Article by Shawn Kyles

Water is essential to life, and in most cases is probably viewed as helpful or benign to us.

But rainwater, sprinkler water, and water from broken plumbing can cause significant damage to a home’s foundation. Even though initial signs of water damage may seem insignificant, any evidence of water problems should be thoroughly investigated to prevent the foundation from weakening.

Plumbing should be regularly checked for leaks, along with washing machine hoses and water heaters. One way to find out if there are any plumbing issues, is to take a water meter reading and then turn off all faucets and any appliances that use water. Don’t flush toilets for an hour. Then, re-check the meter to see if the amount of water used has increased. If so, that indicates that you have a plumbing leak that could then cause damage to the foundation. You can also purchase water alarms with built-in moisture sensors, and install them near water-using appliances, and under sinks and toilets.

Also keep your roof free of debris and regularly clean gutters and downspouts. When rainwater can’t pass through a clogged gutter, it can flow down walls to the ground, where it can seep into the home’s foundation. Examine your home’s exterior walls for cracks or holes where rain can seep in, and have them sealed. This includes places where plumbing or wiring enter or exit the building.

Make sure any exterior windows and doors, particularly in the basement, are well sealed and close properly. If you find any windows or doors that don’t open and shut correctly, your foundation may already be damaged and should immediately be inspected by an experienced foundation repair expert.

When water seeps into the soil underneath a foundation, it can cause the soil to expand and lift the foundation, resulting in foundation cracks. When the soil dries, the foundation will settle. Constant expansion and contraction will increase and worsen structural damage. Water can also create foundation cracks and make any existing fissures larger. Other problems resulting from water entering a home include moisture-induced mildew and mold.

Early identification and repair of foundation problems can save you money by preventing more extensive damage and, in worst case scenarios, building collapse. There are many factors that contribute to foundation failure, some visible and some not. Any foundation inspection should take into consideration movement history, environmental conditions, evidence of cracking and other physical manifestations of problems, as well as soil composition.

Here is a checklist for diagnosing foundation problems:

1. Uneven or slopping floors2. Wall cracks3. Wall separation 4. Wall bulging5. Wall rotation6. Nail Popping 7. Floor and foundation cracks8. Doors and windows that don’t open properly10. Leaning chimneys11. Poor Soil Compaction12. Excessive Soil Moisture 13. Soil Consolidation

Studies show that seemingly benign water causes more structural damage to homes than any other hazard. If you have drainage problems or suspect foundation problems may already exist, have your home looked at by an experienced foundation repair expert. Quickly resolving water leakage or drainage problems can prevent costly foundation repairs or replacement down the road.

Shawn Kyles is an expert in foundation repair & house bolting, and a partner at Julian Construction ( in Los Angeles. He has inspected over 15,000 structures, working with engineering firms & local departments of building & safety.

For home inspection services in the Sacramento and Bay Area please contact Golden State Home Inspections at 800.441.0804 or visit

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