It’s that time of year again when the extreme heat and drought combine to make cracks and craters in your yard.

Are you also aware that it the drought can impact your foundation?

Foundation problems can occur because a structure was built upon expanding or contracting soil, improperly compacted fill soil, or from poor maintenance of the soil around the foundation.  Soil problems.

However, WATER is the primary culprit in soil problems.  There is either too much water, causing the soil to swell, or not enough water, causing the soil to shrink, and both of these affect your foundation.

If all soil beneath a foundation swells uniformly or shrinks uniformly it is unlikely to cause a problem. But when only part of the foundation heaves or settles, differential movement causes cracks and other damage.

 

When there is too much moisture

This is the most serious threat since the swelling potential of expansive soils is much greater than the shrinkage potential.  Moisture can come from plumbing leaks, subsurface water due to wet weather or a high water table, or surface water which is caused by improper drainage of landscape water or rainwater.

 

Too much moisture and water pooling next to your foundation can also cause problems. Clay soil (like the type prevalent in North Texas) tends to retain moisture, which causes the clay to swell and even lift structures built upon it, which can cause structural stress and damage. Keep an eye on your foundation and if water is pooling, fix the problem.  This might include installing rain gutters to move rainwater away from the foundation, minor re-grading by adding or removing dirt, or in rare cases you may need drains to remove pooling water next to your home’s foundation.

 

When there is too little moisture

The soil may be at or near its optimum moisture content when the foundation is built, but it may lose enough moisture during a drought to cause the foundation to settle. Settlement is usually greatest near the perimeter of the foundation where the soil dries most quickly.

Any period of time with limited rainfall, whether related to drought, winter or the extreme heat of summer can cause moisture to leave the clay soil. When clay loses its moisture content it dries, shrinks and hardens.  As the soil shrinks it no longer provides support for the foundation and can cause structural stress and damage. This problem can reveal itself through cracks in the soil and the dirt pulling away from the foundation.  When these signs are visible it may already be too late.

 

To prevent this soil shrinkage, water the ground around your foundation at least once a week during dry periods.  Many people wrap a “soaker hose” such as the one shown here around the house about 18-24″ from the foundation for this very reason.  The longer the dry season and the hotter the temperatures, the more frequently you should water.

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