White, Chalky Powder On Your Foundation? Your Home May Have Water Damage

Posted on: 27 May 2015

Water damage is something that every homeowner wants to avoid because it could lead to expensive repairs. It's important to stop water damage to foundations as soon as the damage is noticed. You don't want the damage to get worse, because you might end up dealing with severe structural damage.

Most homeowners, however, don't know how to recognize when there may already be a significant problem with water damage to the foundations of their homes. One red flag to look for is white powder on your foundation. The discovery of white powder can lead to several concerns. Here's what you need to know.

White, Chalky Powder on Your Concrete Foundation

Rub your hand along one of your concrete foundation walls. If your hand picks up a white, chalky powder from the concrete, what you have is called efflorescence. The white powder is basically salt that has dissolved from moisture (from the ground water) that has gotten through the porous concrete of your foundation.

This doesn't necessarily mean that your foundation is water damaged. Concrete is porous and this is a natural reaction. However, what you should be concerned with is the fact that the porous concrete material can allow water to wick upwards, which could result in water damage to your home's structure and framing.

Capillary Action in Concrete

This is called capillary action and it works similarly to how an entire tree gets water from its roots. Water moves upwards through the porous concrete until it reaches an obstacle or material that is denser. This is where you would find the most dry rot, corrosion or mold within the walls of your home.

To test if your home has this capillary action, you'll want to determine whether or not the moisture in your concrete foundation is an ongoing problem or not. You can determine this by the amount of efflorescence that is occurring on your foundation walls.

In other words, the amount of white powder on your foundation walls can be a red flag that there's capillary action going on inside your home's structure. When the concrete was first poured it was mixed with water, so you'll want to determine if the salts that are currently on your foundation walls came from the initial construction of your home.

To do this, wash down the walls to remove the salt and wait to see if the salt returns to the surface. Use plain water and a sponge to remove the salts. There is no set time frame to wait for the powder to reappear. It depends on weather conditions and how much ground water is in the soil around your home.

Make Repairs & Prevent Future Damage

If the salt returns, then you can safely assume there is a continuing problem with water infiltrating your concrete foundation. You may want to consider hiring a structural engineer or a home inspection contractor if the white powder returns. Either of these professionals can check for structural damage that may have occurred from the capillary action. To repair the damage that is found, hire a water damage restoration company.

You'll also want to prevent future damage by having your home's foundation waterproofed in some way. If there is capillary action going on in the structure of your home, you will need to create some kind of water barrier around the exterior of your foundation. This may mean installing an exterior French drain around the perimeter of your foundation, or a waterproofing material may be applied to the exterior of the foundation.

Applying a waterproofing compound to the interior of your basement will not prevent the capillary action from occurring. Speak more in depth with your water damage contractor or home inspector if you need more information.