Basement Leaks: Understanding Hydrostatic Pressure
There are all sorts of basement problems you might experience as a homeowner. That includes cracks, leaks, and similar problems. These are problems you might not have realized you were signing up for when you first purchased the home, but they’re an important part of maintenance.
If you want to understand your basement problems more fully, you should probably learn a little bit about hydrostatic pressure. This is the source of a variety of basement problems, which is why it’s such an important topic.
Unfortunately, many people don’t know much about hydrostatic pressure in the basement. What is this concept, and why is it so important? Keep reading to learn more about the importance of hydrostatic pressure on your basement.
What Is Hydrostatic Pressure?
First off, it’s a good idea to clear up what hydrostatic pressure is. It’s a term you’ve probably heard before — it’s not exclusive to the world of home repair, and it’s useful to describe a lot of processes and pressures that exist in our world today.
If you’ve ever been interested in the actual definition of hydrostatic pressure, look no further than this important information.
- The Weight of Water
The actual definition of hydrostatic pressure is “the force exerted by water when it’s at rest.” It’s evident in the name: “hydro,” meaning water; “static,” meaning non-moving; and “pressure,” meaning physical force.
This pressure gets its strength from the weight of water. Water weighs, on average, just over eight pounds per gallon. A cubic foot contains around 7.5 gallons. That means a single cubic foot of water can exert over 60 pounds of pressure.
When you multiply this over and over again, you can start to see why hydrostatic pressure is so intense. Hydrostatic pressure is an important part of many functions, and it also has significant pressure on your home.
- Natural Water in the Ground
This is the most common way you’ll hear about hydrostatic pressure. The ground naturally contains water; if you’ve heard of the “water table,” you’ll know that there’s a level of water in the soil, even if it looks dry to the naked eye.
Your home is built at least partially underground. This partial amount may vary depending on whether you have a basement or crawl space. That means at least some of your home is always fighting against the pressure exerted by the water table.
The water table can change based on a variety of different factors. However, it’s extremely rare to be in a place where the water table will be lower than the entire home. That’s why hydrostatic pressure is always a concern.
- Added Water Above Ground
Groundwater isn’t the only water that exerts hydrostatic pressure. Water above ground exerts that same pressure as well. Above-ground water can be rain, plumbing leaks, flooding or any other type of water that isn’t part of the water table.
It’s important to note that this is one of the reasons flooding of any type can be so dangerous. Your floor might not be prepared to suddenly hold hundreds or thousands of pounds of water on top of it. That can make the floor start to crack under the strain.
This added water above ground can have a very real impact on your home. Although you shouldn’t always have a concern regarding above-ground hydrostatic pressure, you need to take it seriously when it happens.
Can Rain Increase Hydrostatic Pressure?
This is a question many people ask. Because water holds so much weight, does it increase the hydrostatic pressure my home is under? In fact, rain and the flooding that often ensues thereafter can have a very significant impact on your hydrostatic pressure.
Here’s what you should know about the impact of rain on hydrostatic pressure in your basement.
- Flooding Adds More Weight
The weight of water plays a huge part in why flooding is such a problem. Flooding causes damage in all sorts of ways. If you’re seeing extreme flooding outside, you may also be seeing rapidly rushing water, which can be surprisingly destructive.
Water’s inherent weight means that all flooding, whether it’s inside or outside your home, adds additional weight to the hydrostatic pressure your home’s already handling. That’s an important thing to remember in the aftermath of rain.
Remember, you can’t just leave standing water alone in your home or basement. Not only can it cause serious water damage, but it can also weaken the floor because of its tremendous weight.
- Rain Raises the Height of the Water Table
As rain sinks into the ground, it’s going to raise the height of the water table. Even though this is a temporary raising, it’s still a significant one. The higher the water table than normal, the more hydrostatic pressure you’ll see in your basement.
If you live in an area with a lot of rain, you’ll probably need to invest more in hydrostatic waterproofing. As the rain mounts, it’ll tend to start to soak the ground entirely, which means your basement is now under attack by hydrostatic pressure from all four sides.
Proper hydrostatic waterproofing can actually help with this. You just need to make sure you’ve invested in that hydrostatic waterproofing.
- Natural Disasters Can Harm Your Home’s Structure
Another reason rain can increase basement leaks is that natural disasters already impact your home’s structure. That makes for a dangerous one-two hit.
If you’ve gotten lots of wind from a hurricane, it’s going to start weakening your basement’s strength. The rain will then build up additional hydrostatic pressure on your basement. With these two things combined, you’re more likely to experience basement leaking.
After any natural disaster, especially those that were more significant than the ones you normally get, you need to contact JES for an inspection. That way, you’ll make sure there aren’t any new basement leaks.
How Does Hydrostatic Pressure Impact Basement Leaking?
The weight of water inherently has an impact on your basement. However, it can be difficult to wrap your head around exactly why. After all, you walk around your home all the time, and you probably weigh more than eight pounds.
So how does hydrostatic pressure affect your foundation? These are some of the impacts.
- Bowing Walls
This is potentially the most common impact of hydrostatic pressure in your basement. As the hydrostatic water pressure mounts, it starts to press in on the foundation walls, which bulge inward.
Obviously, the wall isn’t meant to do that. Eventually, it’ll end up with horizontal cracks across the biggest part of the bowing, which will start to let the water in, attempting to relieve the hydrostatic pressure.
This leads to basement leaking. JES can help you restore the walls to their original position by installing additional support structures to pull the walls against the hydrostatic pressure.
- Cracks in the Floor
What about coming up from the floor? There are a few ways you might end up with cracks in the floor through hydrostatic water pressure.
If you have flooding problems, the weight of the water can prey on existing weaknesses and cause cracks in the floor over time. On the other hand, expanding soil underneath your foundation floor can lead to an increase in hydrostatic pressure, cracking the floor from underneath.
Whether it comes from top or bottom, any cracks in your basement can contribute to basement leaking if there’s water on the other side. You need to contact a JES expert to get more information about waterproofing those leaks.
- Ground-Level Windows
Another problem that hydrostatic pressure can prey on is ground-level windows. Some basements have these windows, which allow sunlight into the area and make it easy to leave the basement if necessary.
However, if done improperly, these ground-level windows can be the perfect place for basement leaks. If you just use a typical window instead of a special basement egress window, it’s probably not going to stand up well to rain and snow. That means you’ll start seeing water leaking through it.
There are many ways to waterproof a ground-level window. If you do it right, you won’t have to worry about your basement leaking through your window, which can help alleviate the hydrostatic pressure in your basement.
What Is Hydrostatic Waterproofing?
When you start to do more research about hydrostatic pressure and its hand in basement leaks, you’ll probably start to hear more about hydrostatic waterproofing. This is the concept that allows basements to exist without long-term damage from hydrostatic pressure.
How can you achieve hydrostatic waterproofing? These are the four things to keep in mind regarding this process.
- Controlling the Water
First off, you need to have more control over the water that would otherwise wreak havoc on your basement. Though this may sound like a tall order, it’s not as difficult as it would sound.
Grading is a big part of this. If your home’s situated in such a way that water naturally runs toward the home, you’ll end up with more flooding, more hydrostatic pressure, and more basement leaks. If you’re able to change that so water naturally runs away, you’ll deal with less flooding.
You might not be able to control the rain, but you can control where it lands. If you think this might work for you, consider talking to a JES expert about whether or not you could grade your home differently.
- Installing a Sump Pump
This shouldn’t be the only thing you do to combat hydrostatic pressure in your foundation, but it’s an important one. Sump pumps utilize a motor to pump water out of the area, rather than just gravity.
Sump pumps can be a useful tool if you tend to have issues with basement flooding even after taking the steps necessary to waterproof it. Unfortunately, this happens to some homes just because of the way the home’s positioned, which means a sump pump can be lifesaving.
Of course, sump pumps can’t remove hydrostatic pressure. However, they can help you make sure your home doesn’t succumb to hydrostatic pressure if you end up with a plumbing or other kind of leak in your basement.
- Surface Drainage
Drainage isn’t just about draining water out of your home. It’s also about making sure the water outside of your home flows away properly. That’s what surface drainage does.
There are many essential components of this. For example, you need to make sure your downspouts turn away from your home, and that they’re positioned in such a way that they direct water away from the home in general. You also need to make sure window wells offer proper drainage.
You don’t have to resign yourself to basement leaks from continuous hydrostatic pressure. Instead, talk to a JES expert to learn more about how you can manipulate surface drainage to give your basement a fighting chance.
- Fixing Bowed Walls and Cracked Floors
You can’t just ignore bowed walls and cracked floors. Although you might not feel like there’s anything you can do right now, it’s important to explore your options so you don’t have constant basement leaks.
In fact, there are ways to handle these problems. JES offers a variety of solutions for bowed walls and cracked floors due to hydrostatic water pressure.
You can not only anchor your walls to make sure they don’t bow any further but even pull them back to their original standing position. Talk to a JES foundation repair expert to learn more about this opportunity.
Let JES Help You Get Rid of Your Basement Leaks
There are a lot of elements to pay attention to when you’re discussing basement leaks. Obviously, while hydrostatic pressure is an important one, it’s not the only one. You need to think about a lot of concepts that might have had an impact on how your basement holds water back.
This is exactly why you should talk to a JES expert. When you talk to an expert from JES, you can learn more about hydrostatic waterproofing, basement leaks and more. Contact JES today to book your free inspection and see what’s contributing to your basement leaking.