5 Warning Signs That Hydrostatic Pressure Is Taking Its Toll On your Foundation

Friday, December 3rd, 2021 by Cassie Saines

A large crack in a basement wall
A crack this big is large enough to let in a substantial amount of water.


Picture this, you’re snuggled under a blanket watching TV on your favorite couch in your finished basement. It’s been raining cats and dogs for two days, but you feel safe and warm in your home. You head over to your kitchenette to grab a snack and, that’s when you feel it. Water has soaked through your fuzzy socks. Panicking, you get down on your hands and knees and find that the carpet is the dampest by the wall. You have never had water damage in your basement before. Where is it coming from? And why is it coming through now?

Hydrostatic Pressure

To put it simply the water intrusion is likely from Hydrostatic pressure. You may be asking yourself, “What is that?” defines Hydrostatic pressure as: 

The pressure that is 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.

From a homeowners perspective, it can also be explained as the water pressure that’s placed on your home, from heavy or extended rainfall. During steady rainfall, thousands of gallons of water penetrate the soil surrounding your home. When too much rain enters the soil too quickly, it can’t properly drain away. Gravity takes its course, and the water funneling underneath the ground surface has to go somewhere, so it channels down against or below your home’s foundation walls. Either can spell bad news for your home, as water will always find the point of least resistance and can thus enter or create cracks in your foundation walls and/or basement slab floor – yielding leaks, floods, high humidity, musty odors, wall discoloration and possible mold spore growth in your home’s foundation. 

Soil and Hydrostatic pressure

The type of soil you have can play a big part in how much hydrostatic pressure you deal with during heavy rains. Sandy and loamy soil drain quickly. Clay, on the other hand, does not. It absorbs water slowly and drains it slowly as well. That’s part of the reason why Cincinnati basements have so many issues with water intrusion. 


Homes built on top of a basement or crawl space foundation are surrounded by soil called backfill. It’s the soil that was used to fill in the space that was dug up to form a hole to build the house. The soil on your property that was untouched by the builders is called virgin soil. It’s stronger and more compact than the backfill. Because there is less space between soil particles, virgin soil doesn’t absorb the rainwater as fast as backfill. This causes hydrostatic pressure to put more strain on your foundation than equalizing throughout the rest of your yard.  

Signs Your Basement Needs a Doctor

If you’re in a new home you may not experience foundation problems due to hydrostatic pressure for years. Over time, that will change. It can start slowly or can happen fast. Either way, you’ll want to be able to identify the warning signs as quickly as possible. 


  • Musty odors
    • If your basement begins to smell musty, don’t ignore it or try to hide it with an air freshener. That could be your first clue that water is beginning to intrude. 
  • Bugs 
    • Insects can crawl through the tiniest spaces. Keep an eye out for earwigs, carpenter ants, pillbugs, and house centipedes. They’re a good indicator that you may have cracks in the foundation.
  • Water Damage
    • For most homeowners, this is their first sign that something is wrong.
  • Cracks
    • Along with water damage, cracks, big or small, are the most noticeable signs that you have a foundation issue. Odds are your home has been feeling the pressure for a long time. 
  • Bowing and Buckling
    • If your walls have started bowing or buckling it’s time to act fast. The structural integrity of your home could be at stake. 


If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, don’t hesitate to call The Basement Doctor of Cincinnati for a free estimate. Our highly trained professionals are here to guide you through the process of waterproofing your basement. 

About the author

Cassie Saines, Marketing Coordinator Find me on LinkedIn

My goal is to create content that you find practical and thought-provoking. I want to teach you things about your home you didn't know you ought to know.