You know a drought is taking its toll on the slab foundation in your area when the local television news is running stories on how busy foundation repair companies are.
While some parts of the U.S. are finally drying out after record flooding this spring, other parts of the country including Texas are experiencing record dry conditions.
As I write this, my soaker hoses are running. You know the drill, when in drought, water foundation.
A TV outlet in Austin, Texas has a news article where they are talking to both homeowners and foundation contractors and things are not good. Well, not for the homeowners.
One of the homeowners has a problem with his doors sticking, not latching properly, and now cracks are appearing in the walls. Those are classic signs of foundation issues.
Another home owner in need of foundation restoration has a house in a suburb just east of Austin that he plans to move into in September. He thinks the concrete slab foundation has sunk at least five inches since he bought the house and he is having problems with his doors as well.
The contractors, the people who fix foundation for a living are backed up with work. One of the estimators said he is inspecting up to six houses a day and is one of five estimators in the company.
What’s at the root of all this is the fact that thousands and thousands of house foundations in Texas are built on heavy clay soil. When the weather is wet or long periods, the soil swells up and can cause upheaval.
When the weather is dry for a long time, the opposite happens. The soil shrinks and pulls away from the foundation causing it to settle, or drop. You get actual twisting of the interior framing that leaves you with doors and window that don’t open and close like they should, and the cracks start showing up.
The foundation fix is usually done by underpinning with piers of one kind or another. The four most common piers are drilled bell bottom piers, steel, helical, and pushed piers, that is, concrete cylinders that are “pushed” into the ground to the point of refusal. Each system has its pros and cons.
What can the homeowner do to avoid the cost of foundation repair?
I had to chuckle at the advice of one of the guys from an Austin foundation repair company. “Keep the lawn watered, as much as water restrictions will allow, and let the grass grow right up to the slab.”
Obviously a salesman and not a structural engineer. Watering your lawn ain’t gonna do squat for your foundation. Soaker hoses, placed 12-18 inches from the concrete slab are your best bet for keeping an even bed of moisture in that clay soil. Run them often enough to keep the soil from shrinking away from the foundation. During a long hot dry summer, that might mean turning the soaker hoses on for awhile every day.
Soaker hoses and root barriers are two tools at your disposal to protect your slab foundation. Many foundation companies can install them for you.