Today we want to discuss some common foundation issues typically found in the spring within Colorado. We have some pretty expansive soils here in the Centennial State and the most commonly found is bentonite. What’s bentonite you ask? Well, it really doesn’t matter unless your name is Benton and you’d like to take a stab at getting royalty checks for geologists using your name without you knowing it. Uneven moisture is one of the leading causes of foundation issues in this type of soil because drying soils can shift and crack your foundations as it shrinks. And when moisture is applied, ( spring rain, irrigation, sprinklers), that shifty, expansive soil can swell and break your foundation. In fact, if your house isn’t properly framed, it can break it right in two just like that pencil that Arnold Schwarzenegger snaps in Kindergarten Cop! But don’t worry, those are some pretty extreme results and Arnold isn’t in the house-snapping business these days.
So what should you look for with regards to the soils around your foundation? Well, we’d suggest you look at the slope of the soils away from your home first. A good rule of thumb is that over the course of ten feet, it should slope downward around six inches. This helps make sure that excess moisture drains away from the soil immediately surrounding your foundation. If and when this isn’t possible, we suggest some in-ground drainage options. If you have questions on that, please feel free to call us.
What else should you look for? Some common signs that you might have an issue are cracks around doors and windows and even doors that scrape or won’t close or open correctly. These could all be signs of foundation settlement due to… well, many things really, but one really common cause is uneven moisture around and under your foundation. Did you know your foundation is essentially built to “float” on the soil? That’s right, you’re home is really sort of a boat except it isn’t designed to float on water. No, it sails the soil ocean every day and even though it doesn’t bob up and down like a boat would on water, it “floats” nonetheless. The problem is that if the surface it’s floating on doesn’t have the same moisture content all around it, it can float and sink at different levels and rates. That’s when you get all those pesky problems.
If you suspect you may have some uneven moisture in your soils, you can do a quick and easy test just to be sure. The best part is that it is “dirt” cheap (see what I did there) to do! Run to your local hardware store or co-op and grab a plant watering gauge; they only run about $10. We say run there because you could probably use the exercise ( couldn’t we all?) but if you feel like driving, we suppose we’d approve of that too. Work your way around your house inserting the gauge about every 10 feet to test the moisture. Try to test the soils around 1 inch from your foundation just for consistency sake. Make note of the moisture readings at every point and where there are higher moisture readings, its a save bet that you could find some signs of foundation damage in the corresponding area of the house. If you find some higher moisture readings, make sure runoff water is directed away from that area. Check that your gutters and downspouts are clear and functioning correctly instead of just spilling water out. Make sure your soil is sloping away from the foundation and for heaven’s sake, check that your sprinklers aren’t spraying the foundation or leaking. Either of those two scenarios is basically paying money to destroy your own foundation and we know you have better things (like that new moisture gauge) to spend your hard earned money on than destroying your own home!
Stay tuned for the next blog entry where we’ll get a one on one interview with Foundation Repair of Western Colorado’s President and CEO, Ted Munkres!