Prevent Shifting with Proper Maintenance
Highly plastic clay soils, as are typically found in the DFW area, exhibit a great amount of expansion and contraction caused by seasonal moisture changes and varying weather conditions. Clay soils that become too dry will shrink and not be able to maintain the physical elevation of a structure's foundation. High ambient temperatures and long periods of little rainfall can cause moisture loss several feet below the surface and take a devastating toll on foundations. On the other hand, clay soils soak up water like a sponge if overly saturated, and can lose their load-bearing capacity or swell unevenly.
The key to maintaining a foundation's elevation is keeping consistant moisture levels around the foundation. Water should always run away from your home and not be allowed to pool around the foundation. Soil should be about 2 inches below the top of the perimeter grade beam, and slope about 1-2 inches per foot away from your home. If the soil around your foundation is low, clay-like fill dirt should be added around the perimeter, NOT porous soils. Your home should have gutters with extensions on the downspouts.
Keep an eye on the soil conditions around your house. If the soil has pulled away from the foundation, you need to water more. Ideally, the soil should be snug against the perimeter beam. If the soil is pulled away, do not add water directly into the seperation because it will flood under the beam and could cause movement. Use a sprinkler or soaker hose so that the soil is watered evenly.
The moisture content of the soils at the perimeter of the foundation should be maintained during all seasons. Water the foundation in a uniform and systematic manner with a drip irrigation system, sprinkler system or soaker hose. If you use a soaker hose make sure it is placed atleast 12-18 inches away from the foundation. Many times soaker hoses are used improperly and do much more harm than good. Watering every other day for 30 minutes is usually sufficient, but should be increased during dry hot months. A drip system is ideal because it constantly waters at a slow pace.
It is recommended to not plant trees or shrubs next to the foundation because roots sap moisture from the soil. This then lowers the moisture content of the supporting soil at various places which can cause differential settlement of the foundation. Trees in particular, should be planted no closer than their expected growth height. Fast-growing bushes should be avoided completely if possible because they consume large amounts of water.
If you notice any leaks or changes in your water bill, have a plumber come out and test your water lines and drains. Any leaks should be fixed right away, especially under your foundation.
If you have any questions we haven't answered on our website, please give us a call or send us an e-mail with your questions. We are happy to answer them.