Is Drought Damaging Your Home?

Brown lawns, advisories to limit water use, and even higher food costs – if you live in an area hit by drought, you're probably all too familiar with these consequences. What you may not know, however, is that drought can also mean serious problems for homes and other buildings. With large parts of the U.S. experiencing droughts in recent years, it's more important than ever to keep an eye on your house's foundation.

Soils expand with water and contract when dried out. The bigger the difference in moisture between when the foundation was constructed and now, the higher the chance of foundation damage. Clay soil is also particularly prone to expanding and shrinking. And when the soil expands and contracts, it pulls on the foundation of the home, potentially cracking it apart.

Signs of Foundation Damage

  • One of the earliest signs of foundation damage is windows and doors that no longer fit properly. They may become difficult to open and close and scrape against their frames.
  • If the brickwork or siding of your house begins to crack or your chimney pulls away from your house, this is a major sign that foundation damage is happening.
  • You may see interior cracks or bowing of a basement or ground floor – whichever is the lowest level of the house.
  • If you have seen signs of foundation problems in other homes in your neighborhood or heard from neighbors that they have needed foundation repairs, this can also be a sign that you will soon. Soil conditions between your property and your neighbors' are likely to be very similar.

Preventing Damage

Some people recommend watering the foundation of your house. However, in a drought, this is rarely a practical solution, especially as you need to carefully monitor to prevent the soil from swelling due to too much water as well. Instead, to keep the soil at a more constant dryness, you should make sure that your gutters are clear and pointing away from your home. You can also apply mulch around the house to lower evaporation from the soil.

Unfortunately, if soil conditions have dramatically changed, often the best you can do is to monitor your foundation for damage and have it repaired as quickly as possible if it occurs.

Repairing Damage

When you see signs of damage, you should call in a professional as soon as possible. While you can caulk small cracks yourself, the underlying problem of a shifting foundation is still there. A professional foundation repair company, on the other hand, can shore up a crawlspace or basement or fix a concrete slab foundation before the problem gets worse.