How To Protect Your Home From Drought-Related Soil Changes

Tuesday, September 13th, 2022 by Hannah Holland

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It's no secret: The dirt beneath your home is really important. It's what supports the weight of your house.

So what happens when we have really hot temperatures and not a lot of rain? Soil dries out, creates voids, and puts your home at risk of settling.

But how does it get to that point? How do droughts impact a house? And is it preventable? We dive in on all things droughts and settling foundations in this blog. Let's go.

Droughts affect the soil beneath your home

Let's talk about dirt. Soil usually consists of three materials: sand, silt, and clay.

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Soil that's high in clay is the most concerning when it comes to droughts. When it rains and you have clay soil, the water from the rain gets trapped in the clay. And to make room for the trapped water, the clay-heavy soil expands. Turning it into expansive soil.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, when there is not a lot of rain, that water in the clay soil evaporates, causing the soil to contract and shrink. 

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How do these soil changes impact your home's foundation?

This constant expansion and contraction is not good for your home's foundation. Your home sits on top of soil and that soil is offering a lot of support. 

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When soil shrinks and dries, voids and gaps start to form. When these cavities start to appear, your foundation doesn't have the support it needs and will start to settle into these gaps. 

Droughts are especially harder on shallow foundations, specifically crawl spaces, porches, and garages. The more shallow the foundation the more likely the soil around it will dry and shrink during a drought.

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If you have a basement or a foundation that's around 7-10 feet deep, you are less likely to experience foundation settling. The deeper you go into the earth, the more moisture that soil can hold.

How can you prevent your foundation from settling during a drought?

The good news is, foundation damage doesn't happen overnight.

Here are a few things you can do to protect your property from drought-related soil changes:

  1. Water your soil. Specifically, the soil around your foundation. This will help keep moisture content in the soil level and avoid shrinkage. The best way to do this is to use a soaker hose an hour every evening. Please be aware, though, of any local ordinances or water conservation plans in your area. 
  2. Pay attention to your landscaping. Large trees around your home will suck up every last drop of water in the soil during a drought, so if possible, remove any trees around your home to prevent this from happening. Planting shrubs around the perimeter of your home can also help offer shade over the soil. Mulch can also help with preserving soil's moisture content.
  3. Maintain your gutters. Believe it or not, but rain after a drought can cause damage to your foundation too. That clay-heavy soil will quickly absorb the water from that first rainfall and expand. The expanding soil won't have any room and will start pushing into your foundation walls, causing them to crack and bow inwards. To prevent this, make sure your gutters are clear of any debris and working correctly to properly channel water away from your foundation.

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Signs your foundation is already settling from a drought

  1. Cracks. Inspect your home for cracks in the foundation, walls, crown molding, brickwork, tiles, and chimney. 
  2. Sloping floors. To know if your floors are uneven, you can use a bubble level. Or try the old school way and put a marble on the floor and see if it rolls to one side.
  3. Doors and windows not opening. When your home settles into the soil gaps, door and window frames get out of alignment, causing them to not latch correctly. If you are having trouble opening them, this could be a huge sign you have a foundation problem.

If you still don't know if your home is settling, you can inspect the soil around your home and might be able to actually see gaps between the ground and foundation.

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Is your home settling because of a drought?

If you think your home is showing signs of foundation settlement, the best thing you can do is get a professional opinion. 

If you need a foundation contractor and live in our service area, please give us a call. We have the solutions to permanently fix a sinking foundation and save your home. We offer free full home inspections - schedule yours today by calling 515-599-5989 or filling out our online form

About the author

Hannah Holland, Content Marketing Specialist

Hannah Holland is our Content Marketing Specialist, where she focuses on educating, guiding, and helping homeowners make the best decision for their homes.

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