Foundation cracks are one of the issues in a house that should not be ignored. Can watering your foundation help? How do you know when a foundation crack may be cause for alarm?
One easy way is to walk around the foundation with a pencil, and if you see a crack that is wider than the width of the pencil it may be cause for concern. Or, if you can put the pencil in and it goes past the sharpened tip to where the yellow paint on the pencil begins, this could be an issue. Horizontal cracks should also draw your attention.
In Texas, there are three elements harmful to foundations, especially in the summer:
- high heat
- lack of moisture and
- clay soil.
Extended high temperatures can be a cause of real foundation problems.
The dry soil can cause your foundation to shift. Some of the symptoms you may see, in addition to what you may see when you walk around the outside of your foundation, include cracks in interior drywall or exterior bricks. Doors sticking when they did not previously can also be a sign, as can ceramic tiles that are starting to buckle, or gaps around windows or doors.
Because the southern wall of your home gets more wind and sun, the soil in that area also dries quicker, and this can be the area where you see problems first. Since the corners are the heaviest parts of your house, problems typically arise in the southeast and southwest corners initially, as these are the areas prone to experiencing foundation shifts first.
There are ways you can help keep your foundation in better shape.
Yes – watering your foundation may really help.
To prevent foundation cracks from occurring in the first place, it’s important to maintain year-round foundation moisture. A soaker hose can help keep your foundation properly watered during Texas’ dry spells. How much water you need depends upon the severity of the drought. Place the hose as close to your foundation as possible around the west, south and east sides of the property, and water at night so that there is less evaporation.
But too much moisture can be a problem, as well. Be sure your downspouts direct rain runoff away from your home or buy a long downspout diverter to drain the water to a storm drain or a curb rather than into your foundation.
Also make sure that any large trees are far enough away from your house. Large trees need a lot of water, which can actually create more drought conditions near your foundation as the roots soak up the moisture.
Foundation issues are one of the items your home inspector will check for during a pre-purchase home inspection or annual maintenance inspection. Finding these issues earlier can mean lower repair or prevention expense.
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