The Foundation of a Dry, Healthy Home Starts With Your Gutters
Water is the silent enemy of buildings. Preventing infiltration is crucial in maintaining the structural integrity, healthiness and value of your home. While most homeowners know that properly installed gutters and downspouts protect their roof and siding, major foundation repairs caused by water damage can be equally or more expensive than fixing or replacing a roof.
There is a direct connection between poorly functioning gutters and foundation damage. Moisture from rainwater tends to build up in basements over time, more so than in attics, which are generally better ventilated. A constantly damp basement or crawl space precipitates the growth of mold, which can lead to serious allergic reactions and upper respiratory illnesses. An efficient gutter system is one of the best ways to protect your foundation and ensure that your home remains a dry, healthy environment for years to come.
What Is Under Your House
Foundations are surrounded by backfill, which is “disturbed” rather than “virgin” soil. If rainwater is not consistently diverted away from a building, it seeps into that backfilled soil faster than into the denser virgin soil that surrounds it. If your home is situated in an area where the natural soil is hard clay, this can create a “bowl” around your house where the water table rises to the point where it begins to stress the foundation walls.
if your yard is situated on a hill, a “negative slope” can develop over time, which can lead to rainwater gravitating towards the foundation. Houses built with crawl spaces naturally have less defense against water, as they are generally built in areas with higher water tables. Regardless of your home’s blueprint or location, if the area directly around the structure is constantly exposed to seepage, displacement of the soil may eventually cause the footings under the foundation to shift.
How Foundation Damage Can Be Worse Than It Appears
Once a foundation has been breached, the problem can escalate quickly. While smaller cracks can be patched, the presence of those cracks likely indicates a larger issue. If cracks develop horizontally or in a stair-step pattern along one or more of your foundation walls, or if they get wider as they grow, this may indicate more extensive damage, and you should arrange for an inspection with a structural engineer.
Left unaddressed, water damage to foundations can eventually lead to bowing walls and, in extreme cases, partial collapse of the entire house. If an engineer determines that the foundation poses a danger, methods like underpinning and mudjacking can be used to save your home by reinforcing the footings around the foundation, but repairs of this kind can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
What To Look for in a Gutter System
Gutters and downspouts are your first line of defense against the deteriorating effects of rainwater on your foundation. An investment in an aluminum, high-capacity gutter system with leaf guards is one of the best things you can do for your home. They are durable and maintenance-free. That means you get to stay off the ladder for the 25-year lifetime of your gutters, and foundation problems are far less likely.
To further ensure that rainwater is not accumulating around your foundation, you can attach extensions to the downspouts. Standard extensions are 3 feet long, but you can find hose extenders that will divert rainwater 10 feet or more. If you want to recycle the water for your lawn or garden, consider using rain barrels that connect to downspouts and can be tapped into with a hose.
Ultimately, your goal as a homeowner is to keep the weather outside where it belongs. Addressing small drainage problems before they become overwhelming is a smart step towards years of good health and safety for you and your family.