We’ve experienced some serious rain the past few weeks here in Texas. Like Portland/Seattle levels of rain. Aside from how green everything is, the smell of the air after a storm, and remembering to keep up with your new best friend: your umbrella – what does all this extra moisture mean to your foundation?
Well, the short answer, like everything in life past the 2nd grade is: it depends.
The impact this level of rain has on your foundation is dependent on 1) your soil type, 2) your foundation type, and 3) how well your property is landscaped in terms of drainage.
Let’s take a look at that first part, soil type.
While there are over 60 different soil types throughout Texas, around here it’s pretty much a guarantee that your home sits on expansive clay soil. What does that mean? It means that our soils expand and contract more than most with the inclusion and exclusion of moisture. This is why foundations in Texas are more susceptible to failure than say, those in Colorado.
Now let’s take a look at your foundation type.
With the exception of some surviving older homes, pretty much every home built in the last 60 years is built upon a slab foundation. This is exactly what it sounds like, a large slab of concrete, poured to resemble the footprint of the home that sits on it. What does this mean? Your entire home sits on a slab of concrete, which in turn sits on the aforementioned expansive clay soil. And although a pier & beam foundation is suspended above the ground itself, it is still susceptible to the movement of soil as well. And excessive moisture over time can contribute to mildew & rotting wood that can weaken the structure. In both foundation types, you can imagine what this means when you soil decides to alter its very dimensions based on the presence or absence of water. Too little moisture and soil that supports your foundation can contract away from it, leaving pockets of unsupported space, which in turn creates stress points that can cause cracking and failure. Conversely, too much moisture and your soil can expand, applying forces to your foundation in new and detrimental ways. So maintaining the proper moisture balance in the soil around your home takes on an even greater importance with these soil types and this type of foundation.
Which leads us to your landscaping and drainage…
You should typically be able to “eyeball” some sort of slope of the ground surrounding your home (and thus your foundation) that slopes down and away from your home. Additionally, during periods of heavy rain (like this past week) you should be able to observe the water on your property channeling its way away from your home to the street, gutters, drains, etc. If you observe pools of standing water, especially those near your foundation, know that the soil underneath your foundation is expanding. A lot.
So now the question is, what can you do about it?
Well, since you can’t do a “soil transplant” underneath your home, nor could you cost-effectively swap out your existing foundation for a different one, the only thing left that you can control is how your property handles the rain.
Take advantage of weather like this and really observe how, and more importantly, where, the water flows on your property. Make a mental note of any low spots that you could potentially fill in – keeping in mind where the water will go once that spot is filled in, you don’t want to make things worse by diverting standing water away from your home back towards your home. See how your gutters are performing. Do they need to be cleaned? Maybe rehung? Do they need leaf guards, etc..? Finally, if you really want to know what is going on, you can always get yourself a soil moisture meter, that would allow you to know just how much moisture is in your soil right now (which is a good time to register what in all likelihood is a “maximum” reading).
Of course, your property may require more than just some fill dirt and sod for a few low patches. You require a more aggressive solution like a dedicated drainage system, some backhoe work, or even a retaining wall to reshape the area surrounding your home. At Perma-Pier, we know how important a sound drainage program is to the health of your foundation, in fact, it’s one of the many services we offer.
So if you think you could use some help with your existing drainage and landscaping, or if you think your foundation is suffering as a result of all this excess rain, why not schedule your free, no charge evaluation?