Asset Preservation & Maintenance

Foundation Movement

Some suggestions for every homeowner’s nightmare

Foundation – the mere word suggests stability, soundness, and permanence. Unfortunately, in homes, that is often not so. Foundations have a nasty habit of moving and it’s not always down In San Antonio, expansive clay soils, when wet, will actually expand and push a structure (even large, commercial structures!) upward, causing severe structural damage.

What can you do?

  • Maintain a consistent moisture level in the soil around the edge of your home’s concrete slab by using soaker hoses during dry spells is very useful in helping to control seasonal variations and movement. The soaker hoses should be used for approximately two hours twice or three times a week during dry periods. It is very important, however, to attempt to maintain a uniform moisture content as is possible. That is, one area should not be watered more than another. If there is an area that tends to retain moisture that will, of course, require less watering. Soaker hoses are not recommended for pier and beam foundations and it’s preferable that water not enter the crawl space area at all.
  • Check your foundation for areas where the soil slopes toward the house. These should be filled with a clay topsoil, which is compacted and sloped so there is positive drainage away from the foundation. More clay? Yes. Using a granular, porous soil doesn’t accomplish the goal of redirecting water away from the foundation. If you have an area with poor drainage, action to define and correct the drainage problem may prevent the need for foundation repairs.
  • Except for certain rooflines, or drainage situations, we generally don’t recommend gutters. We find that the typical rain pattern in San Antonio and south Texas is one of heavy thunderstorm activity and gutter/downspout systems are not capable of handling this type of rain. If you do have gutters, however, be sure the downspouts are extended at least three feet to carry the water away from the foundation. The A/C condensate line should also extend three feet from the foundation.
  • Make sure any flowerbeds, or planters, that are close to your home do not retain water. Often, the soil in flower beds settles gradually and becomes a depression to collect water. Add soil whenever necessary to keep the bed higher than the adjacent lawn, to shed water away from your foundation. But, it’s really better to not have enclosed planters next to the foundation at all.

What should you watch for?

  • Site drainage…Low areas around the foundation where water does not drain off quickly?
  • Signs of unexplained water/moisture around the foundation or on exterior walls should be investigated immediately.
  • Cracking of exterior siding…Cracks in brick or stone veneer exceeding one-quarter inch?
  • Distortion of siding (hardboard/vinyl/aluminum/etc.)? Corner cracks alone are generally not significant.
  • Door and window operation…Sudden sticking? No longer square in their frames? Gaps developing around door and window frames?
  • Wallboard cracking…Diagonal cracks radiating from the corner of windows and doorways?
  • Separations forming at the top or bottom of walls?
  • “Humps” or noticeable slopes in floors?

We can’t control Mother Nature, but we can maintain some control over our home’s foundation. If a problem does develop, early intervention may save you thousands of dollars in repair costs. When in doubt, get a professional opinion.