clay soils

The Number One Cause of Slab Foundation Problems

Photo of cracked dry earth that causes foundation problemsIf it’s not the number one problem then it’s a very close second.

It’s the soil.

If your slab-on-ground concrete foundation sits on heavy clay soils that dry out , then swell up when heavy rains come, the foundation  is in danger of movement.

It’s exactly this kind of expanding then shrinking that causes most of the common signs of foundation stress and damage.

A lot of foundation repair companies will tell you that the sticking doors,  windows that are hard to open and close, diagonal cracks in the drywall and brick, and sloping floors are signs that you might need foundation leveling.

And the main culprit is the clay soil that swells and shrinks.

We had a classic case of the soils reacting to the weather this past summer in North Texas.  Weeks of little or no rain, depending on whether you were lucky enough to be under a stray pop-up thunderstorm or not.  (Shrink)

Then along came Tropical Storm Hermine.  (more…)

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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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Protect Foundation-Checking the Soaker Hoses

We had a bit of a dry spell last week and I decided to run my soaker hoses to make sure the soil around my concrete slab foundation was staying moist.

I hadn’t needed to run the soaker hoses in quite a while. Even though I have gutters that take most of the rainfall away from the foundation the soil was not drying out significantly because we have had a lot of rain in my area this spring and so far this summer. Record amounts of rain.

I’m using a “T” splitter on the west side of my foundation to make sure I have enough water pressure in the entire length of the soaker hose. I’m using a configuration similar to the diagram on this page. (more…)

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Clay Soil – Living In The Swell Times of Shrink-Swell

This little blog is written from the Dallas, Texas part of the globe which happens to be in one of the busiest areas for foundation repair companies. Why?

Most of the residential neighborhoods are built on what used to be black prairie farmland.  Where once they grew cotton they now grow housing developments planted in the same heavy clay soils.

These soils swell when wet and shrink when it’s dry. The result is rising, falling and twisting of the average slab-on-ground concrete foundation. The use of soaker hoses to keep the soil around the foundation moist is a must. (more…)

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A Piece of Concrete Has Fallen From My House. Can Ruin Be Far Behind?

I was running the soaker hoses around the foundation a few days ago and noticed a pretty bad crack just above the southwest corner of the foundation. Tapping at it with the toe of my shoe caused a chunk of concrete to fall away. I had no idea I possessed such power in my shoes.

Corner wedge of concrete slab foundation
I hadn’t paid much attention to this crack because it had been hiding behind shrubs up until a few weeks ago. So I had to wonder if this corner thing means my foundation is critically ill and I should be calling Dr. McPiers.

Not to worry, says R. Michael Gray, P.E. and Matthew T. Gray who have a structural engineering and home inspection firm in Houston.

It’s called a wedge crack. (more…)

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