Drought Impacts Homes, Foundations

11-16-05 - The drought we're under is not just bad for crops, but it could actually be damaging your home.

We've certainly had a dry fall preceded by a very dry summer. It’s bad news for your garden and bad news for your foundation, but you may be surprised to learn that the real damage will hit when the rain does come.

It's a homeowner’s worst nightmare when the ground under their home gives up and gives way.

Ruban Campos, a foundation repairman, says, "This time of year is pretty dry right now; houses are just going down."

And repairs don't come cheap. It costs thousands of dollars to have a foundation repair company fix the problem. That’s bad news, considering the persistent drought. The conditions have left soil and clay as deep as 20 feet underground dry as a bone. That causes the soil to shrink under the foundation, but the real damage occurs when it finally does rain.

Gary Marburger, a ram jack repair, says, "The damage actually occurs when the water caused the clay to expand too fast."

One of the first signs you have a problem will show up at the corners of your home. You could see where trim work starts to separate, or you could also see cracks in the sheetrock or brick. Inside, your doors will stick and you may see cracks in the tiles and flooring, all signs you could have a foundation problem.

For some homes it’s already too late to undo the damage. One home sank two to three inches, but others could sink eight or nine if the problem isn't fixed immediately.

"We've gotta get a lot of soft rain if we have fast rain. It's gonna roll off and seal. It's not gonna absorb the moisture. Hopefully we'll have a nice, soft rain to help out."

If “mother nature” doesn't come through for us, there's something you can do. It's not a guarantee, but experts recommend you keep your foundation moist. You can either rely on your sprinkler system or you can take a hose, lay it 14 to 16 inches away from you house and set it to a very slow trickle. That should give the ground a chance to absorb the moisture and get it down to the clay and dirt under your home.