Hydrostatic Pressure & Mysterious Basement Water Damage

Posted by Matt Buchanan

We got a call last week from a woman with a flooded basement in Baltimore. She had lived in the home for 40 years and the basement had never flooded. As she described it, the water was pooling up in the middle of one of her rooms, but there was no obvious entry point. The walls weren’t wet, there was no water entering through the basement windows, and no water dripping from the ceiling. When she called us she was at a complete loss for what was going on. So what happened? Well, a little thing called hydrostatic pressure. Huh? Glad you asked, let’s talk about it…

 

What is hydrostatic pressure?

 

basement-flooding-hydrostatic-pressureIt’s defined as such:

The pressure exerted by a fluid at equilibrium at a given point within the fluid, due to the force of gravity. Hydrostatic pressure increases in proportion to depth measured from the surface because of the increasing weight of fluid exerting downward force from above.

Put more simply, it’s the pressure water exerts to combat gravity. But before we delve into that more deeply and discuss the implications of hydrostatic pressure on a basement flood, let’s talk about water tables…

(diagram courtesy of Slideshare)

 

What are water tables?

 

A water table is the term used to describe at what depth water can be found in your soil. It varies greatly depending on where you live. One factor can be your proximity to a large body of water. If you live close to one of the Great Lakes, you’ve got a high water table, meaning you won’t have to dig very deep before strike water. If you live there and have a basement, you’ve got a recipe for a problem. Another factor that can impact the water table in your area is the absorbency of the soil type in your area. For instance, Chicago has a double whammy because the soil is hard packed clay AND it sits next to a large body of water. The result? Lots of basement floods!

Here is a simple diagram showing a typical water table…

water-table-flooded-basement

 

How are they related?

 

While a water table should naturally be lower than your basement, certain conditions allow it to rise up to or past the level of your basement. Most obviously, adding more water! Hah! So if you have a week of nonstop rain, eventually the water table will rise to dangerous levels for your basement. The same can happen if you have a massive amount of snowfall and it warms up and begins to melt. In the case of the Baltimore customer we mentioned above, this is what was happening to her. As the snow melted after the epic winter storm, her water table began to rise. At that point hydrostatic pressure resulted in the water pushing up through her concrete foundation floors. When it did, the water popped up at the lowest point in her basement, creating the bizarre pool of water that she couldn’t explain.

 

How do I prevent a basement flood from these forces?

 

As you can probably tell from looking at our site, our services are designed to cleanup basement flooding and other types of water damage. That’s truly what we’re experts at, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try and help people out. So much of our water restoration blog is designed to help people put in place prevention mechanisms to lessen their chances of getting home water damage. And this blog post is no different. So what can you do? If this type of basement water damage is a recurring problem for you, you may want to consult a basement waterproofing company to discuss your range of options. But from our experience, 2 things may be necessary:

One or more sump pumps – if you know that you have a high water table of live in an area that is prone a rising water table, you should absolutely invest in one or more sump pumps to protect your basement.

Drain tiles – drain tiles can either be installed on the exterior or interior of your structure, but they serve the same purpose. Collect and transport ground water away from your home.

 

Do you have a flooded basement you can’t explain?

 

If you’re dealing with a basement flood that you can’t explain, then it’s possible you have bigger problems to deal with that will require some heavy lifting from a waterproofer. But in the meantime, you have to deal with water intrusion to your basement. If you don’t, yes the water will eventually recede, but not before it allows mold growth to occur. Any amount of basement water damage should be mitigated by a professional water damage restoration company. Please give us a call if you have unexplained water damage in your basement, and we can help dry it out and also help point you in the right direction in terms of how best to solve the problem moving forward!

About Matt Buchanan

I grew up in Irving, TX and left for Nashville, TN for college. After college I lived in Washington, DC and then in Cairo, Egypt. After coming back to the states, I spent a couple of years back in Dallas before moving with my wife to Denver!
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