Skip to Main Content

9 Causes of Foundation Moisture Problems & Damage

Table of Contents

1. Top 9 Causes of Foundation Moisture Problems
2. Poor Drainage
3. Rain or Melting Snow
4. Plumbing Leaks
5. Improper Yard Grading
6. Water-hungry Plants Next to the Foundation
7. Clogged Gutters
8. Downspouts that are Too Short
9. Drought
10. Large Trees

Believe it or not, the number one cause of foundation trouble revolves around moisture in the soil. When foundations are built atop certain soil types, too much or too little moisture is a bad thing. Here’s why…

Not all soils are alike. Some are better suited for construction than others. The most problematic soil types for construction are expansive soils that swell – often by a considerable amount – when they soak up moisture and shrink when they dry out.

This is usually seasonal and creates movement under the foundation as the soil expands and shrinks. This movement puts a lot of stress on the foundation and eventually leads to foundation problems. For more information, see our page about Foundation Settlement.

So, if you want to lower your risk of foundation damage, you can start by controlling ground moisture. Let’s take a closer look at these issues and what you can do to protect your foundation.

wet soil

Top 9 Causes of Foundation Moisture Problems

Most foundation moisture problems are caused by excess water in the soil around the foundation. But, where did the excess moisture in the soil come from?

Here are the top 9 ways water can build up in the soil around your home’s foundation:

1. Poor Drainage

damaged downspout and poor drainage next to foundation

Water around your home’s foundation needs a way to drain off. If it can’t drain off, the soil will get saturated and cause trouble with the foundation. For example, if you have a basement foundation, hydrostatic pressure will build up in the soil and start pushing against your basement walls. This could lead to leaks, bowing, and even cracking.

2. Rain or Melting Snow

Excess rainfall and snowmelt, along with poor drainage, are going to lead to foundation moisture problems.

3. Plumbing Leaks

Plumbing leaks can go undetected for a long time and contribute to excess moisture in the soil around and under the foundation.

4. Improper Yard Grading

Your yard should slope away from the foundation, not toward it. You don’t want water pooling around the foundation and soaking into the soil.

5. Water-hungry Plants Next to the Foundation

When you water these flowers, shrubs, and other plants, you’re adding water to the soil around the foundation.

6. Clogged Gutters

clogged gutters

If your gutters are clogged, water may spill over the side of your home and into the soil directly next to your foundation.

7. Downspouts That are Too Short

Downspouts should deposit water away from the foundation. If they’re too short, install downspout extensions.

8. Drought

Foundation trouble can also be caused by not enough moisture in the soil. For example, drought causes soil shrinkage, which leads to the formation of voids under the foundation. If the house sinks into the voids, you’re going to have problems. For more information, see our California Drought And Your Home’s Foundation article.

9. Large Trees

The root systems of large trees will “drink” water from the soil, leading to voids. Large trees should be at least 20 feet away from the foundation.

Because there’s a connection between foundation damage and excess soil moisture, homeowners should do what they can to get groundwater under control. Doing this costs less than repairing a foundation.

If you’re having trouble with excess foundation moisture and you’re in our Northern California service area, contact us today for a free inspection and repair estimate. We’ll complete a thorough assessment of your home, determine the cause of any foundation damage, and recommend customized repair solutions.

Ted Dryce

Ted Dryce

Content Writer

Ted is an SEO Content Writer who has been with Groundworks since 2021. He’s covered home repair topics ranging from crawl space encapsulation to regional soil conditions. When he’s not working, Ted is performing improv comedy and working on his own creative projects.

More Resources

Publish Date:

Last Modified Date:

Our Locations


2333 Courage Dr. Suite C
Fairfield, CA 94533

San Jose

1161 N Fair Oaks Ave
Sunnyvale, CA 94089