We are coming up on the rainy season and your home’s foundation appears to have survived the great drought so far. HOORAY! But is your home’s foundation ready for the rainy season which can cause problems as well?
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All of Texas has been hit this year by drought, record daily temperature highs, and lack of rain. Our expansive Texas clay soils have retracted (shrunk) without the needed moisture. For many homeowners foundation problems have followed this latest and undesired weather condition. The signs of the foundation movement are becoming evident with cracks in sheetrock, cracks in brickwork, sticking doors, and a list of other problems. The lack of rain has led to heavier foundation watering and larger water bills. But so far, if you were lucky, you appear to have dodged the bullet with no or only minor foundation movement indicators. But that was only the first shot and are you ready for the next one?
Now the high temperatures are dropping and many are ready to back off on their foundation watering routine. The cooler temperatures mean less dehydration of the soil right? Not quite and before you do change your foundation watering schedule you need to do a simple check or you might well be hit by that second bullet coming.
As the soil dries out it can pull away from your foundation wall. This is called the drying edge effect. An example of this is shown in the picture here. These gaps can allow water to directly and easily flow down and under the foundation wall. That is something that you most certainly do not want! The water that flows there can find its way to the underlying soils and cause excessively moist soil, potentially wetter than it was under normal weather conditions. That can upset the balance of the soil moisture under the foundation, causing it to rehydrate quickly and swell. The soil under many foundations here has been prepared by drying it and treating it with compounds to prevent it from absorbing excess moisture. Swelling soil is just as bad as shrinking soil when it comes to a foundation. On the other hand if the soil under your foundation is still moist it can also cause over-saturation making the soil weak and unable to support the foundation. That would be like stepping in a patch of soft mud.
The simple check is to view your foundation to determine the extent of this problem. In this drought and heat conditions this example in the picture is actually a minor case and relatively easy to deal with and correct. The correction is to continually run your watering program around the foundation to rehydrate the soil so it will naturally expand back up against the foundation wall to seal off these gaps. You want to do this before the rainy season starts because you can control the moisture application rate to the soil and prevent it from entering these gaps.
You also need to be aware of some misconceptions that can cause you just as much trouble or money lost.
- Do not try to move your soaker hoses, or readjust your sprinkler heads, to spray close to the foundation and these gaps. That is really no different than allowing the rain to penetrate in there. Keep your soaker hoses 18″+ from the foundation and make sure your sprinkler spray heads are not spraying in.
- Do not try to water considerably more than you would normally water. By that I mean don’t run the soaker hoses much longer than normal. It will do little good as these clay soils only absorb 1/16″ of water per hour. Beyond that you will just be wasting water as it runs off elsewhere. You can increase the watering interval but keep an eye on it to make sure you’re not just wasting the water needlessly.
- Do not try to bring in fill to place inside of that gap in an attempt to close it quicker. Sometimes a homeowner thinks they can buy bags or loads of sand or topsoil to fill the cracks in and keep the water out. The problem is these materials are different from the native soils and can cause other issues later. Additionally even if you do use surrounding native soils you just can’t pack/compress it properly to do any good.
Now is the time to start preparing for the rainy season. Don’t wait any longer as you might not dodge that second bullet!
[tab: Links and References]
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