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How to prevent foundation damage during drought

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The severe drought we are dealing with is already having an impact on homes around our area. And if you are not careful, your home could face costly repairs.

The reason is shifting soil. It can cause your foundation to crack, but there is something you can do. It is called watering your foundation, and experts tell us home owners need to start doing that right now to keep problems from developing as the drought lingers on.

A home on Jason Street in southwest Houston is already suffering the effects of the Texas drought. The cracked bricks on the wall tell the story of a shifting foundation.

"The corner of it has gone down; on the front side of the house where there is a tree, and the tree is starving for moisture this year without the rain fall, so it is drawing moisture from the deeper soils," said Kenny Dutton with Du-West Foundation.

Dutton says if you have big trees be warned, they are drawing moisture from under your home. He adds cracks in the ground are a tip off that you need to water more.

"If you are not watering yet, you need to get it stated. When we hit severe droughts this way and we get into midsummer when it gets real hot and dry, you cannot catch up with the watering, you have to be watering to stay ahead of the problem," Dutton said.

So how much should you water your foundation? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but Michael Skoller who is structural engineer uses a water hose to keep the cracks in the ground at bay.

"Count to 20 and go five feet, another count of 20, go another five feet and just monitor, see if the cracks are closing up and if the cracks are closing up," Skoller said. "If the cracks are closing up you've got enough, but if the cracks are staying there you want to go back and do it again. I'd say at least three times a week."

If you already have a soaker hose and a timer, watering twice a day for 15 minutes should take care of dry ground right now.

"One of the benefits of using a soaker hose is that you are not losing the water in the air due to evaporation, and when they start putting water restrictions on, typically drip systems like a soaker hose are the last items to be cut off on the watering," Dutton said.

The reason so many foundations are having problems lies with the soil they are built on. If your home is on expansive clay, you need to watch this closely.

So who has expansive clay soil? Experts tell us basically anyone south of Interstate 10. Now that is a rough guide, but typically the problems with foundations are from I-10 south.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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