House Settling? It Could Be Something Worse

12 February 2016
 Categories: , Blog

If you're a homeowner who has noticed that doors in your home haven't been opening easily, or maybe cracks have started appearing in some of the drywall, you might be thinking that the house is going through a period of settling. However, if you live in an area severely affected by drought, and the odd behavior from your house appears to be accelerating, it could be something more serious. Drought can cause homes and foundations to shift, creating a lot of problems that can be expensive to fix. Here are four things you need to know about drought damage to a foundation.

Explanation: Why This Is Happening

As soils dry up during a drought, they can crack and pull away from the home's foundation. That can make a foundation move off-kilter, affecting the house above it. This is especially pronounced in areas with clay soil, such as parts of Quebec and the areas around Calgary, Alberta. What's worse is that when the soil is made wet again -- and this is a major issue in areas that have a variety of clay soil known as expansive clay -- it can push back up against the foundation and make the foundation move even more.

Caution: Not Covered by Insurance

Not only is this destructive to your house, but it's also destructive financially. It's common for drought-related issues like these to not be covered by homeowner's insurance. This varies by policy, of course, but unless you know for sure that your policy would cover damage like this, you can't assume you're protected.

Action: Pillars and Other Repairs

Once the cracking and tilting have started, you have to take action immediately. If you catch the problem early enough, you may have to deal with some soil remediation to shore up the home. But if the problem becomes too advanced, you're looking at remedies like installing support pilings (also called piers) under the home to prevent further heaving. The Concrete Network says that these piers are cheaper than having the foundation replaced, but in another article on the site, the cost of a pier is listed at $1,855 -- and that a home might need eight to 10 piers. Add in other associated costs and potentially more piers for bigger homes, and the total cost, according to that second article, can top over $41,000.

Prevention: Drip Irrigation and Mulch for the Foundation

Once the problem has been repaired, you have to take steps to prevent it from recurring. Even if you have piers, you don't want to risk more upheaval. One action you can take is mulching the soil around your home. You don't want to place mulch right up against your house because of potential mold issues, but mulching the soil around the house helps the soil retain moisture and fight evaporation.

Another remedy is to install drip irrigation around your foundation and actually water your home. As strange as this sounds, it's recommended in areas like Texas in the United States where soil shifting is a particular problem. Drip emitters are installed around the home and run at low levels during the early morning or evening hours. The soil should not be wet or have water pooling on the surface -- aim for a level of moistness that lets you compress some soil into a ball.

If you think you're seeing signs that the cracking and tilting in your home might be due to this soil problem, call a foundation repair company, such as Seal Tech Basement Sealing Inc, immediately. This is not something that can wait -- you must stop the damage from progressing and fix the foundation as soon as you can.