How Commercial Property Managers Can Spot Dry Weather Foundation Problems

warehouse with dry weather foundation problems

Depending on what region of Texas your property is located in, summers can either be a hot and humid affair or extremely dry. If you own or manage property in an area that experiences droughts during the summer, it’s important to understand that dry weather can cause serious damage to your foundation. Foundation repairs and inspections during the summer months are the best methods for preventing additional damage and more costly repairs down the road.

What Causes Dry Weather Foundation Problems?

During dry seasons, soils can quickly lose their moisture. As moisture leaves, the soil around the foundation contracts, especially in dryer areas of Texas such as Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. This causes the property’s foundation to shift. Since the soil under the foundation of your property dries at a different rate than the soil around your property, the foundation will shift unevenly, which can cause cracking, buckling and deterioration.

It may not be obvious at first, but the signs of foundation damage will eventually appear and could include:

  • Cracks in interior and exterior walls
  • Uneven, buckling flooring
  • Plumbing issues
  • Doors and windows that jam
  • Broken tiles and grout popping

If you own property in a dryer region of Texas, here are tips for identifying and preventing dry weather foundation problems from getting worse.

Identifying Foundation Issues for Your Property Type

Multi-Family Apartments and Condos

The first step to protecting your residents and property value is to adjust your irrigation systems to a summer setting. Ideally, you should keep the moisture level of the soil around your property at a consistent level year-round. The amount of watering necessary will be unique to your property and can be determined by using a soil moisture meter. If you don’t have automated sprinklers, work with residents and your property managers to educate them on how frequently the surrounding landscape should be watered.

You should also remind residents to notify you right away if they witness any signs of foundation issues including:

  • Plumbing issues in their residence
  • Cracks inside or around the property
  • Doors and windows jamming
  • Uneven sidewalk and cracks in pavement

Spotting a problem and addressing it quickly will help minimize the cost of repair.

Office and Retail Centers

Owning a multi-tenant commercial property means working around many different requirements and schedules. The more you can limit the number of repairs, the better. When inspecting your property for the signs listed above, check with all your tenants to make sure their employees are on the lookout as well.

One way to protect against dry weather foundation problems is to ensure that the landscaping around your commercial property is conducive to moisture absorption. Trees and shrubs compete with your foundation for moisture, so one solution is to install root barriers between surrounding trees and your property. Our experts recommend the following guidelines for planting trees near your commercial property:

  • Small trees (up to 30 feet tall): 8 to10 feet from the property
  • Medium trees (30-70 feet tall): at least 15 feet from the property
  • Large trees (larger than 70 feet): at least 20 feet away from the property

Manufacturing and Warehouses

Foundation problems from dry weather may be more difficult to spot in a warehouse environment. After all, since customers aren’t coming through, less attention is usually paid to aesthetic details. Many warehouse operators may not consider a small crack in the floor or slightly uneven wall to be a big deal, but these issues will only get worse with time if left unaddressed. You should alert your tenants to have all employees on the lookout for any signs of foundation damage, such as:

  • Cracks in exterior warehouse walls
  • Cracks in interior offices and hallways
  • Uneven flooring, tilted machinery
  • Vehicles such as forklifts getting caught on jutting floor sections
  • Office doors jamming
  • Plumbing issues

Hospitals, Universities, and Retirement Centers

Hospitals and university owners have a lot of ground to cover when it comes to preventing foundation issues. Given that many hospitals and universities have large campuses comprised of multiple buildings, spotting foundation issues is not always an easy task. To make your life easier, here are some ways to assess whether foundation repair and inspections are needed.

  • Addressing plumbing/HVAC/electrical issues – If staff, patients or students report issues with electricity, plumbing or air conditioning in a specific building, this can help narrow your search down to one location. These issues aren’t necessarily caused by foundation problems, but in combination with other signs such as interior cracks, uneven floors and sticky doors, can indicate a foundation problem.
  • Exterior drive-bys – You can’t be expected to walk down every single hallway and corridor looking for cracks, so try to narrow your search by starting outdoors. Assess the exterior of all buildings, looking for cracks in the walls or in the sidewalk.
  • Speak with janitorial staff – On large campuses, janitorial staff may split up duties for what buildings they are responsible for. As they usually have the most access to buildings and facilities, they are in the ideal place to spot any foundation issues. Speak with the janitorial team or with the institution’s executive team to ensure that staff are keeping a lookout for signs such as wall and ceiling cracks, uneven flooring and sticky doors and windows.

If you find evidence of foundation damage on your property, Perma-Pier can help. With over 25 years of commercial property foundation repair and inspection experience, we can craft a custom solution to fix your foundation problems without affecting your tenants or hours of operation. Schedule a no-cost evaluation with one of our foundation experts today.

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