The Homeowner’s Guide to Foundation Protection During A Drought (2022)

Cracking the Drought Code: The Homeowner’s Guide to Foundation Protection during a Drought

All across the country, droughts are taking a serious toll on crops, livestock, plants, and even the foundations of homes. Homeowners are faced with tens of thousands of dollars of damage each year due to foundation repairs, some of which could be prevented. The cost of foundation repairs can reach $100,000 or more, and these costs are not often covered by homeowners’ insurance.

With constantly changing weather conditions and climate patterns, droughts can happen almost anywhere. Compounded by the extremely high temperatures that often accompany drought conditions, special precautions must be taken to preserve the value, comfort, and safety of your home.

How Drought Compromises the Integrity of Your Home

Drought causes many threats to the integrity of your home, which is something that many homeowners don’t realize until they’ve experienced it. Extended periods of dryness cause foundations to shift, crack, and sink when the surrounding soil loses essential moisture.

When rain finally falls again and moisture is retained, the soil expands and lifts the foundation up again...but not always evenly. These are some of the many ways that drought can damage your home:

Dry Soil & Tree Roots

Since your home is not a natural fixture in the environment, it is in constant competition with Mother Nature and the great outdoors. Many properties have expansive tree root systems growing beneath them, which go largely unnoticed until weather conditions provoke and expose them.

During times of drought, your home’s foundation can crack and even sink due to overly dry soil and tree roots that compete for moisture in the soil surrounding your home. When planting new trees, plant them a safe distance away from your foundation, and transplant trees away from the foundation whenever possible.

However, cracking isn’t the only problem that results from this competition for resources. Foundation cracks can lead to many other issues inside your home, such as causing your floors to slope and become uneven.

Cracked Pavement & Asphalt

One of the most common problems that drought causes for homeowners is cracked driveways and sidewalks. When the pavement and asphalt around your home is subjected to extreme weather conditions, the surfaces both inside and outside your home are prone to cracking. Oftentimes, exterior cracks are an indicator of more extensive cracking in the vicinity.

Other Types of Cracking

However, driveways and sidewalks aren’t the only features around your home that frequently crack during a drought. These are some of the other common materials that become fractured when there is a lack of moisture in the air and on the ground:

·Brick work

·Drywall

·Tile

·Stucco

(Video) How to protect your home's foundation during a drought

·Chimney

Windows & Doors

As a homeowner, window and doors must be fully functional to provide convenient access and maximize energy efficiency. However, if you experience a drought, chances are that you may start having issues with your windows and doors sticking. You can replace these features, but will likely have the same problems with new windows and doors if your foundation is broken and uneven.

Broken Pipes

Because a home’s pipe system depends on the foundation to support it, homeowners also experience broken pipes as a result of drought. Broken pipes lead to all sorts of costly plumbing and heating repairs, which can be a huge inconvenience for many homeowners.

Basement Leaks

Even if you are experiencing a drought now, rain is bound to fall from the sky in due time. Another unfortunate side effect of drought damage is leaks. Foundation cracks allow water to seep into your home during heavy downpours, causing major damage to your basement and crawl space.

Severity of the Problem

Many homeowners don’t consider drought to be a serious problem in their area and don’t take the necessary precautions to protect their homes accordingly. However, our climate is in a continuous state of flux, and weather patterns can change rapidly and without warning. Drought is possible in nearly any region, so it’s a good idea to understand its risks to your home well in advance. Drought-prone areas, like Texas, Arizona, and California aren’t just affected by increased prices in fuel and groceries, but also costly repairs if homeowners don’t keep up with regular maintenance and care.

Drought problems are often more severe in areas with clay soil because it is more likely to shift when dry. Brick homes are also known to experience more foundation problems during drought because bricks are heavier and put more pressure on the soil than wood and siding. Clay soil is very common in Texas, and Jean-Louis Briaud, professor of civil engineering at Texas A&M in College Station has compared clay soil to a sponge.

“The sponge changes significantly when it’s dry and when it’s wet.” And similar to a sponge, clay soil shrinks and swells with moisture changes, says Briaud, who’s also the president of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering.

According to the National Association of Realtors, repairing a single foundation crack could cost you $400 to $800, and the process of stabilizing and supporting foundation often costs $1,000 to $3,000. During recent droughts in Texas, contractors regularly charged between $8,000 and $15,000 for foundation damage jobs.

How to Prevent Foundation Damage

Advance Preparation

Before faced with a drought, take a walk around your house to observe where the soil lies at your foundation. This is the best way to avoid serious foundation problems. A lack of gap between the foundation and soil typically indicates that moisture levels are good. But if you see a gap, your foundation is at risk of cracking and sinking. Dig about six inches down to feel below the surface to assess the dryness. If the soil at that level is completely dry, you need to moisten (but not drench) it around the base of your home.

As a precautionary measure, spray the soil around your house with water to increase moisture and close the gap. One useful and aesthetic way to maintain this moisture is to plant shrubs and flowers around the base of your foundation. Plant roots will hold moisture in the soil and also keep the area shaded, which is incredibly important during drought periods. A consistent, but not overcrowded, row of plants along your foundation can help retain moisture without depleting resources.

Also consider putting a couple inches of mulch down underneath your new plants to help retain the soil moisture and prevent erosion. Always plant new trees far enough away from the house to avoid tree root invasion. And arborist or horticulturist can help you predict the route and extent of tree root growth to determine a safe planting distance from your home.

When Drought Occurs

According to Texas A&M AgriLife, watering your foundation is the most effective way to protect it from damage during a drought. Water Resource Program Specialist Dotty Woodson recommends creating a dedicated irrigation zone around the house and about eight to 18 inches from the foundation.

You can also attach drip irrigation or a soaker hose to an outdoor faucet and set a timer to water the foundation at optimal times of day. It is essential to have a backflow preventer on your outdoor faucet so that water doesn’t back up into the pipes. Homeowners can typically find the following irrigation supplies at local hardware stores and garden centers:

(Video) How to protect your home's foundation during a drought

·Soaker hose

·Pressure regulator

·Backflow preventer

·Faucet splitter

·Drip irrigation filter

·Faucet timer

·Tubing adapter

Local governments in drought-affected areas often impose watering restrictions, so it’s your responsibility to adhere to these limits and make your watering sessions as efficient as possible. Make sure that your sprinklers are working properly, or considering watering your foundation by hand with a hose for more direct application.

It’s important to not overwater your foundation though, because an excess of moisture can result in an unwanted edge lift. This occurs when the edge of the foundation’s exterior is raised above the edge of the interior. As a general guideline, watering twice a day for 15 minutes with a soaker hose and timer should do the trick.

Signs that Your Home is Suffering from Foundation Damage

Owning a home is a huge responsibility, so it’s important to personally inspect your home on a regular basis to check for damage and address any issues before they progress beyond repair. If your area has experienced uncommonly dry weather conditions in the past, you very well may have a case of foundation damage on your hands.

These are some of the most common signs that your home is suffering from foundation damage due to a previous or current drought:

·Sloping floors

·Uneven floors

·Cracked driveway and sidewalks

·Cracked bricks

·Cracked drywall

·Cracked tiles

·Cracked stucco

·Cracked basement floor

(Video) Drought and Foundations - Episode 02597

·Sticking doors and windows

·Cracks in the corners of walls

·Broken pipes

·Shifted chimneys

·Gas meter askew

Keep in mind that drought conditions could have been present even before you moved into your home. So it’s a good idea to check for foundation issues even if your period of ownership has been accompanied by a steady flow of rain.

What to Do if the Damage is Already Done

If the drought damage has already been done, don’t despair. There are viable ways to restore the integrity of your foundation and protect it from future drought conditions.

If you discover cracks in your foundation, fill them with waterproofing, which can be easily found in local hardware stores. However, fixing foundation is rarely a quick fix. After patching up obvious cracks, homeowners may need to install piers underneath their homes to make them less susceptible to shifts and movements in the soil.

And like most household repairs, the longer you wait to call a professional to take a look at your foundation, the more extensive and expensive the repairs will be. So inspect your home often for damage and don’t delay when you see the first signs of cracking.

Homeowners may want to hold off on temporary fixes, like replacing doors and windows, tuck pointing, and drywall repairs, until they determined the larger structural issue affecting their homes. The structure of a home deteriorates over time and if you don’t address these issues early on, you could have to deal with serious issues like collapsing walls, a broken sewer, or a complete replacement of your foundation.

Additional Resources for Drought-Prone Areas

Resources in Austin

The National Weather Service provides helpful drought information to help Austin residents be prepared for whatever the season brings. Here are some helpful links to prepare for drought and handle its damage in Austin:

·National Weather Service Austin/San Antonio Drought Information

·NWS Local Drought Information Statement

·Austin Water Utility

·Austin Online Drought Resources

Resources in Dallas

If you live in the Dallas area, these are some resources you should get familiar with in case a drought strikes in the future. It’s always a good idea to check the city’s drought and water emergency plan to understand potential watering restrictions.

(Video) Heat, drought may be causing your home’s foundation to shift. Here’s what you need to know.

·National Weather Service Dallas/Fort Worth Drought Information

·NWS Local Drought Information Statement

·North Texas Municipal Water District

Resources throughout Texas

Regardless of where you live in Texas, these resources can help you prepare for drought and protect your home:

·List of Texas Public Water Systems Limiting Water Use to Avoid Shortages

·Water Data for Texas

·U.S. Drought Monitor for Texas

·Keep Texas Beautiful Drought Resources

·Texas Department of Agriculture Disaster Resource Information Packet

For Further Reading

To learn more about drought and how it can affect your home and family, check out these helpful links, including drought monitoring information and historical data.

·Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

·Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

·Texas State Historical Commission

·National Weather Service Drought Monitoring

·Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Drought Resources

·Texas Water Resources Institute’s Timeline of Droughts in Texas

·USDA Disaster and Drought Information and News

·Red Cross Drought Preparedness & Water Conservation

(Video) Heatwave and Drought Causing Ground Fissures in Our Backyard

FAQs

How can you protect your home foundation during a drought? ›

How to protect your home's foundation during a drought - YouTube

How can we prevent foundation problems in drought? ›

Water Your Foundation

During times of drought, you can prevent foundation problems by watering the area around your home to maintain normal soil moisture levels. You can easily address this issue by running a soaker hose around the perimeter of your home and watering the ground for a few hours every week.

Can drought cause foundation problems? ›

Droughts cause soil to shrink

As it does, it creates cavities or gaps between the ground and your foundation. Over time, your foundation can crack as gravity pushes the weight of your home down into the newly-created gaps.

What happens if you don't water your foundation in Texas? ›

When the soil surrounding your home doesn't get enough water, it will dry out. This will affect your home's foundation. As a result, the integrity of your house's structure is in jeopardy. Some areas in Texas see soil shrinkage of more than 15%.

How do you water your foundation? ›

You can either hand water the foundation (using a garden hose,) or use a soaker hose or sprinkler system that waters the area for approximately 15-20 minutes. The most effective way to water your foundation is by having the water placed about 10-15 inches away from the actual foundation (not right on it).

How often should you water your foundation? ›

Foundation Watering Schedule

Start in the dry summer months with a daily watering regime. With the current drought, you should water at least 2 hours a day. It is best to water at night to reduce water loss to evaporation.

Why you should water your foundation? ›

The main reason why you have to keep the soil around your home moist is that the dirt can dry out and shrink. When this occurs, the foundation can settle or tip, causing walls to crack, doors to stick, and floors to become uneven.

Should I water my house foundation to keep it from cracking? ›

Be especially careful if it's so dry that cracks in the soil extend into the yard. Homeowners should water every day for several hours to keep their foundation safe, said Fleck. “They need to let the water seep deep into the soil.”

What causes foundation cracks? ›

Foundation cracks occur for a multitude of reasons, from poor foundation construction, standing water, inadequate drainage system, type of soil, flooding, plumbing leaks, evaporation, soil condition, large trees and improper soil compaction.

How do you maintain your foundation? ›

How to Maintain Your Foundation
  1. Keep Shrubbery Trimmed if Close to the Foundation. ...
  2. Fill Minor Foundation Cracks. ...
  3. Keep Moisture Levels Around Your Foundation Consistent. ...
  4. Test Underground Water Sources for Leaks. ...
  5. Do Regular Foundation Inspections.
May 5, 2017

Should you water around your foundation? ›

Caring for your foundation is an important job, but it doesn't have to be a hard one. If it's been raining regularly and the ground outside is moist and springy, there's no need to worry about your foundation. You only need to water when it's dry enough for the soil to pull away from the concrete.

How do droughts affect homes? ›

Cracks are the biggest sign your foundation is dealing with drought shrinkage. Inspect your home for cracks, specifically in the concrete foundation, exterior and interior walls, crown molding, brickwork, tiles, and chimney. Shrinking soil can also cause cracks in sidewalks, driveways, and patios around the house.

How long does it take for water to damage foundation? ›

Within the first 24 hours of a leak or flood, mold development, damage to floors, walls, and electrics, and even structural issues can occur.

Are sprinklers enough to water foundation? ›

The answer is that a yard sprinkler can be effective in some cases but more often it is not run enough to be effective at preventing some seasonal differential settlement in a foundation due to soil drying, which can affect interior finishes.

How long should you leave a soaker hose on for foundation? ›

Expect to run your hoses for 15 to 20 minutes per day, three to five days per week in peak summer heat. In drought conditions, you may need to water up to 45 minutes every day. This should keep the ground moist but not muddy. After a few days, the soil will expand and meet up with the side of the foundation.

Should I use a soaker hose for my foundation? ›

The best way to do foundation watering is by using soaker hoses (which can be linked to a timer and/or an irrigation system). Soaker hoses should be placed around your foundation. It helps to bury them a few inches deep, generally 4 to 6 inches from the edge of your foundation.

How long should a sprinkler run? ›

Sprinklers should be set to run for about 30 to 35 minutes at a time twice a week. Your goal is at least 1″ of water a week for your lawn. When it's hot and dry, double the water times while still trying to water just 2 or 3 days a week.

Do you need to water foundation in winter? ›

Winter watering is just as important as watering in any other season! One of the easiest ways to avoid foundation problems is by keeping the soil uniformly moist throughout the year. Foundation problems often arise from the expansion and contraction of clay soils.

What do you do when ground pulls away from foundation? ›

Water the soil evenly around the entire foundation during extended dry periods if the soil is pulling away from the basement wall. "Do not apply water directly into the gap because this may cause water intrusion into the basement," he says. "Instead, apply water 1 to 2 feet away from the foundation edge.

Should I put gravel around my foundation? ›

Having gravel beds around the foundations of your house is one of the most cost-effective methods of preventing overgrown weeds and shrubs, and possibly soil mounds, from infiltrating the building. The final step of preparing the ground involves laying a weed membrane to discourage unwanted growth.

Why is the dirt separating from my house? ›

Dirt Pulling Away from Foundation – What Does It Mean? In short, the soil is drying out. The heat and dryness have caused the soil to contract. When this happens, the dirt pulls away from the structure.

How often should you water your foundation in a drought? ›

Here are the two quick observations:

If you do not see a gap between the soil and the foundation, your soil moisture is maintaining moisture. If you do see a gap between the soil and the foundation, you need to water the ground around your foundation. A weekly watering routine will accomplish this.

What do you put around the foundation of a house? ›

What do I put around the foundation of a house? The answer is simple: flower beds, plants, mulch, and grass that will keep the soil moist and absorb the water, keeping it away from the foundation and also providing stability.

Is my house sinking or settling? ›

If you spot cracks or gaps in the foundation many years after construction, it could be a sign that your house is settling. Cracks can often appear near the windows and doorways on walls. Minuscule cracks can become significant in due course of time. If plastered cracks reopen, it's time to give it a serious thought!

Does insurance cover cracks in foundation? ›

Generally, foundation cracks or settling aren't covered by your homeowners policy. Your home's foundation is protected under your policy's dwelling coverage, but only for certain perils/events.

When should you walk away from foundation issues? ›

You should walk away from a house with foundation issues if the problem will cost too much to fix and the seller won't lower the price to compensate.

Can a house collapse from cracks? ›

The answer is yes, however, it is also not that simple. It can take years to develop a serious foundational issue that would cause your home to collapse. In most cases, if it does, it's concentrated on a specific area of the home.

What do you do when dirt pulls away from your foundation? ›

Water the soil evenly around the entire foundation during extended dry periods if the soil is pulling away from the basement wall. "Do not apply water directly into the gap because this may cause water intrusion into the basement," he says. "Instead, apply water 1 to 2 feet away from the foundation edge.

Do Soaker hoses work for foundation? ›

Using soaker hoses, you can set up a foundation watering system that can keep the soil under your foundation from contracting during extreme weather. This can stop the shifts that stress the support structure under your home.

How do I fix dirt pulling off my foundation? ›

What To Do If Soil Pulls Away? The best thing to do is to start watering your foundation this summer. This stops the soil from pulling away. One solution is to place a soaker hose about 12-18” away from your foundation and let it run for about 20 minutes a day when it's super hot.

How do I protect my foundation in Texas? ›

10 Tips For Home Foundation Maintenance in Texas
  1. Schedule a regular plumbing inspection. ...
  2. Have a root barrier installed. ...
  3. Protect your foundation from large trees. ...
  4. Make sure that your home is on a proper slope. ...
  5. Install a good drainage system for your home. ...
  6. Maintain consistent moisture level around your foundation.
Apr 24, 2018

What is the best soil to put around house foundation? ›

Loam. Loam is the best soil type for construction due to its ideal combination of silt, sand, and clay. It combines the best of all their qualities into the ideal balance for supporting a foundation. Loam generally does not shift, expand, or shrink drastically and handles the presence of water very well.

Should I water my house foundation to keep it from cracking? ›

Be especially careful if it's so dry that cracks in the soil extend into the yard. Homeowners should water every day for several hours to keep their foundation safe, said Fleck. “They need to let the water seep deep into the soil.”

Should I fill gap between foundation and soil? ›

Avoid Filling Foundation Perimeter with Soil

When some homeowners notice gaps, they simply think to add soil – that the empty space simply needs to be refilled. It's the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. That's not a good idea, though.

Should I bury soaker hose for foundation? ›

Soaker hoses should be placed around your foundation. It helps to bury them a few inches deep, generally 4 to 6 inches from the edge of your foundation. By burying the soaker hoses, you help to direct the water down and you also help keep the sun from deteriorating your hoses.

Is it better to bury a soaker hose? ›

Cover your irrigation lines (drip or soaker hoses) with 2-3 inches of mulch to protect from sunlight. Do not bury soaker hoses with soil unless they are designed for this purpose or you may clog the pores.

Should you water around your foundation? ›

Caring for your foundation is an important job, but it doesn't have to be a hard one. If it's been raining regularly and the ground outside is moist and springy, there's no need to worry about your foundation. You only need to water when it's dry enough for the soil to pull away from the concrete.

How do you fill the gap between foundation and soil? ›

The gap should be filled almost to grade with the granular fill and topped off with clay or soil, which should be built up for the first one to two metres away from the foundation, to provide a gradual slope from the house.

How do you pack dirt around foundation? ›

Spread 3 inches of fresh topsoil over the surface and till it in to the existing soil. Spread an additional 3 inches of topsoil and rake it into a smooth surface, sloping it away from the house.

How do you dry soil around foundation? ›

A foundation expert can run a pipe from the soil foundation up to the top of the house using an area in a closet, for example. A fan at the top of the pipe will help draw out the moisture in the soil so that it will aerate and dry out. Then the slab will begin to resettle.

What can I put around my house to protect foundation? ›

What do I put around the foundation of a house? The answer is simple: flower beds, plants, mulch, and grass that will keep the soil moist and absorb the water, keeping it away from the foundation and also providing stability.

Should I put gravel around my foundation? ›

Having gravel beds around the foundations of your house is one of the most cost-effective methods of preventing overgrown weeds and shrubs, and possibly soil mounds, from infiltrating the building. The final step of preparing the ground involves laying a weed membrane to discourage unwanted growth.

How often do I water my foundation in Texas? ›

You can hydrate your soil with a sprinkler system or soaker hose three times a week for about 30 minutes. But be careful not to add too much water to your foundation. It should be slightly damp, and not soaking wet. Cole said draining water away from the home is also key to keeping a healthy foundation.

Videos

1. How to protect your foundation from DROUGHT
(Houston Bay Area Living)
2. Texas drought may be impacting your home's foundation | FOX 7 Austin
(FOX 7 Austin)
3. How To Prevent Foundation Damage To Your Home - Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford
(Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford)
4. Summer drought conditions may cause foundation issues
(CBSDFW)
5. Protecting Your Home From Drought
(Glenn Hockersmith, REALTOR)
6. Can Dry Soil Effect My Home's Foundation?
(Acculevel)

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