This year, the United States experienced the worst drought of the past 50 years. Along with the obvious crippling damage to crop production, other less-apparent damage may be affecting homeowners without their knowledge.
Dry soil shrinks, and when a home’s foundation is surrounded by shrinking soil, structural damage can result. Visible gaps in the walls, loud cracking sounds, tilting walls – these are some of the telltale signs of foundation damage. Along with these, we’ve created a checklist for homeowners who might have experienced damage due to the drought this summer.
When dry soil pulls away from a home’s foundation, the foundation may sink or crack.
Some of the earliest signs of foundation damage may be mistakenly misinterpreted as the home settling: Windows don’t open easily, doors get caught in jambs and no longer align with locks. But these small signs might be the result of something larger and more problematic. Cracks might appear in the walls or ceilings. If you hear a sound similar to a gunshot, this might be the actual concrete in the foundation cracking. And if the walls begin to noticeably lean, it’s likely the foundation has been damaged.
If your house has experienced any of these signs, don’t be too quick to dismiss them as minor, cosmetic problems. Instead, contact a reputable company to assess the situation before the problem worsens.
If superficial damage leads to the discovery of structural damage, it’s important to contact professional structural engineers who are equipped to handle extensive foundation repair. Experts say that it’s important to take care of foundation problems sooner rather than later, as the damages will only worsen as time goes on. Unfortunately, structural damage can’t be solved by replacing doors, locks and windows. Instead, repairs often involve the installation of steel and concrete tubes, or pilings, that drive down beneath the troubled soil to secure the foundation on bedrock. While these repairs may be expensive, they can prevent the same problem from happening the next time drought occurs.
Prevention and awareness
Homes in the Midwest have been especially at risk to foundation damage caused by the drought due to the large amounts of clay in the soil. Clay is more prone to movement and shifting when moisture isn’t present. So, if you live in an area with high concentrations of clay, look carefully for signs of foundation damage.
Look for gaps in the soil surrounding your house, as this can be a sign of dry soil. If water restrictions aren’t in place in your local community, you can install soaker hoses to water the soil around your home. Also, some experts suggest mulching the surrounding area as this decreases the amount of evaporation.
If your surrounding area has experienced drought, prepare for rain, as a sudden increase of water to the soil can cause erosion. Keep gutters clean and make sure downspouts drain several feet away from the foundation. The drought has caused extensive damage across the country, costing millions of dollars. And many homeowners aren’t aware of the potential for foundation damage. Check your foundation now, and take steps to remedy any problems, so you can continue living in your home for years to come.
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