Had much rain recently? Yeah, neither have we. Around here, it’s been drier than Steven Wright on Xanax.
Aside from the annoyances that dry spells can causes gardeners, lawn bon vivants, and apprentice rain conjurers, they can harsh the homeowner’s mellow, too. Especially when it comes to the part of the house that holds up the rest of the house: the foundation.
The gaps around this foundation wall indicate that it may already be too late. Photo by C. Shontz
During periods of low rainfall, the dirt surrounding your house dries out and shrinks. As a result, underground voids develop between the soil and the face of your foundation walls. If the dry spell lasts long enough, the soil can contract from below the footings. Without stable soil for footings to bear on, the house drops a wee bit closer to sea level. This settlement causes exterior doors and windows to jam and cracks to develop in your interior walls.
Keeping the ground moist around your foundation prevents settling.
Prevention is simple: water your foundation before cracks become visible (see photo, above right). Set your lawn sprinkler alongside your house and provide a slow, steady stream of water for an hour so (photo left). Proceed with this around around the entire house. Decks and porches are a challenge. But then again, the ground beneath them is continuously shaded, so there may not be much of a problem there.
So, aside from a stuck front door, what happens if you’re not diligent about keeping your foundation moist? Well, nature abhors a vacuum. So over time, the voids created by contracted soil become filled with falling dirt, rocks, and caches of varmint doodads. Once rainfall finally comes, the ground swells up again and exerts unbelievably high pressure against your foundation, possibly causing cracks that leak or even dangerous structural damage.
Got your attention yet?