You may hear the term hydrostatic pressure in relation to your home's basement or foundation. While it sounds like a heavy, technical term, it has a lot of relevance to you and your home. Here's what you need to know about hydrostatic pressure and the basement leaks it can create.
What Is Hydrostatic Pressure?
Hydrostatic pressure refers to the pull that gravity has on liquid molecules. Even when water sits absolutely still, gravity is constantly at work trying to pull the water's molecules downward.
You can see this in action by putting a tiny pinhole into a paper cup of water. Gravity will literally start to pull water out of that hole, even if the hole isn't even big enough to see with the naked eye.
This all occurs because the pressure exerted is causing the liquid to seek the path of least resistance. In cases where there isn't a path, that constant pull will eventually erode whatever's containing the water to create a path.
How Hydrostatic Pressure Creates Basement Leaks
Hydrostatic pressure is actually the main cause of most basement leaks. Remember that gravity is at work at all times. That influence causes water to try to find paths of resistance, because it wants to continue flowing downward.
If there's water building up outside of your home from storms or leaking pipes, your drainage system typically takes care of it. However, sometimes even your drainage system becomes damaged, or overwhelmed. That's when the hydrostatic pressure starts to build. As it builds, it will find even the smallest crack in your basement or foundation and start letting water in.
This leak can eventually grow and the pressure will create even more cracks. This can flood your basement, and eventually destroy a chunk of your foundation if left unchecked.
What You Can Do About Hydrostatic Pressure
Everybody's home is a little different, and there are many factors to consider. Your budget will also play a role in just how much you can do. In general, there are two main ways to go about dealing with hydrostatic pressure.
Water redirection and drainage – Redirecting water away from the foundation through a drainage system works for most people. If your system is failing, you may need a more robust one to deal with the extra amount of water.
If you already have a good drainage system, you may need repairs. Sump pumps often represent the first thing that needs a repair when an otherwise adequately functioning system starts to let water into the basement.
Strengthening pressure resistance – Not all concrete is the same. Your foundation may consist of weaker, older concrete. Older concrete is a lot more porous. A good way to figure it out is to check how damp the inside of your basement walls become after a storm.
Replacing a foundation is an intensive and expensive process. Even if you have older concrete, replacement may not be necessary if you have good drainage. In addition, you can reinforce your basement with sealants and foundation repairs.
A combination of these two methods forms the cornerstone of most waterproofing approaches. You cannot eliminate hydrostatic pressure, but you can reduce it and its power.
If you suffer from constant basement flooding, or seasonal ones, you may have to go the extra mile for dealing with hydrostatic pressure. The best thing to do is to consult with a professional basement-waterproofing contractor.