The rain this spring has helped end the worst of a years-long drought in Texas. While this is good news for the water supply, it isn’t necessarily good for home owners in the Houston, Dallas-Ft Worth, and San Antonio regions. Protracted drought followed by wet weather can cause foundation damage. What is the connection between drought, rain, and foundations? The answer is expansive clay soil. North and central Texas have an abundance of this soil type which shrinks when it dries and expands when it soaks up water.
When homes are built on this soil, the result can be damaged foundations. If the weather in Texas never changed, the soil wouldn’t be such a problem since its moisture content wouldn’t change much. However, the reality is that Texas cycles back and forth between wet and dry weather and it is this change that’s at the heart of the area’s foundation problems.
That’s why extreme heat followed by rain means more foundation problems. The return of wet weather after a protracted drought means the soil is swelling like a dried out sponge soaking up water. Because the soil directly beneath a foundation is protected from rain, it is drier than the rain exposed soil at the foundation’s perimeter. This means the soil expands at the foundation’s edges where it sees rain and lifts the foundation up. Lifting only at the foundation’s edges causes it to crack.
What can home owners do? They should improve the drainage around their homes. Here are five suggestions:
Grade Your Property
Grade your property so that rainwater flows away from your house. It should slope 6 inches down for every 10 feet of distance out from the house. Failure to do this means that rainwater will pool next to your foundation and soak into the soil. Remove anything that prevents water from running down and away from your home such as plants and shrubbery next to the foundation. Plants should be at least two feet from the house.
Keep an Eye on Your Drainage
The only way to know for sure that you have good drainage away from your foundation is to verify it first hand. Inspect the ground immediately after heavy rain and look for pooling near your home. One check isn’t enough because even small changes in the ground can alter its drainage properties.
Maintain Your Rain Gutters
Rain gutters full of debris (or having no gutters at all) means that rainfall from the roof of your home will run down the walls and soak the soil next to your foundation. The gutter downspouts should discharge water five to ten feet away from your home. Install downspout extenders if necessary. Make sure the gutter downspouts are free of debris. Alternatively, you can pipe the gutter water into a drain pipe which runs down and away from your house.
Landscape Improvements Should Never Compromise Your Drainage
Installation of swimming pools or outdoor patios should always conform to the drainage plans of your property. Be mindful that water can migrate fifteen feet underground. Therefore, be careful of backwash from swimming pools near your house.
Don’t Forget Your Driveway
Your driveway should also direct water away from your house. A driveway that hasn’t been repaved in years may warp and allow puddles to form which may overflow next to the foundation. Be alert to similar problems on walkways. The best way to identify problems with either your driveway or walkways is to look at them immediately after a rainstorm.
If you have drainage problems, contact us at Perma-Pier Foundation Repair. We have extensive experience with correcting drainage issues and will evaluate your property free of charge.