In the Houston-Galveston area, it is quite common for front porches to settle and sag over time. If you’re also experiencing this problem in your home, different repair methods can be employed to fix your porch. However, identifying the underlying events that have caused the problem in the first place is just as important as choosing the most appropriate repair solution. Even if you decide to tear down your porch and build a new one from scratch, not knowing what exactly has caused the initial failure could create the same issue in the future.
Assessing the Possible Causes of a Sagging Front Porch
When it comes to a sagging front porch, there are usually 2 main culprits behind it. One is wood damage, which may result from a termite infestation or dry rot. The other one is soil movement due to repeated expansion-contraction cycles.
The clay soil we have in Houston can absorb large quantities of water and expand accordingly. That is more likely to happen during rainy weather or when you have an underground leak. Conversely, if clay soil is allowed to dry out completely during a drought, it can shrink considerably. When this happens, cracks and gaps may start to develop in the ground around and underneath your foundation. As this could cause one or more sections of your foundation to crack, shift, and settle into the hollow areas where settlement has occurred, both your porch and home may become susceptible to differential settlement and sagging.
The first thing you can do to avoid these issues is to be aware of any factors that could cause the water content of the soil around your house to change. Here are the most important ones:
- Clogged gutters – The biggest problem with clogged gutters is that they tend to overflow during heavy rainfall. That may allow a lot of water to accumulate at the base of your home. Furthermore, all that excess water could seep into your crawlspace and underneath the foundation. Once the soil around and under your home becomes saturated, it will start to expand and move. That could lead to foundation damage and sagging in your front porch.
- Poor drainage and negative grading – Poor drainage and negative grading basically mean that water can accumulate around your home, which could cause soil erosion. As well, this may lead to hydrostatic pressure, which is known to exert a lot of stress on a home’s foundation. While excess pressure could cause dangerous horizontal cracking in your foundation, soil erosion may allow it to shift and settle unevenly. These problems will have a ripple effect on your entire house, eventually affecting your front porch, exterior and interior walls, floors, ceilings, and other structural components.
- Normal settling – Unlike differential settlement, which typically occurs as a result of volumetric changes in the soil due to water content fluctuations, normal settling is often caused by the home’s weight on the ground. While it’s perfectly normal for any house to sink into the ground over time, this could still be detrimental to your foundation and front porch.
- Normal wear and tear – The normal wear and tear of concrete structures generally manifests itself as spalling, pitting, and hairline cracking. If any of these issues are allowed to progress, they can affect the foundation under your porch and home.
- Tree roots – The roots of any large trees or shrubs that grow near your house could cause the soil underneath your porch to move and shift. Obviously, this could make your front porch and other nearby structures sag and even lead to a partial foundation collapse if left unaddressed.
How to Fix a Sagging Front Porch
Sometimes, what’s happening to the front porch is a clear indicator of what’s happening to the entire house. If your front porch’s foundation is damaged, chances are your home’s foundation will be affected by different issues at some point.
If you see your porch starting to sink or pull away from your home, the best course of action you can take to slow down the progression of the damage is to add some extra dirt underneath and next to it in a way that ensures positive grading. If you suspect the problem was caused by soil shrinkage and cracking, installing a soaker hose or sprinkler system around the porch area and foundation may help alleviate the issue until you have your foundation inspected by a foundation repair contractor.
For advice on how to install a soaker hose or sprinkler system around your foundation correctly as well as other things you can do to prevent further foundation damage, feel free to contact Allied Foundation today! Besides offering expert advice on a wide variety of foundation-related problems, we can also inspect your foundation free of charge and, if required, come up with the best repair solution that will lift and restore both your porch and home to its original condition!