Taking Care of Your Foundation
The goal of foundation watering is to keep the water content of the soil under your foundation as constant as possible. Since you can’t keep out the rain, the thing to do is keep the soils reasonably damp during dry periods. To be successful, a watering program must keep the soil damp down to a depth of 4 or 5 feet. The more trees and large shrubs that you have, the harder this is to do. Why, because big plants have big thirsts.
The best way to water your foundation is with a specially designed foundation watering system. These systems are made of soaker hoses that are buried in the ground around the perimeter of your foundation. To provide even watering and to offset the pressure drops that occur in soaker hoses, a separate water line is run to each section of the soaker hose. The soaker hoses will extend no more than 20 feet away from the connections to the water lines. A typical home will have a minimum of 4 zones, each with its own water line and control valve. For an average home, it costs from $3,000 to $4,000 to install a foundation watering system.
For a few dollars in hoses and valves (and some hard work), homeowners can build their own systems. The diagram at the end of this section shows how to build a simple watering system out of common parts from the hardware store.
When watering, remember that too much water is as bad as too little water. If you do not have timers on your hoses, make sure that you turn them off when you are finished watering.
There is no simple way to determine how much and how often to water. You must use your judgment. The hotter, drier, windier, and sunnier it is, the more you need to water. The cooler, wetter, and cloudier it is, the less you need to water. How wet the surface is, is not a good measure of how your watering program is working. It is possible for the surface to be soaked while the ground a foot deep is relatively dry. One way to check your soils, if you have clay soils, is to use a plumber’s probe. A Plumber’s probe is a 4 or 5-foot long fiberglass pole with a “T” handle on the end. If your soils are too wet, then the pole can be pushed down into the soil with little or no effort. When the soils are wet, but not too wet, you should be able to push the probe 3 to 4 feet by leaning heavily in the handle. If you can’t push the probe into the ground without banging on it, the soils are probably too dry. This test will not work well in sandy or rocky soils. The sand or rock can keep a probe from slipping into the ground even if the water content is high.
Do not use a metal pole to probe the soils. If you hit a buried electrical line with a metal pole, you could be electrocuted.
Schematic For Foundation Watering System
- Buy brass splitter valves. They last longer.
- Bury the soaker hoses 3 inches deep 6 inches from the house.
- You can operate the soaker hoses individually or in any combination, depending on how you open or close the splitter valves.