There are a lot of reasons why a residential concrete foundation in Texas can go bad on you. The most common reason is the expansive clay soils in large parts of the state. If you put all the folks in Houston , Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas-Ft. Worth together, throw in East Texas, you’ve got a major part of the population. Most of them are sitting on clay soils that shrink and swell depending on the rainfall.
You can live in the drier climes of West Texas and have concrete foundation problems too. Sometimes housing developments are built over filled-in arroyos. If the soil wasn’t compacted enough you could have settling that is bad for the foundation. Plumbing leaks can cause soil to erode out from under the slab. (More on that later) And even bone-dry El Paso has pockets of expansive clay soils in the Upper and Lower Valleys along the mighty Rio Grande.
If you are looking for information on foundation repair in Texas, the Foundation Performance Association website has a listing of geotechnical, structural, forensic, and civil engineers, inspectors, consultants, foundation repair contractors and related businesses. (FPA) is a non-profit corporation in Texas.
The Texas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers as published a set of guidelines on foundation repair on their website as well as how to build a foundation right in the first place. If you’d like to hire an engineer to inspect your foundation another place to find one is the searchable database of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. Type in your city and you’ll get a list of engineering firms to contact.
Back to the erosion thing. True story. In a nice new neighborhood on the east side of El Paso was a big fancy new house with a swimming pool behind it. Before long all the classic signs of foundation failure started to raise their ugly heads. There were diagonal cracks in the brick veneer, wide cracks in the interior drywall, cracks in the flooring and for the longest time, nobody could figure out why. The buyer moved out and sent for lawyers. A general contractor bought the home thinking he could find the problem, fix it, stay there a couple years then sell for a nice profit.
The problem turned out to be the fact, crazy as it seems, that the drain for the swimming pool had never been connected to the sewer line and was sending the water under the house. Pool builders and city inspectors are supposed to catch such monumental screw-ups but this one slipped past everybody. The house was built on fill and every time the pool water drained soil was washed away from under the house causing the foundation to sag and tilt.
The repair method was to drill holes in the foundation through which a cement slurry was pumped to replace the lost soil in a process often called “mudjacking.” It worked. I know this is a true story because it was my father-in-law’s company that did the slurry pumping. Get a martini in him and he’ll tell you the whole story and if you’re lucky, only once.
Oh, and they did connect the swimming pool to the sewer line.