Skip to Main Content

Hydrostatic Pressure

With an excessive amount of water in the soil, hydrostatic pressure will cause your lower-grade level numerous problems. Here’s what you need to know.

Get A Free Estimate

Many homeowners may not be aware of the dangers water can cause to their building. However, you can’t blame them. The moment you buy a new house is so great that you’re not looking to think about bad things yet. But that joy can soon come to an end when you realize that the lower grade of your home is struggling with numerous water-related problems. 

When it comes to foundations, water is its most common enemy. It will damage your substructure in various ways that will, unfortunately, cost big money to repair. But what makes water so determined to cause trouble? Hydrostatic pressure is a common culprit. If your home is close to a high water table or there’s wet soil beneath it, hydrostatic pressure will become a problem. 

Here, we aim to explain what this phenomenon is. We’ll take you through all the necessary details about it, as well as list possible solutions that you can employ.  

hydrostatic pressure signs

So, What’s Hydrostatic Pressure? 

Hydrostatic pressure is the force that standing water applies to surfaces it comes in contact with. And since we’re talking about foundations here, the surface in question will be the walls of your substructure.  

Hydrostatic pressure on the foundation walls will cause structural problems if you don’t react quickly enough. As such, it will compromise the state of your entire home. But how does it come about? Well, once it rains or there’s a storm in your area, most of the rainwater will end up in the soil that surrounds your home. Building up slowly, the water will exert pressure on the soil that will further push on your foundation. 

It’s key that you don’t underestimate hydrostatic pressure. It can cause great destruction which you’ll notice in the form of cracks and fractures on your basement’s walls. Eventually, the force will become so strong that the walls will bow and even collapse. Of course, this is an extreme scenario, but it’s possible if you don’t react in time. 

To better understand the possible danger, you should know that the weight of water is around 60 pounds per cubic foot. This means that, at some point, your walls will face pressure from thousands of pounds, and they won’t be able to hold out. Regardless of how solid your foundation is, concrete walls are permeable. They can eventually allow water inside and you must stop that to preserve the safety and stability of your home. 

What’s Behind Hydrostatic Pressure? 

Soil saturation is the main cause of hydrostatic pressure. However, it’s not the only one. You can experience its force due to other factors too. Here are some of them. 

  • Soil saturation: When it rains or there’s a storm, rainwater has to go somewhere. That somewhere is the soil around and beneath your home. As such, it will build up and push the soil against your foundation walls. 
  • Poor construction: If the builders trowel the concrete too soon or too much, it can also pull water to the surface. While doing so, the moisture will accumulate on the slab and begin to intrude on your lower-grade level. 
  • Natural water sources: Groundwater doesn’t come only from rain, it can be there due to local water sources. Such a natural water source can also cause hydrostatic pressure and damage your foundation. 
  • Poor floor installation: If your construction crew is not very experienced, they may install vapor barriers with low permeability in your home. This will only stave off hydrostatic pressure for a bit and you will be left having to deal with it down the line. 

Signs to Look out For 

We should point out that the best way to deal with hydrostatic pressure is through prevention. Luckily, there’s an easy way to determine whether you and your home are in danger of it. You can dig a hole in the ground around your building and see what happens. If the soil becomes darker, it means there’s excessive water in it. 

For another test, all you need is a plastic sheet. Simply spread it on your basement floor and secure it with duct tape. If droplets of water appear on it after a while, you can be sure there’s lots of water in your yard, and you should act as soon as possible. Measure the moisture level with professional help. Hydrostatic-pressure-prone soil will have more than 5% of water in it. 

Some professionals will suggest that you use calcium chloride (CaCl2) for measuring moisture. Yet, we say that the CaCl2 test works best on lightweight concrete. You should, instead, use the relative humidity test that uses a probe to evaluate moisture levels in your concrete slab. Nevertheless, it’s best to contact professional help before you try doing anything yourself. 

Possible Solutions 

There are numerous ways to deal with hydrostatic pressure. We’ll list out a few that might interest you if you’re looking to solve this problem. 

  • Waterproof barriers: Since you want to stop water from infiltrating your foundation, you can install waterproof barriers. These barriers need to stand between the water source and your substructure. This way, the concrete will stop absorbing moisture from a high water table or the backfill with poor drainage. 
  • Yard grading: It’s a good idea to ensure you have a positive grade in your yard, which may mean you need to regrade the soil around your home. Sure, it’s a messy process, but it will make sure that water doesn’t pour through the ground and down to your substructure. 
  • Gutter system: In addition to any of the previous solutions, you should keep an eye on your gutters. The whole point of gutters is to redirect the water away from your home. But if the downspouts aren’t very effective, they’ll channel water directly into the ground surrounding your foundation. So, check them out too. 

In case you’re having trouble with hydrostatic pressure, we suggest that you contact professional help at FSM. Our team in Michigan will be more than happy to give you a free inspection and estimate. Afterward, they’ll present you with a waterproofing solution that will keep your foundation free from water. Remember, hydrostatic pressure isn’t something you’d want to underestimate. 

Publish Date:

Last Modified Date:

FSM Map 2

Proudly Serving Northern, Central and Southeastern Michigan & Northern Ohio

Grand Rapids Office

5985 Clay Avenue SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49548

Livonia Headquarters

32985 Schoolcraft Road
Livonia, MI 48150

Traverse City Office

3805 Elmers Industrial Drive
Traverse City, MI 49685