Like most people, homeowners have a limited amount of attention to give to any specific thing. Between jobs and personal obligations, most homeowners fall into an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” approach when it comes to their homes. Unless something goes obviously wrong, they don’t worry about it. Unfortunately, that approach often lets moisture create foundation problems for you. Unlike some problems, foundation repair generally isn’t something you can DIY and it’s usually expensive. The longer the problem persists, the worse it gets. If you’re wondering how moisture can undermine your foundation, keep reading.
Types of Foundations
Before getting into the details of water and soil movement, it can prove helpful if you have a basic working knowledge of the two main types of foundations you find in homes. There are concrete slab foundations and pier and beam foundations.
Pier and Beam Foundation
The pier and beam approach supports the house by creating concrete pads. Those pads provide support for vertical posts at specific distances from each other. The posts support heavy crossbeams that run beneath the house.
You see these more often in older homes. You also see them more often in areas prone to flooding. This approach creates a crawlspace beneath the house. That empty space can give the water somewhere to go as long as the flooding isn’t too intense.
With a concrete slab foundation, the builders prepare the ground ahead of time by digging down and laying in a layer of sand or fine gravel. This provides some drainage from beneath the slab. Then, they put down a thick layer of concrete that becomes the slab.
If the home will include a basement, the same basic process happens. It just happens deeper down in the ground and will typically include concrete block walls that come up seven or eight feet around the edges.
While the concrete slab foundation approach is more common, it’s also a more costly approach because it uses substantially more concrete than the pier and beam method.
The Basics of Moisture-Related Foundation Damage
The most common way that moisture damages a foundation is through simple expansion and contraction. As the soil around your home gets wet, it expands. This alone can cause damage by putting pressure on your foundation. When the soil dries out, it contracts away from your foundation. This can create pockets of space around the foundation where water can accumulate the next time it rains.
Even worse, this process can slowly erode the soil around and even under your home. That erosion under your home can leave a slab foundation with uneven support. Then, as your home settles over time, it can eventually crack your slab foundation.
With the pier and beam foundations, erosion can prove even more problematic. If the soil beneath a couple of the posts under your home erodes, it leaves parts of your floor with no real support. While it might not collapse overnight, it puts pressure on that area of the floor and all of the structures around the unsupported spots.
Prevention is the name of the game when it comes to your foundation. Granted, you can’t stop water from affecting the soil around your home. You can take steps to minimize the amount of water that hangs around right next to your foundation.
You need good drainage around your foundation. You can achieve some of that with basic grading of your lawn. While it doesn’t need to be extreme, your yard should gently slope away from the structure. That encourages surface water to flow away from your foundation.
Other options include building a rain garden, installing a drainage pipe, or even improving the soil around your home. You can also extend the length of your gutter drain, so the water exits it farther away from your foundation.
Foundation Problems and You
Many homeowners don’t look at their foundations all that often. If you’re not confident about your foundation’s condition, you can schedule inspections with a foundation company. They can alert you to any problems they spot. They can also give you some advice and possibly even referrals for improving the drainage situation around your home.
If there is damage to your foundation, don’t leave it for a more convenient time. Foundations problems only get worse the longer you leave them. You should schedule a consultation with a foundation repair service, such as CenTex Foundation Repair, to get an estimate for repairs.