The Number One Cause of Foundation Failure in Southern California

Services for Real Estate Pros with Foundation Technology

If you have been watching the news about earthquake preparedness and all the recent seismic activity in California, you’ll quickly realize none of us paid any attention to that old adage about building a home on a solid foundation, because that one surely doesn’t ring true in our neck of the woods.  If you live in Southern California you know you’re living on shaky ground, and there is not much you can do about that, except move.  When the big one hits, a lot more than our foundations will be rocked… that’s for sure. You can bet, if its anything like the movies, we can assume most if not all our homes including the foundations they are built upon will experience considerable damage if not total destruction.  

But, did you know that seismic activity, (earthquakes), is not the number one reason for foundation failures in Los Angeles?  Water is, in parched, drought stricken Southern California!  Go figure…


That’s right Water. Too much, or too little, in the soil below can and will cause your home, or just about any structure, (foundation) attached to the ground, to settle or possibly heave, (lift), depending on the amount of water and the type of soil your home is built on.  The caveat to this; if your home is built on solid rock, (most aren’t), you probably won’t have a problem anytime soon, but I wouldn’t bet on that one. There is a whole list of other problems to worry about.

Unlike the soil beneath your foundation, water does not compress, and when excessive amounts of water seep into the ground beneath your home, any soil with a moderate amount of clay content begins to swell.  That condition is known as “expansive soils”.  Although Southern California does not experience the extreme expansive conditions that other parts of the country have, there are many areas where the clay content is high enough to cause considerable damage when excessive water is present.  In the instance of non-swelling soil types, like sand or decomposed rock, an overabundance of water can fill the small voids between the sand and rock particles and cause movement and/or considerable damage like it did in this extreme example of an in-ground pool lifted due to excessive ground water.  


In dry conditions, like we have been experiencing with the unprecedented drought in California, expansive clay soils beneath your home begins to shrink away and settle under your foundation.   For a good example of how your soil can behave when it dries out, just look at that sponge you left on the sink to dry. Eventually, the sponge is half the size of what it was when wet. The soil under your foundation does exactly the same thing, leaving your foundation to settle and fall right along with the ground beneath it.  Cracks and other symptoms soon ensue.   If left unchecked, the settlement will eventually cause severe and often irreversible foundation and structural damage.


Poorly designed yard irrigation or the lack thereof, leaky pipes and sewers, your neighbors’ watering habits, living at the bottom of a hill where water runoff is evident,  the El Nino phenomenon, and of course, the lack of water as our state begins to dry up, is a major concern.  Too little water can be just as damaging to your foundation as too much water.


The Number One Culprit for Foundation Failure in Los Angeles

The number one main source of foundation failure we see in L.A., is leaking sewer pipes.  Most people don’t even give their sewer pipes a second thought until the pipes back up, usually on Thanksgiving or during a large family gathering.  Don’t you love it when that happens? And it happens a lot!  You see, if you take a shower, or run the washing machine and all the water disappears down the drain, who’s to care?  Remember though, we live in an active earthquake zone. The ground beneath our homes is always on the move. So are our pipes. If the ground moves, so does the sewer lines. Trees and roots can also cause sewer lines to break or separate leaking 20% of you daily usage right under your foundation.  Remember that sewer clog you had fixed? Chances were, it was that tree in your front yard causing the lines to get plugged up.  It’s all clean now, so where do you think the water is going from all those showers and laundry cycles?  Now you know why that tree always looked so good, you were watering it daily.  Think about it.  If just twenty gallons per day was leaking under your home, how wet do you think the ground could get over a two year period?   

Pour that amount in your garden and step into the mud and see what happens.  Your house is just a bit heavier.  

 Water isn’t the only culprit:

We know water isn’t the only culprit. There are many other factors and conditions that can cause you foundation to fail. Poor compaction, tree roots, erosion.  The U.S. Geological Society recently reported that each year foundation damages cause more dollars lost than both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy combined.  One in four homes in America will experience foundation damage that will cause thousands of dollars to repair.  Left unchecked, the damage and costs continue to skyrocket.  Bottom line: It’s a good idea to pay closer attention to that thing your house is built on.


Are you the next victim of foundation failure? Don’t be!

Have your foundation checked by one of our professionals.

Want to know more about the signs, the symptoms and the solutions, that may be cause for concern? For a free report on the sings and solutions for foundation repair visit:



Comments (17)

Sybil Campbell
Fernandina Beach, FL
Referral Agent Amelia Island Florida

What an awesome first blog post. The pictures are worth 1000 words.

Sep 30, 2016 04:58 PM
Sybil Campbell
Fernandina Beach, FL
Referral Agent Amelia Island Florida

By the way, welcome to Active Rain and congrats on your first blog post. I think you will find Active Rain to be a great place to meet and interact with other professioanls while learning about various real estate markets Jerry Bronstrup.

Sep 30, 2016 04:58 PM

Thanks! I appreciate the comment. I hope you will find my blogs informative and entertaining.

Sep 30, 2016 05:12 PM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

Wow it is amazing what's going on underground around your home !

Sep 30, 2016 08:51 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Welcome to ActiveRain. This was a good first post! Best of luck with your blogging.

Sep 30, 2016 09:36 PM
Susan Laxson CRS
Premiere Plus Realty - Naples, FL
Realtor in Naples & Marco Island, FL

Good morning Jerry Bronstrup ! Welcome to ActiveRain and looking forward to learning more about you, your business and reading your future posts. What a timely post too with the recent warning in Southern California regarding the San Andreas fault activity!

Sep 30, 2016 10:27 PM
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker

Welcome to Active Rain.  I know you will enjoy your time here.

Oct 01, 2016 05:40 AM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Jerry, great first post!  And welcome to ActiveRain.  We could have you addicted in no time!

Oct 01, 2016 09:29 AM
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Jerry welcome to ActiveRain and congratulations on posting your first blog on this site.

Oct 01, 2016 01:11 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Welcome to ActiveRain, Jerry. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us - I read it with lots of interest, given I live here in SoCal!!


Oct 02, 2016 01:51 AM
Jason Boone
Duke Warner Realty - Bend, OR
Principal Broker, CRIS, RENE, SRS, PSA

Welcome to ActiveRain.  Wishing you the best of success.

Oct 02, 2016 02:26 AM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Hi, Jerry!

Your post made today's list of Last Week's Favorites on ActiveRain! Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Oct 02, 2016 05:28 AM
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager

Hi Jerry,
What an interesting post!  Sounds like you have a very valuable service.  

Welcome to ActiveRain.  It is a great place to share your knowledge and to learn from other industry professionals.  Blog on!  

Oct 02, 2016 05:29 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

You've written a beautiful and informative first post. Welcome to the Rain! 

Oct 02, 2016 06:45 AM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, EXP - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

A good foundation is important for homes and so many other things.

Welcome to Active Rain, looking forward to reading many more of your posts, let me know if there is anything that I can do to help as you get started here.
All the best of success to you.

Oct 02, 2016 03:06 PM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA


Welcome to the Rain! 

Congratulations on your fist blog post! 


Oct 02, 2016 04:13 PM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Jerry, our foundations are the most important of the whole home, and GREAT post.  Welcome. 

Oct 05, 2016 02:58 AM