Few liquids are as incredible as water. Not only does the humble H2O molecule make life on Earth possible, but it is also responsible for many of the planet's incredible geological formations. Unfortunately, water's amazing power also makes it a headache for planners and engineers. Time and water always win, and that can be a particularly troubling fact for homeowners. As water seeps into the ground around your home, it exerts a force against the walls of your foundation. This force, known as hydrostatic pressure, is one of the greatest threats that your foundation faces.
Understanding Hydrostatic Pressure
Are you wondering about that name? If so, you're probably not alone. While the first half of the term is clear, the second half might be less obvious. The "static" in hydrostatic pressure refers to the fact that this is an equilibrium pressure. In other words, it is the pressure exerted by water while it is at rest. The more water there is within a space, the higher the pressure that it exerts. Although it may not seem as if much water can accumulate around your foundation, the potential exists for a great deal of force to be placed on the exterior walls of your foundation.
How Hydrostatic Pressure Affects You
While this may all seem fairly academic, the effects of hydrostatic pressure are very real. Your home's foundation is designed to withstand forces from a variety of different sources. Not only does the weight of your home push down on the foundation, but the weight of the surrounding soil pushes inward. As the soil becomes saturated with water, the inward pressure on your foundation increases. Foundation design accounts for these forces, but only to a point. If an excessive or unexpected amount of water accumulates near your foundation, the hydrostatic pressure may begin to exceed the designed specifications of your foundation walls.
The Signs of Excess Hydrostatic Pressure
When water accumulates near your foundation to a dangerous level, it will press in on the walls. If the problem is serious enough, the pressure will cause the walls to bow inward. This bowing effect may not be immediately visible, but it will eventually result in horizontal cracks along your basement. Horizontal or near-horizontal foundation cracks are always a severe problem that can drastically impact the structural stability of your house. Once you notice cracks of this type, it is essential to contact an expert in foundation repair to assess the situation. Catching problems with your foundation early will usually allow you to fix the underlying cause before your home becomes dangerously unstable.