Yikes! My ground is cracking, my doors want latch, I’m starting to see cracks above my doors and windows, my foundation is moving, we are in a drought and I can only water once per week. How do I save my foundation?
The way to minimize foundation movement is to maintain a constant level of moisture in the soil under the house and around the foundation. The expansive soils, that foundation in north Texas are built on, act like a sponge. Soils tend to dry out (and shrink) during the summer and to absorb water (and swell) during the winter and spring. The best way to maintain this constant level of moisture is to have good drainage around the home for the spring and winter months and have soaker hoses around your home for the dryer summer months. The type of soaker hoses to use is the black ones made of recycled old tires and plastics. These types of soaker hoses consists of a perforated tubing that appears to “sweat with water after the faucet is turned on (1/2 to ¾ turn of the hose bib) and provides a consistent but not flooding supply of water to the home foundation. The soaker hoses should be placed between 18 to 24 inches of the foundation all around the home.
There is no simple way to determine how much and how often to water. You must use your judgment. The hotter, drier, windier, and sunnier it is, the more you need to water. The cooler, wetter, and cloudier it is, the less you need to water. How wet the surface is, is not a good measure of how your watering program is working. It is possible for the surface to be soaked while the ground a foot deep is relatively dry. One way to check your soils, if you have clay soil (north Texas) is to use a plumber’s prove. A Plumber’s probe is a 4 or 5 foot long fiberglass pole or steel rod with a “T” handle on the end. If your soils are too wet, then the pole can be pushed down into the soil, 4 to 5 feet, with little or no effort. When the soils are wet and moist, but not to wet, you should be able to push the probe down 3 to 4 feet with resistance by leaning on the probe. This is the ideal situation. If you can’t push the probe into the ground without banging on it, the soils are probably too dry. This test will not work well in sandy or rocky soils.
The solution to saving your foundation during a drought is installing soaker hoses around your home. Most of the water restrictions are targeted at your sprinkler system and will only allow you to run them one day a week. Most of the water restriction allow you to run the soaker hose everyday of the week as long as you do not have more than 8 feet of runoff. Note, all cities are different so you should check with your city to make sure of their water allowances.