How Water Creates Cracks in Foundations Over Time

In many climates, water is the most destructive force of nature acting on buildings. Wild major events like flooding and hurricanes rightly capture headlines with billion dollar damages to properties, daily freeze and thaw cycles are a typical homeowner’s seasonal enemy.

This is largely due to an important property specific to water: when it gets cold it shrinks until the point of freezing. When it freezes, it expands. This property, true down to the very molecule of water, allows it to do damage on a massive scale.

Water freezing, melting, dripping in cracks, and then refreezing can literally reshape mountains over time. Sometimes tons of rock suddenly shear off the side of a mountain because of the slow work of freezing water.

It is this force that should cause the property owner to be very respectful of the power of water. Here’s a glimpse at how water breaks rocks.

Respect water by defending against it

Since water can create the Grand Canyon and wear down mountains that were once as large as the Himalayas, the average homeowner needs to be respectful of its power.

The best way to safeguard your property from the freeze thaw cycle is to not let water get into or against your foundation. As the video above showed, that repeated cycle can open large cracks. However, long before the foundation to a building would ever crack and crumble, smaller cracks would allow water in to damage the property.

These small fissures, sometimes invisible to the eye, can cause untold damage. Small groups of fissures in a concrete base can set the stage for a catastrophic failure when a larger weather event happens. Concrete, softened by tiny freeze-thaw cycles, can suddenly give way, allowing standing water to rush in.

Worse, and less likely, a section collapse in the foundation could leave the structure weakened. This is a very rare occurrence though.

When examining your property or thinking about the transfer of property, it is wise to consider all the places where your building comes in regular contact with water. Every one of those places is a potential weak spot. It is easy to forget the portion of the building that is out of sight including the foundation below ground level and less visible portions of the roof and eaves.

In many climates, these areas need regular visual inspection to ensure that they remain impregnable against water.