How Water Can Enter a Home Through Its Foundation and Walls
Water has a remarkable ability to find its way into a home, even through seemingly solid structures such as foundations and walls. This invasion can occur in several ways, largely influenced by the surrounding environment, house structure, and weather conditions.
Hydrostatic Pressure: This is a common problem in homes built in areas with high groundwater levels. The water in the soil can exert pressure on the foundation walls, especially during heavy rains or when the snow melts. Over time, this pressure can create cracks in the foundation, through which water can seep into the basement or crawl space.
Soil Saturation: When soil around your home becomes saturated with water, it can cause lateral pressure on your foundation walls. This pressure not only can lead to structural damage over time, but it can also cause water to leak through any existing cracks.
Capillary Action or Wicking: This refers to the ability of water to travel or be drawn through porous materials due to the forces of adhesion, cohesion, and surface tension. Water in the ground can be "pulled" into the foundation material and walls, leading to dampness or even pooling water inside.
Rain and Snowmelt: Poorly directed roof runoff (such as from downspouts dumping water directly at the foundation) and inadequate grading of the surrounding landscape can allow water from rain or melting snow to pool around the foundation. Over time, this water can find its way into even minor cracks and imperfections in the foundation and walls.
Condensation: In some cases, moisture may form on the walls due to temperature differences between the interior and exterior. This is more common in basements where ventilation may be poor, and the cold walls come in contact with humid indoor air.
Understanding a French Drain and Sump Pump System
To combat the issues of water infiltration, a common solution is the installation of a French drain and sump pump system. These two systems work in tandem to collect, redirect, and expel water away from the home.
French Drain: Named after its inventor, Henry French, a French drain is a trench filled with gravel or rock that contains a perforated pipe that redirects surface and groundwater away from the home. These drains can be installed inside or outside of the foundation.
The primary function of the French drain is to alleviate hydrostatic pressure by providing an easy pathway for water to flow. The perforated pipe is sloped to channel water away from the house.
The gravel or rock within the French drain serves two purposes. It helps to filter out debris that could clog the drain pipe, and it promotes the easy flow of water into the pipe by eliminating the surrounding soil's resistance.
Sump Pump System: This system consists of a sump pit (or basin), a sump pump, a discharge pipe, a check valve, and a power source. In many homes, the sump pit is integrated with an internal French drain system.
The sump pit collects water that enters the basement or crawl space, either naturally or via the French drain.
The sump pump is activated by a float switch when the water in the pit reaches a certain level. The pump then pushes the water out of the pit and into the discharge pipe.
The discharge pipe carries the water away from the home, ensuring it won't seep back in. A one-way check valve on the pipe prevents water that's been pumped out from returning into the sump pit.
The sump pump system usually requires an electrical source. However, it's common to have a battery backup system to ensure operation during power outages, which often occur during heavy rainstorms when the system is most needed.
By integrating a French drain and sump pump system, homes are better protected from water damage. The French drain collects and redirects the water towards the sump pit, and the sump pump expels the water out and away from the home. This system, when correctly installed and maintained, can significantly reduce the likelihood of water damage to the foundation and interior spaces