 per strip, plus the labor and installation costs. For helical tiebacks, the cost is approximately $1500-$1600 per tieback.

How To Save Money When Fixing Damage From Hydrostatic Pressure

While fixing the damage from hydrostatic pressure is not cheap, there are some measures you can take to keep the costs low.

Take Preventative Measures

The prevention measure discussed above will be cheaper in the long run as you will not have to fix any damages to the structure of your home. Making a French drain is easier and cheaper than having to repair a failing foundation wall.

Quick Action Saves Money

The sooner you address the damages caused by hydrostatic pressure, the less it will cost you. For instance, cracks on your foundation wall could eventually cause the wall to crumble, which will, in turn, cause structural damages to your home.

Therefore, as soon as you notice the first indications that your home could be suffering from the effects of hydrostatic pressure, you should get it inspected by a qualified professional so that you can take the necessary action quicker.

Pick The Right Contractors

The contractor you chose will also determine how much you end up paying for your repairs. This is due to differences in the costs of labor and material, among other factors. The expertise of your contractor will also determine how much you pay. If they only repair the damages without addressing the root cause of the problem, you will still suffer the same issues in the future, making you spend more on repairs in the long run.

At Regional Foundation Repairs, our specialists will not just go for the cheapest or easiest fix for your problem.

They will inspect your property to find the source of the problem and offer a cost-effective solution that will ensure the issue does not recur in the future.

We will also involve you throughout the process to ensure you understand all your options and decide on the one that suits you best.

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Sam Smith Foundation Repair Consultant
SHORT BIO: Hey, I'm Sam Smith. I'm one of our service techs here at Regional Foundation Repair. I'm here to help you learn more about your home's foundation. I've been doing this for a while, so I have a few insider tips and tricks to share!

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