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bowing and cracking basement wall

Hydrostatic Pressure

As water travels further below the ground, it exerts more and more pressure. This can cause groundwater from nearly any source to push on your basement walls and cause cracking.

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Believe it or not, you’ve probably experienced the effects of hydrostatic pressure firsthand. Think about what happens as you dive deeper into a pool – the pressure in your ears starts to grow and it might feel like the water is pressing down on you. Well, that’s because water exerts more pressure the deeper it is below the ground thanks to the increased force of gravity upon it. That same concept is what causes hydrostatic pressure to damage your basement walls and cause all sorts of problems like mold, cracked walls, and uneven floors. 

Hydrostatic Pressure Diagram

What Causes Hydrostatic Pressure? 

Hydrostatic pressure can only affect your home’s foundation if water is deep enough below the ground. However, South Carolina and Georgia experience a lot of rainfall throughout the year, so hydrostatic pressure is a problem that homeowners in Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, and Savannah should stay aware of. During heavy storms, tons of rainfall will drain below the soil. While hydrostatic pressure probably won’t become an issue after one storm, a constant string of rainfall can eventually take its toll and exert a ton of downward force onto the water below the soil. The increased density of the fluid will push soil up against your basement walls and cause the walls to bow and crack. 

Keep in mind that hydrostatic pressure can also come from bodies of water or a high water table. If you live close to a lake, river, large pond, or the ocean, your basement could be at risk as water pressure pushes on the soil around the area. Deeper bodies of water also mean higher amounts of pressure. No matter the source, hydrostatic pressure can seriously damage your basement walls. Always monitor the condition of your basement walls to determine if hydrostatic pressure is taking place.   

The Risks of Hydrostatic Pressure 

As mentioned before, hydrostatic pressure damages basement walls, but what else does that lead to? Unfortunately, a few different problems can arise as a result of hydrostatic pressure. Here’s what you might experience as a result. 

bowing and cracking basement wall

Cracked and Leaking Walls

Before any other problem sign arises, hydrostatic pressure can cause your basement walls to bow outward as pressure increases in the soil outside. If left unchecked, this pressure can cause the walls to crack. Since water always follows the path of least resistance, groundwater may start to leak into your basement. Cracked basement walls look unsightly and they can cause the floors in your home to become uneven. Plus, leaking water can damage interior walls and carpeting – leading to money spent on repairs. Lastly, as water continues to flood your basement, mold is likely to appear. 

moldy walls

Mold and Mildew

Since hydrostatic pressure is caused by water, it runs the risk of causing mold growth if your basement walls crack. As water slowly drains into your basement, the humidity level can rise and damage carpeting and interior walls. Mold thrives in air with 55%-60% humidity and feeds on decaying organic matter (which walls and carpet are made with), so you can see how any leaks caused by hydrostatic pressure are a huge risk factor. Additionally, mold growth may lead to health issues for you and others living in your home. Taking precautions against hydrostatic pressure can stop mold from growing in the first place.


Moisture also leads to efflorescence, a non-toxic but unsettling chemical reaction that might take place in a wet basement. Efflorescence is caused by crystalline particles of salt that are left behind when water evaporates. While nowhere near as destructive as mold, efflorescence indicates that a moisture problem is present which could develop into a larger structural problem for your basement and home. If you notice white, powdery particles on your wall – contact a professional to inspect your basement for more extensive water damage. 


Unfortunately, hydrostatic pressure can’t be reduced. It is caused by uncontrollable natural phenomena like rain and lakes. However, solutions exist to prevent hydrostatic pressure from damaging your home. You might consider installing wall support beams. an interior drainage system, or basement vapor barriers to prevent walls from cracking or letting water inside your basement. 

When construction begins on a new home with a basement, contractors often dig a hole that is larger than the actual basement to take better and more accurate measurements during construction. However, this gap must be filled back in with soil once construction is complete. This process is what creates the clay bowl effect as the backfilled earth forms a “bowl” around your foundation. When water interacts with the “bowl” of soil, it presses on the foundation due to hydrostatic pressure and causes damage to basement walls. 

Mold growth can cause many health problems if left unchecked in your basement. These include irritating allergies and respiratory issues. Plus, mold can eventually spread into the rest of your house as spores are released into the air, eventually traveling into the main areas of your home. Once the spores spread, moist areas like bathrooms, kitchen cabinets, and behind washing machines might experience mold growth. 

Call Mount Valley for a Free Inspection!

If you think your basement has been damaged by hydrostatic pressure, Mount Valley can help. We have plenty of basement waterproofing solutions that protect against this issue and more. Homeowners in Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, and Savannah can contact us to set up a free inspection. One of our foundation experts will meet you at your home and determine the cause of your basement damage. Afterwards, we can recommend the best course of action to meet your unique needs. Don’t let basement issues affect your home any longer, contact us to discover the benefits of Mount Valley’s basement waterproofing solutions

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