Affordable housing options, continued job growth, cultural diversity, and world-class attractions are some of the factors that make Houston a great place to live. Sadly, we cannot say the same thing about its soil. Having a high clay content, Houston’s soil is extremely vulnerable to seasonal fluctuations, which cause it to significantly expand during the winter and shrink just as much in the summer.
Over the past few years, the summer time has been a challenge for many Houston homeowners, who are more and more concerned about the state of their landscapes and foundations. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take, as detailed in this checklist, in order to protect your foundation from drought and its negative effects.
Step #1: Examine Your Foundation
A foundation should be inspected on a regular basis in order to identify the first signs of damage before they turn into serious structural issues. If you never checked your foundation before, make sure that you inspect it as soon as possible and look for specific problems, such as soil shrinkage, cracking, and/or pulling away from the structure. As well, it’s important to inspect the exterior and interior of your home to see if any cracks have developed in the foundation, walls, floor, and/or ceiling. If you observe cracks or any other issues (e.g. warped ceilings, sagging floors, and/or doors/windows that fail to latch properly) that signal foundation problems, it’s important to have your foundation checked by a certified foundation repair contractor.
Step #2: Water Your Foundation
During drought conditions, dried-out soil can shrink to the point where it cracks and/or detaches from your foundation. Because dry soil no longer provides the support your foundation needs in order to carry your home’s weight properly, it could lead to foundation problems that may cause damage to your home.
The easiest and most effective thing you can do to avoid foundation damage during the hot summer months is to keep the soil around your foundation at a relatively constant moisture level. This can be achieved by watering it regularly with the help of a timer-controlled sprinkler system or a soaker hose placed about 18 inches away from the foundation.
When water is absorbed at a constant rate into the soil, it can prevent foundation problems from occurring or, at least, stop them from getting worse. When watering your foundation, remember to check the soil around your home for runoff or standing water. While water runoff means there’s more water than the ground can absorb, water pooling around your home could be an indicator of drainage issues.
The problem with standing water is that it could saturate the soil, which may lead to foundation failure. In short, when clay soil absorbs a lot of water, it may become too soft to support the weight of your entire home. As a result, your foundation may start to sink and settle unevenly. This will eventually lead to major structural damage in your home.
Step #3: Monitor Your Watering System
Whether you use a timer-controlled sprinkler system or a soaker hose, it’s important to check it regularly in order to ensure it runs correctly. If your watering system stops working, the soil may dry out and start to shrink in just a few hours. Although this may not affect your foundation right away, watering system problems that go ignored could eventually cause foundation issues.
Step #4: Consider Installing Root Barriers or Relocating the Trees and Shrubs Planted too Close to Your Home
Trees, shrubs, and plants are lovely additions to a Houston home. However, planting them too close to your home could deteriorate both the siding and foundation. The reason why trees, shrubs, and large plants cause foundation damage is that their roots actively seek moisture in the soil. During dry weather, the root systems of the trees, shrubs, and plants planted near your home will extract large quantities of water. This could lead to large volumetric changes around and underneath your foundation, even if you water your foundation as explained above. Because your home may start to settle more in unsupported areas, differential settlement could occur over time. There are two ways you can remediate the negative effects of any plants planted near your home; namely, opting for root barrier systems or relocating all the trees, shrubs, and plants that may affect your foundation.
With this summer foundation checklist, you can easily protect your home from foundation damage. That’s because performing routine maintenance and addressing foundation problems in a timely manner is key to keeping your home in tip-top shape and preventing hefty repair bills. For a free consultation or for more information about what else you can do to protect your foundation from the hot Houston summer, contact Allied Foundation today!