Foundations and Water
Expansive soils act like a sponge. As they absorb water, they swell and as they lose water they shrink. Soils tend to dry out (and shrink) during the summer and to absorb water (and swell) during the winter and spring.
As the soil under a house shrinks and swells with the seasons, the house
and foundation will move up and down. As long as the foundation movement
is not great enough to damage the house and/or foundation, it is not a problem.
If the up and down movement of a foundation always returns the foundation
to its original level position, then damage to the house and foundation
may appear and disappear on a regular basis as the seasons change.
If a homeowner wishes to stop seasonal house and foundation damage, the
first course of action should be to follow a controlled watering program.
By keeping the moisture content of the soil under the foundation constant,
foundation movement can often be stopped. Advanced Foundation Repair
has written this to assist the homeowner in performing a simple foundation
preventive maintenance program.
The goal of a foundation watering program is to maintain a constant level
of moisture in the soil under the house and foundation.
The hose should not be placed against
the foundation. When soil has dried and cracked, water can travel
along the cracks for several feet in all directions. If the soil around
your foundation is dried and cracked, then water placed next to the foundation
will run through the cracks and accumulate at the bottom of the grade
beam (the thick portion of the foundation that is under the exterior walls).
In some cases, an accumulation of water in the soil at the base of a foundation
can cause the soil to loose some of its load bearing capacity. If the
soil loses enough load bearing capacity, the house will sink into the
Obviously, it is necessary to water more
during hot, dry weather and less during cold, damp weather. The amount
of water required to keep a foundation stable during the summer can be
surprisingly large. A single large tree can remove as much as 150
gallons of water, or almost 20 cubic feet of water, from the soil each
day. Shrubs and other plants can also remove large quantities of water.
During persistent hot dry weather, it may be necessary to water a foundation
daily. Watering should supply enough water to keep the moisture content
in the soil under the foundation constant.
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