For many homeowners, the summer months bring days, weeks, and even months of endless sunshine and brief, if not absent rain showers. While homeowners water to protect their lawn, trees, plants and shrubs, they often forget to water one of their most important investments: their home.

By forgetting to care for the foundation of their home, homeowners run the risk of suffering with sinking and cracking foundations that lead to uneven floors, cracked walls, as well as doors and windows that no longer open and close properly. These home disasters sometimes result in structural damage that can lead to a decrease in the property value of the home.

While slab foundations are most susceptible, pier-and-beam and ranch style homes are vulnerable as well. And it's not simply because the soil is dry. It has more to do with the seesaw effect that heavy winter rains/snows and drought-like summers have on the soil. When the soil is extremely wet, the soil expands and lifts the foundation. When the soil is extremely dry, it contracts and the foundation sinks. By having proper drainage for the wet months and keeping the soil moist in the summer, you lessen the impact that these two conditions have on your foundation.

Following these four guidelines will help:

  1. Water the perimeter of a concrete slab to maintain consistent moisture. Do not over water.
  2. Be aware that some trees and shrubbery can impact a foundation.
  3. Pier and beams need a little water also but be very careful to avoid over watering this can cause the crawlspace to hold water and cause problems.
  4. Promote good drainage. Avoid conditions that allow water to stand for long periods.

Your dry soil problems can be solved or slowed with the use of a soaker hose. Soaker hoses are made from recycled old tires and plastics. A soaker hose consists of a perforated tubing that appears to “sweat” with water after the faucet is turned on. The soaker hose provides a consistent but not flooding supply of water that helps supply moisture to gardens and plants, and, more importantly, moisture to the soil surrounding home foundations.

Soaker hoses can be attached to any outdoor faucet and need to be left on longer than you would normally leave a sprinkler on so that you ensure enough water penetrates the soil. For best results, place soaker hoses around the perimeter of the house, 8 to 18 inches outside the foundation. You can snake them around plants and shrubs in flowerbeds to provide water not only to the soil but to the nearby vegetation as well. Soaker hoses can be purchased at your local hardware store. They also come in a variety of lengths and can be connected together to accommodate different homeowner needs.

Many homeowners leave their soaker hoses permanently placed around their homes and bury them partially under mulch. This offers them a convenient and year-round tool for watering.

Expansive soils act like a sponge. As they absorb water, they swell and as they lose water they shrink. Soils tend to dry out (and shrink) during the summer and to absorb water (and swell) during the winter and spring. Please follow your city's laws on watering programs (odd or even days) help conserve on water.

Dried and cracked, then water placed next to the foundation will run through the cracks and accumulate at the bottom of the grade beam (the thick portion of the foundation that is under the exterior walls). In some cases, an accumulation of water in the soil at the base of a foundation can cause the soil to lose some of its load bearing capacity. If the soil loses enough load bearing capacity, the house will sink further into the ground.

Obviously, the homeowner is the only one who can weight the benefits of controlling foundation movement versus the increased size of the water bill.

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