The Consequences of Excessive Irrigation: How Overwatering Can Harm Your Foundation

Look, we’re all protective of the things we want to keep alive. Plants by your home are no exception. They’re a precious commodity to bring out the aesthetics of your home. But what happens when the irrigation is a little too much? Sometimes overwatering can be too much for your home. 

You might not even know you have a leak and are unintentionally overwatering. 

Either way, too much water can harm your foundation, resulting in damages you don’t want to pay. Plus, you might have a higher water bill than usual.

Dalinghaus Construction has inspected over 10,000 homes in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada, knowing about 95% percent of our repair projects are due to moisture in some way. Excessive irrigation is no exception. We’ve seen how excessive water irrigation can harm your foundation, whether through water buildup or the roots of trees destroying a concrete footing. We want you to know the harm excessive irrigation has on your foundation. 

What is excessive irrigation?

Overwatering on purpose or accidentally would constitute excessive irrigation. Understandably people like to have green lawns, vineyards, orchards, healthy plants, planters next to their homes, etc.

Note: We would not recommend putting plants right next to your home. The water from keeping the plants alive can hang around next to your foundation. Not to mention if there is a source of water underneath your home, the root systems will go after it. Root systems will mess up your home’s foundation like the Empire did to the Rebellion in The Empire Strikes Back.

Excessive watering – especially in expansive soil – can negatively affect your home. Watering too much can cause your home to be lifted by the soil – also known as foundation heaving. Too little moisture in the soil can cause your home to sink – also known as foundation settlement

Water plants moderately. You don’t want to kill them or the grass on your lawn.

And get to know your plants. Different plants survive under various conditions. You don’t want to overwater a cactus.

Fun fact – Cacti don’t really need sprinkler systems. They have thin roots to suck in and hold moisture as soon as water breaks past the surface. And cacti have those protruding spikes to protect themselves and the moisture inside. 

And don’t be surprised if you see a cactus regrow after falling over. That’s a fun adaptation that shows how resilient they are.

The more you know

Depending on your plants, set up your sprinklers so you know how much water is needed daily, weekly, per month, and what time of the year. 

And sometimes you might have leaks that go unaccounted for, whether from inside your home or a broken sprinkler pipe outside. Either way, leaks can contribute to excessive irrigation

Signs of excessive irrigation

  • Concrete spalling.
  • Rusted Rebar
  • Stains on the side of your home
  • Damage to stucco

 

Ways your foundation can be damaged via excessive irrigation

When it comes to foundation issues, the majority of them derive from moisture in some way. You’ll have occasional seismic activity, but most issues are from water in some way. 

Plants and trees as strong as the Incredible Hulk

Again, the roots of plants or trees can damage a foundation with ease. Don’t underestimate root systems. They may not look like much, but they will lift and destroy concrete like it’s nobody’s business. This is why we don’t recommend having plants right next to your home.

Water buildup

You can also have water buildup right next to your home. You may think it isn’t an issue to see that puddle that hasn’t gone away, but that water alone can do damage to an area of your concrete footing. 

Many people aren’t aware that concrete is porous. There are holes a fraction of the size of your hair that creates a capillary tunnel. Water will navigate through and contact the metal rebar, which causes oxidization – aka rusting. This causes the metal to expand and severely damage your concrete footing.

Concrete spalling

This term means the concrete is starting to flake off from the rest of the footing. The concrete is starting to break off into sections, causing it to be fractured. Then your rebar becomes more exposed. When the rebar is exposed, your foundation isn’t gonna have a good time. Nor will you. 

To understand concrete spalling better, look at our in-depth article What is Concrete Spalling? (Causes, Prevention, Treatment).

Voids in the soil

Water will go into the ground by any means possible, looking for the tiniest sliver to slide in. And as the water goes, the soil goes with it. So this can not only cause erosion, but it can create voids with it. Then you have yourself a whole bunch of foundation-issue “fun.”

How to accommodate for excessive irrigation

 

Proper grading

For some reason, areas of the United States think they’re immune to rain – lookin’ at you, Arizona and Nevada. Because of this, many homeowners don’t think about the grading of their homes. 

Don’t be that person.

Living in desert areas doesn’t mean you’re immune to rainfall and monsoons. When monsoon season hits, water builds up next to the home.

This is because your property isn’t properly graded for water to go away from your home. Rather, water is going toward your home and staying there like a person who has overstayed their welcome. 

If you need your property graded, consider hiring a landscaping company. They’re professionals in water mitigation.

You could do this DIY, but it’s usually better to hire someone who does stuff like grading all the time.

Proper drainage

This can go in conjunction with proper grading. Consider installing french drains that catch water and direct it away from your property.

French drains are a matter of digging, finding the right fall, and getting that moisture away from your home.

Know your plants

Look up the plants in your yard and look into their root systems. Figure out how much water they require. 

And be sure plans aren’t right next to your footing. We’re kind of beating a dead horse with this point. We want you to be sure the roots won’t damage your foundation. 

This doesn’t mean that you should never have plants. Plants are awesome, whether they’re aesthetically pleasing or provide oxygen for our lungs (*Photosynthesis, baby!). Plus, root systems can do a great job of sucking up water. 

Just have them away from your home as possible. Especially trees. 

Check for leaks

Leaks sound like they would be obvious to catch, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Sometimes they go unnoticed for weeks.

Check your water meter on occasion while the water is off. If you still see the needle moving, have a professional check for any leaks. A plumber, preferably.

Regulate the water

If you regulate the amount of water, then excessive irrigation shouldn’t be much of an issue. 

It saves you money on your water bill and shouldn’t hurt your home. 

You’ve learned about the consequences of excessive irrigation. 

You’ve learned about what excessive irrigation constitutes, the signs, what damages can happen, and accommodations to prevent excessive irrigation. Take the time to learn more about water mitigation and what improper drainage can do to your home. 

Learn the 3 Ways to Mitigate Foundation Heave (Leaks, Drainage, Gardening).

Check out Hillside Home Foundation Problems (From Erosion to Drainage).

Find out more about how your foundation handles flooding/moisture

For additional questions, call Dalinghaus Construction at (877)360-9277.

WRITTEN BY

Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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