Top 4 Sources of Water Leaks

Monday, February 22nd, 2016 by Thrasher

Water leaks have been haunting homeowners since the invention of the basement, but where do they come from?

At Thrasher Foundation Repair we have been solving water problems for over 40 years. In fact, we have performed work on over 100,000 homes in that time and every one of them starts with identifying the source of the leak. Our system design specialists are trained to identify the problem and provide solutions. Sometimes these are very simple solutions and other times it is more complex. There are even layers of protection that we can present and allow the homeowner to determine the solution that fits them best.

One common question that we hear in conversations with customers is, "What are the most common sources of water leaks." Below you will see the 4 most common sources of water leaks and a little information about why and what you can do about it.

Cold Joint- Every foundation is built in a similar manner. A footing (sometimes referred to as a footer) is the concrete base that is poured at the base of the homes foundation. The footing is intended to transfer the weight of the house effectively onto the soil below the home. A typical footing will be around 16 inches wide and 8 to 10 inches deep. It will run continuously under the foundation walls. The foundation wall is then installed on top of the footing. The wall may be constructed out of several different materials, but the most common are poured concrete and concrete block. Generally, a waterproof coating and drainage pipe are installed before the soil is placed on the outside of the wall.

The joint where the foundation wall meets the footing is the most common place that water leaks through the foundation. In fact, it isn't even close. For poured concrete walls, this joint is a place where the walls concrete rests on the footing concrete with no barrier. A waterproof coating on the outside of the wall can help, but it is almost impossible to permanently keep water from sneaking through. For concrete block foundations you have a similar joint where concrete meets concrete, but you have the added challenge of the hollow cores in the blocks themselves. This means that if any water penetrates the first inch of the pourous blocks, it reaches the hollow and drains to the bottom of the wall. As water builds up it eventually finds its way through the joint.

While this is the most common, it usually can be fixed in one day. Even the worst problems can be solved in just a couple of days. There are things that can be done outside, like grading, gutters, and downspouts, but even then a big rain can find its way to the cold joint. The most effective way to ensure you won't have water leaking hear is to install a perimeter drain. This can be done from inside or outside and you will want whichever one is less invasive and longest lasting. That depends on many circumstances that can be reviewed before you make a decision on the approach you want.

Foundation Cracks- cracks in concrete foundations are common and water will find its way through. While many foundation cracks are due to shrinkage of poured concrete, others could be from structural movement. If structural movement has occurred, it will be important to address the cause of movement before attempting to solve the leak. If the crack is caused by shrinkage, there is no structural concern and choosing a solution can start right away.

For concrete block walls, the solution is similar to fixing a cold joint leak. Since the blocks are hollow, most of the time a perimeter drain will solve the problem. With poured concrete foundations there are several other options. You still want to make sure your grading, gutters, and downspouts are in good working order, but again, that won't always provide the assurance you want. Epoxy and urethan injections can be effective if you only have one crack, but you will have to have this done every time a crack leaks and eventually you may find that you spent more than if you had just prevented leakage for the entire foundation. The best way to do that is with a vapor barrier and perimeter drain. Again, this can be done from the inside or outside, but is dependent on several variables. Our specialists help homeowners make these decisions every day.

Windows- basement windows are not submarine windows. This means that if water builds up in a window well it will leak into the basement. There are several things that need to be addressed to make sure this doesn't happen. First, grading, gutters, and downspouts need to be operable and prevent water from getting into the window well. Secondly, the window wells need to be installed to prevent water from getting in. Ensuring the well is installed well below the window, well above grade, and has dirt compacted around it is important. If you are looking to be sure you won't have any issues, which we often hear from homeowners that are finishing their basement, you will want to add a drain to the bottom of the window well. This can then be drained to a perimeter drain on the inside or outside of the house. A product like WellDuct works well to drain to an interior perimeter drain.

Plumbing- one of the calls that we get sometimes is actually not something that we can help with, but it is a common one. Plumbing leaks cause wet basements and sometimes they are sneaking enough that our customers don't detect them. The most common examples are water heaters and water softeners. Water heaters leak when they fail and sometimes, especially if it happens during a rain, homeowners will think that it is a foundation leak. Water softeners go through a recharge a few times a week. They are usually set to do this during the night. When this happens it discharges a significant amount of water. They usually drain into a floor drain, but if the line gets kicked away from the floor drain a large amount of water will flood the area. This is a simple fix as the line just has to be placed in the right place, but it is also wise to secure it somehow.

If you have any further questions about basement water leaks, give us a call to schedule an appointment or online at We offer this solution throughout our service area in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri from our offices in Omaha, Grand Island, Sioux City, Des Moines, Wichita, Kansas City, and Springfield.