How to identify water damage to your foundation - Rental Property Maintenance

Here are a few pointers on troubleshooting your foundation for water damage and why it's important.



Foundations, for obvious reasons, are critical to the structural integrity of your property. Water is one of the main culprits in causing serious damage to your foundation. It’s important to keep tabs on the foundation of your rental property - best thing to do is simply put eyes on the foundation yourself (or via your RentalRiff property specialist) on a regular basis.


Foundation damage can be incredibly expensive. Piers can be installed to stabilize a sagging or deteriorating foundation (steel piers are strong and long-lasting, concrete and helical piers can be utilized based on soil type, and segmented piers are a bit cheaper). These projects are costly, usually several thousand dollars at a minimum. High density polyurethane foams can be used to raise concrete (they use the same foam to lift highways and roads). Patching and sealing can be used in non-emergency, preventative situations. There’s also a technique called “Slab Jacking” in which holes are drilled in the foundation and foam is injected to lift the foundation - this process is used if your foundation sags.


Water damage to a foundation is pretty easy to spot. Here are some things to look out for:


Damp Foundation Walls


If the foundation is constantly damp, there’s likely an issue. You probably have water seeping in through the foundation. Mold and bacteria will follow which can deteriorate the foundation further on top of putting toxins and allergens into the air your tenants breathe. You may also notice a musty smell which is another sign moisture is prevalent.


Small Pools of Water


Every once and while we’ll have a customer or tenant reach out after a big rainstorm with a pool of water in the basement. If this occurs on a regular basis there is a channel in the foundation that water is moving through. This is problematic and further deterioration (and therefore more water leaking through) can happen. Sometimes this can be patched or sealed if there’s a known crack or window well where the water is coming from.


Cracks


Vertical cracks are typically caused by water - generally they are not a cause for concern. Horizontal cracks are the bad ones and are caused when the foundation bows or bends due to ground forces (like surrounding soil expanding and contracting with precipitation). Keep an eye out for those horizontal cracks.


Wall Discoloration


Mold can cause your foundation walls to change color - dark grey or green for black mold and a white fuzz for white mold. Black mold is the bad one, but white mold isn’t good to have in the house either. All molds can be dangerous. When moisture seeps through your concrete foundation it can stain the walls, so this is another indicator that water damage exists or is on the horizon.


There are a few ways to prevent water damage to your foundation. Proper drainage (like a french drain system) can be installed around the foundation - this can be especially effective if the ground slopes towards your foundation. Sump pumps can be installed to collect water. Sealing the cracks in your foundation can also help.


In order to avoid very costly foundation repairs and/or stabilization projects, it’s important to know what to look for when doing a quick foundation inspection. We hope this quick article has been a helpful introduction to troubleshooting this issue.


Please let us know if you need any help with your rental property maintenance and tenant support!