February 9th, 2015

Foundation Water Control

Home Owners Network

 Controlling water around your home’s foundation is important, even in the desert. Foundation water control is the single most important factor in ensuring dry basements and crawlspaces.

 Improper water control around your home’s foundation causes many problems. Water can damage foundations by exerting pressure (hydrostatic pressure) on the foundation walls and on the footings.  Water can also damage foundations by causing unstable clay soils to contract and remove support from under the footings. Other problems can include damaging wood and other construction materials and providing moisture for mold and termites.

 Foundation damage from water often presents as cracks, bulges, or settlement of foundation walls and footings. Foundation damage can cause uplift or settlement of wood framing that can cause problems such as uneven floors, cracks in interior and exterior wall coverings, and doors and windows that do not operate properly. In extreme cases, water damage to the foundation can cause structural failure. It’s important to remember; however, that these problems can have causes other than foundation damage.

 febWater damage also presents as damage to wood and other construction materials caused by liquid water infiltration and by water vapor that condenses in cool areas such as in basements and in crawlspaces. Many species of termites and all species of mold need moisture to survive. Controlling water around your home will reduce the chance of termite and mold infestations.


Here are some steps you can take to help protect your home’s foundation from water damage.

  •  Establish and maintain a downward slope away from your home. Current standards recommend a downward slope of at least six inches within the first ten feet from your home.  This standard can be difficult to achieve where homes are close to each other. Use swales (ditches) and underground (French) drains when a proper downward slope is impractical.


  • Install gutters and divert the runoff away from your home. Gutters should slope toward a downspout at a rate of about 1/16 inch per foot. Deposit the water from a downspout as far from the home as practical, but at least five away from the foundation. Use downspout extensions or splash blocks, if necessary.


  • Install foundation plants at least twelve to eighteen inches away from the foundation. Add more distance if the mature plant will touch the home. Use plants that require little additional water (native, drought tolerant plants) in all parts of your yard and particularly for plants near the foundation. Keep tree trunks at least ten feet from the foundation. Add more distance if the mature tree limbs or roots will touch the home. Be aware that the roots of certain trees are more invasive than others.


  • Install irrigation systems so that they will not release water within twelve inches of the foundation. Inspect the system frequently to ensure that it is releasing water where and when you intend and to ensure that there no leaks.


  • Maintain at least four inches of visible foundation around the home. This will help you see termite tubes. Inspect your foundation frequently so you can locate termites before they do significant damage.


The Bottom Line


Controlling water around your home’s foundation is simple and inexpensive compared to repairing foundation damage and wet basements. Examine your water control measures at least every year as part of your regular home maintenance. Doing so will help prevent serious problems.

 We’re here to help at Home Owners Network. Use our ‘Ask the Experts’ service if you need help.  Please include as many details as possible about your situation so we can provide you with our best advice.

 If you need a qualified technician to help you, try our “Find a Contractor” referral service. Log on to your Home Owners Network account to access the “Find a Contractor” page.

Leave a Reply