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How Hurricanes Cause Foundation Damage

hurricane high winds and rain trees buildings

While hurricane season is no surprise to coastal homeowners, many focus primarily on preparing for damage from flooding and airborne debris. However, another critical area often overlooked is the foundation, which requires thorough preparation and repair.

Your foundation is responsible for supporting your entire home, including everything and everyone in it. Even if your home still stands after the storm, that doesn’t mean your foundation isn’t impacted.

Hurricanes can and often do cause significant foundation damage, such as cracks and instability. It is crucial to include this vital area of your home in your pre- and post-hurricane protection checklist.

We’ve compiled a guide with everything you need to know about how hurricanes can cause foundation damage, including methods to prevent structural issues and permanently protect your home.

How Hurricanes Cause Foundation Damage

Hurricanes are intense forces of nature that can destabilize your home and its foundation. Here’s how:

Rain and Flood Damage

The most common damage is caused by water from torrential rains, storm surges, and the flooding aftermath. This leads to flooding on your property and water leaks inside your home. Along with ruined belongings and dangerous mold growth, this water damage leads to wood rot, metal corrosion, and the weakening of your structural supports.

Weight Damage

Water is heavy, weighing approximately 62 pounds per cubic foot. When soil becomes oversaturated due to flooding, it exerts significant pressure on your foundation. This hydrostatic pressure pushes against foundation walls with enough force to cause cracking, inward bowing, instability, and water leaks.

Unstable soil cannot properly support your foundation. As it erodes or sinks, your home succumbs to foundation settlement, causing uneven floors, diagonal drywall cracks, and sticking doors or windows.

Wind Damage

Forceful winds also stress your foundation by exerting tremendous pressure. This pressure causes shifting, leaning, and cracks. Flying debris can strike your foundation, causing cracks and weakening its structural integrity. Additionally, wind can erode the surrounding soil, contributing to foundation settlement.

Types of Foundation Damage Caused by Floods

Hurricanes impact your home’s foundation in many ways, including:

  • Cracks: Hurricane-force wind and rain stress your foundation, weakening your home’s structure and leading to wall and floor cracks.
  • Leaks: Water leaks inside through cracks and gaps around compromised areas.
  • Settlement and Sinking: Without a stable base from the underlying soil, your foundation sinks and settles into the earth, resulting in unevenness and structural instability.

How Do Different Foundations React to Hurricanes?

The type of foundation your home has can significantly impact its structural integrity during hurricanes. Here’s a look at the most common foundation types and their performance in hurricane conditions:

  • Concrete Slab Foundations: A concrete slab foundation built directly into the ground is typically durable and resilient. However, this type can still sustain soil washout and settlement.
  • Pier and Beam Foundations: Most coastal communities feature homes on stilts supported by pier and beam foundations. While they are generally sturdy and useful for elevation and protection, pier and beam foundations—particularly composed of wooden supports—can succumb to rot.
  • Basement Foundations: Basements are rare in hurricane-prone areas because they are low-lying and pose significant risks of water and structural damage. These structures are mostly underground, where hydrostatic pressure, wall collapse, and flooding are their biggest threats.
  • Crawl Space Foundations: While crawl spaces lift homes off the ground by a few feet, they are the most vulnerable to hurricane damage. Like basements, they easily flood and foster mold and wood rot, causing structural damage.

For a comprehensive breakdown of foundation integrity related to hurricane damage, check out our blog, Foundations During a Hurricane: Ranked Strongest to Weakest.

Signs of Foundation Damage from a Hurricane

While we touched on some symptoms of hurricane-related foundation damage above, here’s a list of common signs to look for:

How to Prevent Hurricane Damage

Preventative measures taken before the storm can help prevent potential hurricane damage, including:

  • Installing proper gutters and downspouts that direct water away from the foundation
  • A positive yard grade to aid in drainage
  • Flood vents to help equalize pressure and water flow
  • Checking for and repairing wall cracks

How to Repair Foundation Damage from Hurricanes

Whether your home has sustained hurricane-related foundation damage or you want to take proactive steps before the storm, trust local foundation repair experts to address damage and permanently fortify your home. Here’s how:

crew installing helical piers

Stabilize with Foundation Piers

Various foundation piers—including helical piers and push piers—permanently stabilize and can help lift homes suffering from foundation settlement back to a more level position. They are installed deep in the ground, relying on stable, load-bearing soil for lasting stability.

installing a slab pier

Fortify Your Foundation Slab

Foundation slabs benefit from another type of foundation pier: slab piers. They function the same way as helical and push piers but are made specifically for slab foundations. Polyurethane injections also help reinforce concrete slabs and underlying soil.

wall anchor installed on basement wall

Repair Foundation Walls

While hydrostatic pressure is a powerful force, you can counteract it with wall repair methods. Wall anchors, channel anchors, and specialized I-beams permanently stabilize foundation walls and restore them to straighter positions over time. Carbon fiber supports hold walls in their current positions and prevent additional movement.

installing a sump pump and other basement waterproofing solutions

Waterproof Your Basement

Pair wall reinforcement with waterproofing methods for the best protection in basements. This includes intercepting water with interior drains, removing it with a sump pump, preventing moisture intrusion with a wall vapor barrier, and controlling humidity with a dehumidifier.

encapsulating a crawl space

Encapsulate Your Crawl Space

A crawl space requires similar specialized solutions, such as drains, sump pumps, and dehumidifiers. Additional measures include insulation panels, support posts, sealing crawl space vents, and a full encapsulation with a durable vapor barrier.

Foundation Repair FAQs

Some homeowner’s insurance policies provide coverage for hurricane and storm damage, including foundation repairs, but others may not. While Groundworks can provide documentation needed for your insurance provider, we encourage you to check your policy’s specifics with your insurance agent.

Untreated foundation damage can worsen over time, especially with subsequent rains or temperature changes. This is why it’s crucial to address any issues promptly with proper repairs to prevent further deterioration.

Temporary solutions like shoring walls just treat the symptoms. Groundworks uses deep foundation piers and anchors that permanently stabilize your home by transferring its weight to load-bearing soil strata, providing a long-lasting fix.

Get Lasting Foundation Protection from Groundworks

Groundworks inspector meeting with a homeowner

Threats from Mother Nature, like hurricanes and flooding, are intimidating. Our nationwide teams at Groundworks understand how scary this can be, but we’ll help you weather the storm and protect what matters most. Homeowners know they can trust our industry-leading, customized repair solutions, and unmatched customer care.

Contact a Groundworks company near you to schedule a free foundation inspection. We’ll evaluate your home and recommend repairs tailored to your specific needs. Take the first step toward safeguarding your home and family today!

Holly Richards-Purpura

Holly Richards-Purpura

Content Writer

Holly is a Content Writer for Groundworks who has written and edited web content for the foundation services industry for almost 10 years. With a background in journalism, her passion for the written word runs deep. Holly lives in Columbus, OH, with her husband. Along with educating homeowners, she also has a big heart for the Big Apple.