Keep an Eye on the Soaker Hoses

We are experiencing a pretty long hot dry spell in my part of the world. That means making sure the clay soil around my concrete slab-on-ground foundation doesn’t dry up and pull away. I’ve been running the soaker hoses pretty regularly and they do a nice job keeping the ground around the perimeter of my foundation moist or at least not too dry. We call it “watering the foundation.”

I did notice that one of the soaker hoses in the front was sending a 2 foot spray in the air. The problem with that is a reduction in the water pressure down stream from the spray and a less even distribution of water around that part of the foundation.

The fix is simple since soaker hoses are such low tech creatures. Mark the hose where the spray comes out, let the hose dry out a bit, then wrap the area with hose repair tape. Electrical tape works too. You are just trying to knock down a spray, not stop a leak.

If you are using soaker hoses to keep even moisture around your slab foundation it is a good idea to walk the perimeter once a week or so and look for breaks or big leaks that need fixing.

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    • Kat
    • August 7, 2008

    What about watering pier and beam with concrete skirting around the perimeter? Being in Texas with severely cracking soils and soaring temps – I don’t want the soil to pull away from the concrete any more than it already has – about to run out to Home Depot and get enough hoses to circle the house. Let me know your thoughts.

  1. I don’t see how using soaker hoses could hurt in your situation assuming you have good drainage away from the foundation. You don’t want water to pool. You may need to use a combination of regular hoses and soaker hoses to get even pressure all around the foundation. Check this earlier post for a diagram.
    I hope this helps and thanks for reading the blog.
    Good luck!

    • Kat
    • August 7, 2008

    We are up on a slight incline or hill so water either runs down the front or down the back of our property – not too concerned about water pooling, just see the large gaps in some of the sides and the enormous crevasses in the yard in other places (where they seem bottomless) which concerns me. We lived in another part of DFW and I never ever saw such horrible soil shifts. Even two years ago when we had numerous days in the mid 100’s and not a drop of rain in sight.

    • Austinite
    • August 13, 2008

    I am living in Austin and we are seeing some signs of some movement in the foundation. We have some wall and floor hairline cracks and there are new cracks on the foundation.

    I am going to put a soaker hose around the perimeter of the house, but I am wondering what people do about the parts of the house that are covered such as the driveway or a tile patio. If the goal is to keep moisture levels constant is it a problem if there are two parts of the house perimeter that won’t be getting hit with the soaker hose?

    Also, once your soil has dried out and pulled away from the house a bit what is the solution?

    Thanks for any input, this is very stressful for a new first time homeowner!

  2. Most people don’t worry about soaker hoses and driveways in that the driveway represents a relatively small area compared to the rest of the foundation. Same with the patio.

    The soil that has pulled away should snuggle back up after the soaker hoses have done their thing. If not, you can press it back to the slab with garden tools.

    Good luck!

  3. We don’t have issues here in Atlanta with expansive clay soils, so I haven’t run into issues with soaker hoses. However, even in an area such as this, if you don’t maintain gutters, or your lot doesn’t drain properly away from the foundation, the soil your foundation sets on will lose bearing capacity as it gets saturated.

    Another issue that happens here is in periods of wet weather improperly compacted soils can settle suddenly, causing foundation failure.

    Even without expansive soils we have plenty of problems here due to poor construction. I would hate to see what we’d have here with soils like you have in Texas!


    • Jennifer Wallgren
    • May 7, 2009

    I have just stretched a new soaker hose around my house. We just bought the place a month ago. At the time, during inspection, there were no cracks anywhere in or around the house. It had a flawless foundation.
    NOW, on the other hand, there is a hairline crack in the master-bedroom. The house is 35 years old and on expansive clay. We live in South Texas and it was already 103 yesterday. We have had substantial rain for months.
    I dont want to ask my husband b/c I want it finished when he gets home (without his help) as a surprize. He has been out of town and unable to do this himself. I want it done right. Am I supposed to dig a trench for the hose to sit in and if so is it supposed to be covered up? How long is it supposed to be on and how often?
    Any help is appreciated! Thank you!

  4. There is no need to dig a trench for the soaker hose. I do like to keep mine covered with mulch to cut down on evaporation.
    Simply run them often enough and long enough to maintain even moisture around the foundation. You don’t want the soil to pull away from the slab, but you don’t want puddles around the house either. It largely depends on the weather, how much rain you’ve received or if you are entering a hot dry spell.

    Try running the soaker hoses for 15-20 minutes at a time twice a day, see what happens, and adjust from there.

    There’s more info on soaker hoses here:

    Thanks and good luck!

    • rick jones
    • August 11, 2010

    How far from the house do the soaker hose’s need to be ?

  5. Usually a foot to 18 inches out from the foundation.
    Thanks for stopping by.

    • Dave
    • August 12, 2010

    I have a double wide mobilhome that is setting on square blocks. the ground gets extremley dry and cracks open. with the blocks being scattered under the house, would a soaker hose system even work; Thanks for a reply!

  6. I don’t see why soaker hoses wouldn’t help. Just don’t run them so much the ground gets too mushy and the blocks sink some. The goal is to keep even moisture around the foundation, which in your case are the blocks. You basically have a pier and beam type foundation, the concrete blocks acting as piers.
    Thanks for stopping by, Dave.

    • m.Rochelle
    • August 20, 2010

    I am just starting to use a soaker hose in my garden,I do not know how long to leave it on to start with.Do i let it run for hours or days?

  7. I would run the soaker hoses for an hour or two at a time and see what happens. After a while you’ll get a feel for how long it takes to put down the amount of water you need.

    • Tim Dupree
    • March 5, 2011

    Watering your foundation correctly can reduce seasonal movement when your homes foundation rests on expansive clay soils. Expansive clay soils swell when exposed to moisture and shrink when moisture is removed. Factors around the home such as tree’s, bushes, extreme heat and strong winds can can accelerate moisture evaporation of the clay soils and if moisture is depleted deep into the active zone foundation settlement begins to show. The active zone in clay soils can be determined by taking soil samples by a mature tree and measuring the depth where root fibers from the tree are no longer present. The active zone of the soil is the depth below the surface of the ground that clay soils can swell and shrink. Active zones can be 10 feet or deeper depending on soil composition. It is important to keep this active zone hydrated year around to keep the moisture content more stable around the home. Watering your foundation should be done year around because much moisture is depleted from the active zone during the summer months when tree’s are searching for moisture. Tree’s can absorb as much as 150 gallons of water a day for every 12” of their diameter. The feeder roots of tree’s can extend out well passed the trees drip line depleting 100’s of gallons of water from the clays supporting your foundation. Watering your foundation year around can rehydrate the claysoils deep into the active zone and help recover some if not all of it’s elevation loss. The best way I recommend to water with a soaker hose is as follow:

    -attach a Y connector to your outside water faucet

    -attach a regular water hose to one end and a battery or electrical operated timer to other end of Y connector.

    -attach a pressure regulator below the timer that will reduce water pressure from the faucet down to 10-20 p.s.i.

    -attach a 2nd Y connector after the pressure regulator and attach soaker hoses to each Y

    Lay or bury just below the surface the soaker hose 1-2 feet distance from the foundation and flatwork all around home.

    Program the timer to water your foundation as follow:

    -(Fall & Winter) 15 minutes every 12 hours

    -(spring) 15 minutes every 8 hours

    -(summer) 15 minutes every 4-6 hours

    When watering your foundation monitor the moisture in the soil by sticking a plumbers probe or long screw driver in the soil about 1 foot deep on all sides of the home. The resistance should be consistant. When you pull the probe out the dirt should stick to it but not look like chocolate pudding. If it looks like chocolate pudding reduce watering if it doesn’t go in the ground easily and dirt isn’t sticking to it increase watering. The reason you water less in the fall and winter is because it takes longer for the claysoils to un seal enough to take in more water. Clay soils seal up after about 15 minutes and the will not absorb any more water. The secret to watering your foundation is slow low and often

  8. Tim,
    Thanks for the great information. We appreciate your input.

    • justin
    • July 10, 2011

    I noticed that if you tie more than two soaker hoses together that it looses it’s effectiveness, it is best to use a “y” or another faucet if you need more than 2.
    just some experience I’ve had

  9. Justin,
    That’s true. The second soaker hose usually runs out of water pressure and won’t be delivering enough water to that part of the slab foundation. I use a “Y” with a regular garden hose feeding the second soaker hose.

    • ron
    • July 13, 2011

    been soaker hoseing a long time and has done well by me live in city but have a well,problem i spend more time repairing soaker hoses than i do watering,even replace and still blow out thanks ron

    • Dan
    • July 19, 2011

    Hi Digger,

    I have significant pulling away of soil on the NW and NE corners of my house. I happen to have crepe myrtles within three feet of each corner of my house. Could that be the cause. Should i just cut them way back or take them out?
    Thank you

  10. Dan,
    Crepe Myrtles generally have a shallow and small root ball, and are not considered a problem for slab foundations. Neither my structural engineer nor the contractor who put in my root barriers were concerned about the crepe myrtles I had near the foundation.

    • July 28, 2011

    My husband and I are first time home buyers. Our house is approximately 60 years old and we’ve been in it for just over 5 years. In hindsight we were fools, and shortly after moving in we pulled up all of the soaker hoses (gasp!) We didn’t know what they were for and we didn’t know anything about foundation problems or the need to “water a foundation.” In addition, we have many large trees within a 10-20 foot perimeter of our home. In order to conserve water over the past several years we have stopped using our sprinkler system to water the trees, lawn, etc. No surprise, we are now experiencing major settling along the outside edges of our home (up to 2-3″ in certain areas) and are investigating foundation repair.

    Our big question: Is it too late for soaker hoses to solve the problem?

    We’ve also had a structural engineer visit our house and provide a report. In a few days a plumber will be here to inspect our water and sewer lines. Assuming that we don’t have a leak, is there any way that installing soaker hoses and consistently watering the foundation and nearby plants/trees will solve our problem. Or is the damage already too far gone, and are piers (or a comparable repair) our only option?

  11. Jennifer,
    I think the smartest thing you did was to have a structural engineer do an inspection for you. If piers are called for, it would be a good idea for him to inspect the project as work is being done. Also, ask him about root barriers placed between the trees and your foundation.

    Having said that, I don’t think it is ever too late for soaker hoses, and many foundation repair companies recommend using them as on-going maintenance of your foundation. Look at the comment Tim Dupree left on this post about how to set up and use them. Just scroll up to find it.

    So I would get soaker hoses going around your house again and see if you can reverse the settling you describe. But remember I’m just a homeowner and a writer and NOT in the foundation repair business. The person you should listen to is the engineer.
    Best Regards,

    • Regina
    • August 1, 2011

    I am a first time homebuyer, and I have my sights set on a new home without gutters around the sides and back of the home. I asked about getting gutters installed from the builder, but they said that it isn’t a good idea because the rainwater is necessary to keep moisture in the soil and foundation. With the dry summer we’ve been having, gutters don’t seem necessary. However, what would be the impact of not having gutters during a wet season? Any recommendation in regards to gutters is appreciated. Thanks!

  12. Regina,
    If you have good drainage away from the foundation, meaning the rain won’t pond and form big puddles next to the house, you’ll be OK without gutters. Personally, I like to control the water coming off the roof with gutters, making sure proper drainage happens, then add moisture during dry times with soaker hoses. Also, sheets of rain off the roof can mess up any flowerbeds around the house. I’m a fan of gutters. Don’t like to clean them, though.

    • BL
    • August 1, 2011

    Thanks for the info on your site. Also thanks to T. Dupree for his instructions, they were great. My irrigation installer had the foresight of setting up a zone for our foundation. He set a drip line (with pressure compensating emitters every 12″) all around the house and I’m able to control it using the sprinkler control so it’s fully automated. I was not using it but after reading your website I have programmed it to come on daily per Dupree’s recommendations as I now see the importance of watering the foundation!

    • BL
    • August 1, 2011


    The builder is giving you bad advice in efforts to sell the house. Gutters are preferable. Think about this: right now our soils are bone dry when the rain comes all of a sudden the roof line will dump water right at your foundation and that is not a good thing because the foundation will become over saturated very fast. You can always have them installed yourself after you move in. The cost is very reasonable. We paid approx $1300 in 2010 to have our house done (DFW area). Our house is about 2000 sqft. Good luck!

    • kaliah
    • August 4, 2011

    I had my house built last September and now I am noticing huge gaps (2-3 in) and holes (fist size) in the grass by the driveway. Ive been watering every other day for about 30 mins. The builder put in a sprinkler system. Tonight I took my water hose and just stuck it in the holes for about an hour and half total. Is it too late to invest in soaker hoses? And would it be okay to fill in the holes with dirt?

  13. It’s never too late to invest in soaker hoses. Even after the extreme drought has passed, it’s still a good idea to keep an even layer of moisture around the perimeter of your slab foundation. Think of it as on-going foundation maintenance.

    • roofer
    • October 21, 2011

    It is actually a nice and helpful piece of info. I am glad that you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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