Most homeowners in Houston are no stranger to foundation problems. No matter where you live in Houston, your home is probably built on a mix of soil and clay, as opposed to rock. When it comes to your home's foundation, the properties of the underlying soil can spell disaster. Here's a look at some of the most common problems homeowners in Houston face with their foundations.
Cracks Caused by Heaving
Heaving occurs during the wet season when the soil and clay beneath your foundation absorb water rapidly and expand. Clay soil mixtures do not drain water as effectively as sandy and rocky soils, because the clay actually sucks in the water. The expansion of the clay then causes unequal pressure on the underside of your foundation, especially around the edges and joints. This often leads to diagonal cracks that break off corners or work their way outwards.
Cracks Caused by Voids
As hard as the wet season can be on your foundation, a dry spell can be just as damaging. When clay dries out, it contracts, leaving behind empty spaces beneath your foundation. This sudden lack of support will also cause cracking, especially if the clay dries out at different rates across the length of your house. In addition to voids created by drought, other voids may appear after a heavy rain, as things start to dry out and loose soil is washed away. Each time this happens, new pockets are created beneath your foundation causing issues.
Once the first cracks appear in your foundation, it is likely that things will continue to get worse with time. What began as tiny spider-web cracks in one corner of the house can grow into a massive problem when water and debris seep into space, causing further expansion. Eventually, you will find that the built-in joints in your foundation are notably wider than before, and moisture is coming in along your walls and through your flooring. Furthermore, the expansion of these joints applies outward pressure to your exterior walls, oftentimes causing problems in your corner bricks, around windows, and more.
Even under the best of circumstances, it is natural for a home to settle over time. The weight of your home must be evenly distributed across your entire foundation at the outset, but as soil expands, contracts, and erodes at different rates, there will inevitably be places where the soil succumbs to the weight and compacts itself. Engineers know to plan for settling in advance, but even they cannot predict exactly what will happen. Settling usually takes many years to become a problem, and you will likely discover that your doors and windows start to jam before you realize your foundation is at the root of the problem. Eventually, your entire floor will become unlevel, especially in the upper level of your home, and you may even see cracked tile or other visible flooring damage caused by the stress.
Ultimately, all foundation problems in Houston originate with water in and around your home. You may not be able to prevent major shifts in weather patterns, but you can take steps to manage the soil around your home so it won't react so dramatically to precipitation in your area. This is best accomplished by installing a foundation watering system that will keep your soil properly saturated at all times. This prevents the soil from absorbing large amounts of water and then rapidly drying out and creating voids.
If you are already seeing signs of foundation problems, it is best to call Allied Foundation right away. Small foundation cracks can usually be treated in a few hours, and your floor can be leveled in no time, but if you leave a crack for too long you could be facing irreparable damage to your walls and the rest of your home.