Excessive Water: A Foundation's Worst Nightmare | Print |  E-mail
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Thursday, 21 April 2011 13:48


By Carl Medford, CRS

Special to the Forum



April showers bring May flowers… and, in many parts of Alameda County, building issues as well.

It’s been a banner year for rain and we’ve all watched in horror as some Bay Area homes have been affected by water-saturated soils.


Some have been hit by water-induced landslides, others have had their foundations undercut. Either way, it’s a homeowner’s worst nightmare as their long-time residences have suddenly become uninhabitable.


Extensive rains can cause serious problems for any home. If careful attention is not given to drainage, water can build up in crawl spaces and, over time, cause problems such as mold and warping of hardwood floors.


A common mistake is to install a patio or sidewalk that actually directs water towards the residence. In severe cases, especially for homes built on slab foundations, excessive water can enter the living area and cause significant damage.


Homes built in hilly regions are prone to more serious issues with water runoff being the primary concern. Much care must be given to ensure that water is diverted around the house and towards proper storm drains. Water not directed correctly across a property can build up and saturate the soil around the home. Over time, this can lead to severe foundation issues such as cracking, shifting and outright failure.

Once a foundation begins to fail, repair costs can escalate quickly. Want to sell? Foundation issues can kill a pending transaction: nothing gives a potential buyer greater cause for concern than the words, “foundation issues.”


Retaining walls present their own range of concerns. There are many types: home improvement stores sell a variety of retaining products used by do-it-yourselfers to tame slopes. On the more serious side are engineered concrete walls reaching 6 feet or higher. Just like foundations, water needs to be diverted around them or serious problems can occur.


San Leandro building officials emphasize that retaining wall work will require permits if the wall is more than 4 feet tall from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall. Engineering may also be required: it’s something best left to the pros.


Concerned about water? Proper drainage is key. French drains, trenches and a variety of other remedies are available. Hire professionals to ensure it’s done right: the last thing you want during the next downpour is to discover that your property isn’t as permanent as you’d hoped.


Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Prudential California Realty in Castro Valley and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com



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