Can Gophers Damage the Structural Integrity of a Foundation?

 In Pest Control

Pests like gophers can wreak havoc on your foundation from below. Their endless tunneling removes support under your home over time. Before long, you may notice mild settling start to develop cracks in walls or floors. But it could eventually lead to big problems too like sinkholes appearing in your yard from their burrowing. No one wants to deal with a compromised foundation – those repairs are a major cost and hassle to endure.

It’s so important to deal with gophers and not let them go unchecked under your home. Their tunnels weaken the structure’s base more each day. If you wait too long, what starts as a minor pest issue could turn into a serious structural concern requiring extensive engineering work. Staying on top of gopher control with traps and deterrents helps ensure your foundation stays stable for many years to come without expensive repair bills down the road. A little prevention up front saves a world of headache later on.

What Are Gophers?

Gophers are small but formidable burrowing rodents that can cause headaches for homeowners. The most common variety are pocket gophers, about 5-7 inches long with fur-lined cheek pouches for carrying food as they tunnel. Other pest species include plains pocket gophers, known for their yellow fur and big claws, and Botta’s pocket gophers found in western regions.

Regardless of type, all gophers use their oversized front teeth and sharp claws to essentially “swim” through soil in underground tunnel systems. They feed on plant roots, bulbs and tubers found beneath lawns and gardens. Homeowners often spot their presence by the small piles of fresh dirt mounded up at tunnel entrances. With an ability to move large amounts of dirt, they pose a risk of undermining foundations if left unmanaged in landscapes.

How Gophers Can Damage Foundations

They can pose a serious risk to foundations through their expansive tunneling, which can extend 15-30 feet laterally and 2-3 feet deep. When these tunnels are located underneath or near a home’s foundation, it can lead to several issues:

  • Cracks in the foundation as tunnels collapse, creating voids that cause uneven settling
  • Sinkholes emerging from caved-in tunnels close to the surface
  • Additional pest entry points through gopher holes
  • Disruption of proper drainage and soil erosion from compromised tunnels
  • Weakened foundation support as gopher activity removes stabilizing soil
  • Warping or detachment of walls from uneven foundation settling in tunnel-affected areas
  • The extent of damage will increase the longer gopher activity goes unchecked near a home’s vulnerable foundation system.

Gophers Are Potential Carriers of Illnesses

In addition to posing foundation risks, also can potentially transmit diseases and parasites to people and pets. They may harbor various illness-causing bacteria, fleas, mites, and worms. Gophers have been linked to serious bacterial infections like plague, tularemia and leptospirosis through infected flea bites or direct contact with their tissues and fluids.

Parasitic roundworms, tapeworms and trichinella are some worms that in rare cases could infect humans ingesting contaminated soil or plant material near gopher tunnels. While the overall risk is low, it’s just one more reason homeowners should closely monitor for these creatures near living areas and address any signs of infestation promptly.

Signs of Gopher Damage

It’s important for homeowners to be watchful for indications of potential gopher damage near their foundation. Several telltale signs could point to gopher activity underground that requires prompt inspection:

  • Fresh dirt mounds appearing outside along the home’s exterior
  • Small, scattered holes visible across lawns or plant beds
  • Patches of sunken or raised earth where tunneling has occurred
  • Cracks forming in walls, floors or other foundation areas
  • Doors or windows sticking in their frames or not closing properly
  • Slightly tilting trees or fences positioned near the home
  • Newly saturated or soggy spots in the soil developing

Discourage Gophers from Moving In

  • Remove nearby food and shelter sources by landscaping with gravel or pavers instead of bushes and flower beds near the foundation.
  • Install wire mesh barriers that extend at least 30 inches deep around the perimeter to block new tunnels from being dug.
  • Place vibrating stakes around the property to unsettle gophers and deter burrowing.

Get Rid of Existing Gophers

  • Use bait or toxic gas (check local regulations first) to kill the one already residing in tunnels near your home.
  • Place traps near freshly-mounded dirt piles or other active tunnel sites.
  • Consider hiring terriers, which are natural hunters of gophers, to clear your property of the pests.

Prevent Structural Damage


  • Fill in any existing holes or tunnels promptly so burrowing cannot expand. Pack dirt firmly with your feet.
  • Conduct regular inspections for new gopher activity and address it immediately.
  • Consult a structural engineer to evaluate your foundation for signs of damage from past tunneling.
  • For cracks or sunken areas already present, meet with foundation repair companies.

When to Call a Professional

There are some signs of gopher damage that require assistance from foundation professionals:

  • Cracks wider than 1/4 inch appearing in the foundation
  • Notable sinking or raising of foundation structural areas
  • Walls or floors starting to separate from the main foundation
  • Substantial drainage or soil erosion problems due to tunneling
  • Extensive tunneling networks that are too advanced for DIY filling

If any of these serious issues are present, it’s important to hire a structural engineer to fully assess the level of foundation compromise. They can recommend suitable repair methods. Foundation contractors provide reinforcement, stabilization and gopher-proofing solutions. While expensive, repairs are far more budget-friendly than a full foundation replacement if damage becomes severe.

It’s best not to delay getting an expert evaluation in cases of substantial gopher damage threatening a home’s structural integrity. Attempting do-it-yourself fixes without a professional assessment often leads to poor results long-term that could further deteriorate the foundation over time.

Gopher-Proofing Your Foundation

Foundation repair contractors have techniques to better protect homes against gophers through proofing installations. A common method is installing a steel mesh barrier around the exterior perimeter to obstruct new burrowing tunnels

Tunnel sealing options include injecting damaged areas underneath the foundation with concrete or grout, which helps stabilize the soil. Vibration stakes emitting high frequencies can be positioned near the home as well to deter them from burrowing close by.

Additional professional treatments may involve applying chemical pesticides near the foundation as permitted by law. Reinforcing weakened sections with steel components like piers, beams or braces provides extra integrity to the structure compromised by gophers in the past.

Repairing drainage issues and improving grading around the foundation prevents water from further destabilizing the soil. While a fully gopher-proof home is difficult, combining professional installations and ongoing control strategies provides enhanced protection against these burrowing pests undermining home foundations.

Gopher Damage Isn’t DIY – Get Professional Support

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Extensive foundation compromise from gophers requires expert intervention. While well-meaning, DIY repairs risk inflicting further problems without specialized knowledge. It’s best to have reputable professionals thoroughly inspect compromised foundations and properly complete all necessary stabilization and gopher-proofing. Paying now prevents much greater costs down the road should the structure deteriorate from neglect.

A company like Maximum Pest Control Services offers wildlife removal and damage assessment services. Our team can evaluate the scope of gopher harm, advise on any repairs, and install gopher-proofing solutions. Ongoing pro pest control then provides solace knowing one’s most valuable asset, their home, stays protected from these burrowing intruders. Investing in the foundation’s integrity protects a home’s long-term structural soundness.

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