For Houston homeowners, concrete foundation damage poses a serious threat. Every year, residents of Harris County spend over $450 million for foundation repairs. “Blame it on the soil,” says the foundation repair industry. Houston’s expansive clay soil tends to swell when it gets wet and shrink as it dries.
Trees around the house can compound the problem. A mature live oak can drain up to 600 gallons of water per day from the soil. Even pine trees, which draw much less water from the soil, have extensive roots that can grow under the concrete foundation and cause problems.
What can homeowners do to stave off foundation problems? Installing root shields in the ground between the house and the trees will block the roots from growing toward or under the house and a good sprinkler system might help somewhat by providing ample water for the trees. In communities like Santa Barbara, California, which experiences foundation problems similar to Houston’s, newly planted trees are required to have these root barriers. Whether they are installed when foundation repairs are being done or at any other time, root barriers are a good idea for Houston.
Houston, we have a foundation problem
To help you assess the seriousness of your problem, you might want to monitor cracks that appear in your plaster, tile or brick. One good way to do that is to draw a diagonal pencil line across the crack and lightly record the date. You can then see if the crack grows and how quickly.
Several different solutions to foundation problems are currently available in the Houston area. Traditionally, repairs have involved installing piling or piers under the concrete slab foundation, either all the way around or just where needed.
Houston is home to the Foundation Performance Association (FPA) “a non-profit professional organization dedicated to advancing the knowledge and professional standards of light foundation design, engineering, construction, inspection and repair.
Members and guests involved in the design, construction, inspection, repair and forensic investigation of the foundations of residential and other light construction buildings are encouraged to attend the meetings and learn more about the Association.
As a Houston area home owner, you can find engineers and foundation repair contractors listed on the website.
Also see the post on this blog “Consider a Structrual Engineer.”