Climate change affects the entire environment around us, including the soil underneath our Houston homes. Currently, the planet’s surface temperature is increasing by an average rate of 0.14ºF each decade. The air temperature that rises gradually is followed closely by the soil temperature, which has increased by 33-34ºF at all depths over the past few years. Since soil warming, also called underground climate change, leads to a higher water evaporation rate from the soil, it can become a big problem, especially in areas with clay soil and seasonal droughts, like Houston. This article explains the impact underground climate change could have on your Houston home’s foundation.
Prolonged Droughts and Your Houston Home’s Foundation
Precipitation becoming less frequent is one of the negative effects of climate change. In areas like Houston, less rainfall typically results in prolonged drought conditions. Prolonged droughts and higher temperatures could cause the soil underneath your foundation to dry out at a faster rate. When that happens, the ground beneath your foundation may dry out excessively and shrink considerably. Due to the new soil conditions underneath, the foundation may start to move, which could cause it to shift and settle unevenly.
Heavier Rainfall and Your Houston Home’s Foundation
Not only does climate change decrease the frequency of precipitation and increase outdoor temperatures, but it also tends to affect the intensity of precipitation. Because higher temperatures increase the amount of water that evaporates from the oceans into the air, Houston and other cities that are located close to large bodies of water may see heavier rainfall and more intense storms. Besides potentially leading to flash flooding, heavy rainfall can saturate the soil around and beneath your foundation in a relatively short amount of time, which could lead to both heaving and soil erosion.
On the one hand, heaving can compromise the stability of your foundation by causing the ground underneath it to expand considerably. When that happens, the ground may start pushing against the downside of your foundation, which could result in uneven settlement, cracks in the foundation, walls, and floors, and misaligned door and window frames. If flash flooding also occurs, it could make the problem worse, as all that excess water may exert additional pressure on your foundation and other structural components within your home.
On the other hand, soil erosion might create voids underneath your foundation. In addition to possibly leaving your foundation without proper support, those gaps basically mean more space for water to occupy. Any excess water that accumulates underneath your home may expose your foundation to an additional force, commonly referred to as hydrostatic pressure, which could lead to further damage.
Another consequence of climate change is the long-term alteration of soil composition and functions. As negative changes occur in the soil around your property, the ground under your foundation could become even less stable than it already is. This may affect its ability to support the weight of your home.
Even though unstable soil cannot cause the sudden collapse of a structure, many homes in Houston and adjacent cities are currently undergoing unwanted settlement along with some irreversible changes, which take place slowly but continuously. Left untreated, soil problems can result in serious foundation damage that may require substantial professional repairs.
One way to counteract the adverse effects of underground climate change on your Houston home is to reduce the water evaporation rate from the soil along with the amount of heat entering the ground around the foundation. This can be done by installing a soaker hose or sprinkler system around your home during drought conditions. You could also opt for some simple insulation/soil stabilization methods, such as using geosynthetics, mulch, or vegetation, which will further protect the soil around your foundation from drying excessively and being washed away by heavy rainfall or floodwaters.
Also, ensuring proper drainage around your property and installing a sump pump to remove excess water as quickly as possible are two more measures that could help you protect your home during heavy rainfall and storms.
How can you tell if your Houston home’s foundation has been affected by climate change?
Some of the signs indicating that climate change might have already taken a toll on your Houston home are:
- Gaps around door and window frames as well as doors and windows that no longer open and close properly;
- Cracks in the foundation, walls, floors, and ceilings;
- Unusually dried soil around your foundation, especially during drought conditions;
- Increased humidity/mold/mildew in your crawl space and/or water damage in your home due to more intense/frequent storms;
- Uneven, bouncy, or sloping floors;
- More pests in your crawl space and home.
While these signs might indicate that climate change is already affecting your Houston home’s foundation, the only way to know for sure is to reach out to a trusted team of foundation repair experts. Contact Allied Foundation professionals today to have a complimentary foundation inspection performed and find out if your Houston home’s foundation needs to be repaired or just protected from future damage. Either way, we’re here to help!