Benjamin Franklin, while addressing fire safety, once wrote “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This statement can also be applied to the prevention of foundation damage to our homes. Most of the time it is much more cost effective to prevent foundation problems than torepair damages later on. Through proper care and preventative maintenance around our homes,we reduce the chances of foundation problems. This blog is written to help homeowners detect potential threats of foundation failure and offer a variety of solutions to safeguard the integrity of their homes’ foundations.
1) Ensure Proper Grading. The grade around a home should allow for rainfall to flow away from the home. Sometimes landscaping features such as flower beds can be installed to help compensate around homes that are poorly graded. Ideally the ground level around your home should be graded with a minimum of 6 inches of downward pitch within 10 feet of the foundation wall so that rain water flows away from the home.
Balancing moisture is key to maintaining a secure foundation.
2) Maintain proper water drainage. Water is the worst enemy of a foundation. Water can lead to soil erosion and also cause expansive clays to swell when they become wet. Therefore it is important to maintain a consistent amount of soil moisture content throughout the year in areas around your home. Also make sure that downspouts have extensions or drains that carry water at a minimum of four feet away from the foundation wall. Typically the weakest and most vulnerable areas of a home’s foundation are around corners and openings in the exterior wall, such as windows and doors. The installation of French drains can also be helpful to collect excessive surface water from torrential downpours and carry it to a lower area away from the home.
During extreme droughts homeowners can install soaker hoses around the foundation walls of their home in order to keep a healthy amount of soil moisture. The soaker hoses should be positioned about 10 to 12 inches away from the foundation. Be sure not to let the water run for too long. The idea is to keep the ground moist and not soaking wet or muddy. Soaker hoses should only be used during extreme droughts during summer months when temperatures exceed 100 degrees.
3) Keep large trees and shrubs away from the foundation walls. The root systems of trees and bushes affect the moisture content around a foundation. This can lead to foundation settlement especially in a drought when the soil is already dry. They also can also cause an upward thrust of the foundation known as heaving by root growing underneath a concrete footing. Generally the larger the vegetation the further away it should be.
4) Control crawl space moisture Mold and mildew can lead to decaying floor joists and invite wood-decaying insects such as termites. If installed correctly a vapor barrier encapsulation system can mitigate the amount of moisture in the air by trapping it underneath vapor permeable sheathing.
If there is standing water underneath a basement or crawlspace, a sump pump and basin system can be installed to collect water at the lowest point and pump it through from underneath the home to an area outside where the water will flow away from the home.
If you see cracks in your walls, spaces around windows or doors or have problems opening and closing doors or windows, you should contact a licensed foundation expert for an evaluation. Early detection usually means a lesser cost in the repair of a foundation.