When we think of extreme weather conditions causing damage to our homes, we generally think of hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, but a prolonged drought can be just as damaging. The extent of the damage depends on the soil makeup where you live, but all soil shrinks and expands in some way as the weather and its water content changes. Learning to spot the signs of overly dry soil can be instrumental in keeping your house whole and dry in the long run.
The Problem with Shrinking Soil
When a nasty drought sets in, though this is becoming less common in South Carolina, the soil around and underneath your home starts to dry out and can begin to shrink as a result. While many soil mixtures will not shrink too drastically, those that are heavy in bentonite or clay can contract immensely. When these soils shrink, huge crevices can open up. If they do so under your home, you could be in trouble.
Shrinking soil under your home can lead to insufficient support for your foundation, and as a result, it may begin to crack or even sink into the depressions left by shrinking soil. Called foundation settlement, this is a serious structural issue. Settlement can cause:
- Cracks in your basement floor and walls
- An uneven, tilted, or sagging floor
- Bowing walls
- Standing water
- Increased humidity in your home
- Mold formation
Most of these issues won’t become apparent right away, however, and they tend to feed into each other, which is what makes repairing foundation settlement such a pain. In fact, you’re not likely to notice these issues at all until the drought breaks and water begins to make its way into your home through the damaged parts of your foundation.
Preventing and Recognizing Settlement
The most obvious red flags when it comes to soil shrinkage and foundation settlement are a severe, ongoing drought and cracks in the soil surrounding your home. Because the soil in your yard is more exposed, it is likely to crack first, but the soil under your foundation won’t be far behind. Of course, the other signs are a little more subtle.
When it comes to preventing and managing soil shrinkage, you have a few options. They are:
Install a Water-Conserving Sprinkler System
At the end of the day, there is only one way you can be certain of preventing soil shrinkage and foundation settlement: Prevent your soil from drying out. There are many ways to do this, but the most efficient way is to install a sprinkler system. Modern sprinklers are far better at conserving water than hosepipes, and consistent moisture regulation will be far more effective than bouts of saturation and dehydration.
Utilize Clever Drainage
Just as drainage systems can be used to keep water away from your home, you can decide where they drain. Talk to a professional about how you can use your drainage systems to redistribute water in a way that benefits you in the long run.
Plant Your Garden Well
Certain plants create strong, complex root systems that will hold the soil together. In fact, if you plant the right mix of flowers, bushes, and other vegetation in your garden, they could also help manage soil saturation. This means that clever gardening and landscaping plans could protect you from drought and flood.
Contact an Expert for Foundation and Basement Assistance
If you are currently experiencing a drought, or you have experienced one in the recent past, look out for new cracks in your basement floor and walls. If you see cracks you think may be new, even if they are small, contact a professional to examine your home. After all, Mount Valley Foundation Services offers free inspection appointments and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
One of our experienced professionals will evaluate your home’s condition and recommend solutions that best fit your repair needs, whether that includes basement waterproofing, foundation repair, or both. We will make sure your home is protected to weather any storm.