Facts on Foundation Problems

1.  Causes of Foundation Problems  [ more ... ]          2.  Early Warning Signs of Foundation Distress  [ more ... ]


1.  Causes of Foundation Problems

Moisture is the primary culprit behind most foundation problems. Melting snow and spring rains saturate the soil surrounding a building's foundation, and without adequate drainage water will begin to accumulate or pool at the base. Moisture-soaked soil expands and begins to apply tremendous pressure against the foundation wall. Over time the foundation wall will succumb to this pressure and begin to deteriorate — eventually water will find its way through to your basement.

Left untreated, any one of these conditions can lead to structural damage such as cracks in the foundation wall, which will allow water to seep into the basement.

Sturgeon Construction

Leading Contributors:

  1. High Water Table - In Manitoba this is particularly problematic during the spring. The water table reaches its annual high point due to melting snow and spring rains. As the soil moisture level increases it applies pressure on foundation walls and under a building's sub-floor.


  2. Hydrostatic Pressure - This is the pressure exerted against a foundation wall from accumulated moisture or high water table. The more water contained in the soil, the more it expands and the more pressure exerted against the foundation and sub-floor. This pressure must be released otherwise the entire structure is subject to cracking, buckling and bulging — and water will find its way in.


  3. Settlement - The earth is a living, breathing force; the ground shifts and moves, soil compacts creating pockets of air where soil once was. With all this movement underfoot a building will react by shifting and adjusting in an attempt to support its weight.


  4. Temperature Changes - These can create havoc on any structure. With the onset of winter, the ground freezes and soil contracts; spring brings warmer temperatures and the ground thaws or expands. This constant contraction and expansion applies varying pressure against a building foundation andcreates instabilities in soil conditions.


  5. Drying & Shrinkage - During the summer months Manitoba is known for its hot, dry climate. Soil moisture levels are at an all-time low, the ground cracks and pulls away from the foundation creating gaps and leaving the foundation vulnerable. Water contained in the cement mixture also evaporates over time leaving the foundation suceptible to cracking.
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Other Contributing Factors:

Other factors that will contribute to a foundation's distress, poor drainage and water accumulation include:

  • Faulty or missing downspouts and gutters - water run-off from the roof needs to be moved away from the foundation. If downspouts and gutters are missing or not performing properly, water will accumulate around the base of the foundation leading to any one of a number of preventable problems.


  • Insufficient grading around a building foundation - grading is the degree or ground slope around the foundation edge of a building. The purpose of grading is to ensure that water drains away from a foundation wall. Did you know that approximately 85% of homes and commercial buildings have inadequate grading? Many of the structural problems we encounter can be attributed to poor grading.


  • Contact us today for your free, no obligation inspection! Contact us today for your free, no obligation inspection!
  • Structural cracks - if left untreated, either horizontal or vertical cracking will expand and allow water to enter the basement. If untreated for long enough, the entire building itself may require significant structural overhaul.


  • Malfunctioning drain, weeping tile or sump pump - the primary purpose of these devices is to move water away from the foundation base. If one of these devices malfunctions, water will accumulate and the foundation is at risk.


  • Window wells not draining properly - window wells are installed in homes where the basement windows are below grade, or ground level. These wells are installed to prevent soil from filling in against the windows. Window wells do not stop water from collecting, however they should redirect excess water out through the weeping tile.


  • Thick shrubs, bushes or trees planted too close to the foundation wall - these can act as a barrier to natural water run-off.

Many of these contributing factors are preventable. Homeowners and commercial building owners should perform a peripheral foundation check on an annual basis. To reduce the risk of structural damage, as well as spot less obvious conditions or trouble spots, it is worth having an expert review your property.

At Sturgeon Construction Ltd. we provide free, no obligation inspections. Our professionals will complete a walking tour around the foundation with the building owner. We will point out any signs of trouble and offer suggestions for improving drainage.


The material contained on this page is for information purposes only. The details provided by Sturgeon Construction Ltd. at the time of publication are believed to be true. Information is subject to change without notice and Sturgeon Construction Ltd. assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions.

© Copyright 2003, Sturgeon Construction Ltd.

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