Trees or Your Foundation?

Trees or Your Foundation?

Are heat and drought sinking your house? Your foundation could be battling your trees for moisture.

Prolonged drought pits house foundations against deep-rooted trees in a war for water.

You’re probably thinking, “Hey, I’m supposed to keep water away from my foundation, so what gives? Why shouldn’t my trees soak up what water there is?”

Yes, you want to keep water from pooling around your foundation — that’s where your gutters, your downspouts, and properly graded soil comes in — but moist soil actually helps keep homes from settling unevenly, which can lead to cracks in foundations, facades, and walls.

During dry spells, when mature trees and shrubs grab scant moisture, soils shrink and foundations may settle. This can be particularly problematic in areas like the Ohio Valley westward, where homes rest on “fat clay” — soil that greatly expands and contracts depending on moisture.

If a foundation settles evenly, the damage is nil or minimal. But typically moisture levels, sunlight, and landscaping differ on each side of a house, causing the soil to dry out and the house to settle unevenly, called “differential settlement.”

Signs your foundation is settling unevenly

  • Cracks in brick, drywall, tile, and stucco.
  • Windows and doors that suddenly stick.
  • Sloping floors.

Floors slope gradually and are sometimes hard to notice. Use the marble test: Drop a few marbles on the floor and see where and how quickly they roll to the wall: The faster they roll, the greater the slope.

Settlement prevention

The best way to prevent your home from sinking during drought is to keep the soil around your home well hydrated.

  • Dig down about 6 inches; if the soil is bone dry, it needs water.
  • Run a soaker hose around the house about a foot away from the foundation, and let it water the soil until it’s moist — not drenched. That should give nearby drought-stricken trees a drink and keep the soil from contracting.

If you can, a preventative strategy is to plant or transplant trees away from your foundation so roots won’t compete with your house for water during dry spells. Roots extend to the edge of the tree’s leaf canopy; so if the branches touch the house, the tree’s too close.

Professional help – Call King Piers LLC at 1-816-288-4373

If you notice cracks, sloping floors, and sticky interior doors, you should call a professional.

  • A structural engineer will inspect your foundation and give you a report for $300-$800.
  • A single crack repair in a poured foundation will cost $400-800, depending on the damage.
  • Stabilizing and supporting a foundation with concrete or steel piers will cost $1,000-$3,000 each.

You don’t have to be a weather geek to be well aware of the severe heatwaves and drought that have affected much of the country in recent years. The impact on gardens, once-green lawns, and other landscaping is unmistakable.

But what you may not know is that this kind of heat and extended dryness can mean big problems for your home. It can cause the ground beneath your house to harden and crack, and even start moving and sinking.

And of course, when the ground starts to shift it can cause damage to your home’s foundation. Luckily, if you know where to look, these kinds of issues can be spotted and repaired.

Another important tip: we’ve fielded a lot of questions from homeowners who’ve heard they should water their foundations to prevent drought damage. While it’s a practice that might help, it’s not very practical if you consider the amount of watering it would take.

Is Your House Sinking?  Contact us today!

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