There are some things that we, as homeowners, take for granted when it comes to our properties. The strength of our walls, a water-tight roof, and the stability of the ground under our home are all things that we simply expect to be in order. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and when washout soil impacts your property, it can put every inch of it in jeopardy. As such, it is sensible for homeowners to know what the most common causes of soil washout are (and how to spot the issue).
If you own a home in or around Grand Junction, CO, then you will find that fall and spring are the times when you are most likely to see serious washout. As such, checking for signs of this process should be a part of your seasonal maintenance and property health checks to ensure that you do not end up facing huge amounts of damage at a later date.
What is Washout Soil?
Washout is a process of soil displacement and removal that is facilitated by moving water, unlike erosion that is caused by wind. This process alters the landscape of an area, impacts the health of the soil, and can cause severe damage to any building that is reliant on affected soil. The most worrying possibility is lateral movement. Any lateral movement in a property can rupture the water and sewage lines that enter and exit it. This poses a serious risk to the health of a structure and anyone inside it.
A more immediately worrying (but, thankfully, less common) side effect of washout is an increased risk of mudslides and landslides in hilly areas. Being able to spot this issue before it escalates could be crucial to your health and wellbeing as well as the stability of your home as a whole.
It is important to keep in mind that, while washout soil can be removed in uniform layers from the topsoil, it is just as common for it to be taken from beneath the surface. Likewise, washout can be incredibly localized. As such, it is important to check your whole property regularly.
The Process and Implications of Soil Washout
As with wind-based erosion, washout soil is primarily found in areas where the soil is already unhealthy, loose, or light. Sandy soils, for example, are very prone to washout in periods of flooding and heavy rainfall. Heavy, expansive soils that are primarily clay-based are more likely to absorb water (causing different issues) unless the flooding is extreme.
While the factors are complex, the process of soil washout is incredibly simple. All it takes is enough water in motion, either with force or over a prolonged period. If the conditions are right most soils will experience some amount of washout soil.
What Causes Washout Soil?
Water causes soil washout, but on a deeper level, many things can contribute. As such, the most common causes of washout soil on properties around Grand Junction, CO include but are not limited to:
Your property’s drainage systems are incredibly important to the health of your foundation and your yard. If your gutters and drains are well maintained, then you will find that your property’s moisture management abilities and resistance to issues like soil washout increases exponentially.
Bad drainage, however, can make the problem worse by allowing substantial amounts of runoff or dumping water at your property’s perimeter line. Improving your drainage systems will go a long way in preventing soil washout.
Plumbing floods can be destructive and stressful, but what most people don’t realize is that they are also incredibly likely to cause some level of soil washout around a property. This is due to the volume of water and the force with which it is expelled. This may not cause a huge amount of washout soil, but it could do enough damage to make the soil around your home more vulnerable in the future.
External flooding is the most likely to cause severe washout in the soil around a property in a single sitting. This is often the least of people’s worries when a local river bursts its banks or a storm surge hits, but once the bulk of the clean-up has been completed, it is a factor that needs to be considered.
Commonplace rainfall is not a huge worry unless the soil around your home is already incredibly weak, loose, or light. A big, heavy, prolonged storm, however, can be enough to start the process of washout if you do not have adequate drainage options in place to protect a property’s perimeter from serious saturation.
If you experience a heavy rainstorm that lasts two days or more, then you should check for signs of washout once it has passed. Signs of washout vary of course, but soil deposits on your driveway after a storm are a strong sign.
Underground Water Sources
Unlike erosion, which almost exclusively impacts the topsoil, washout can also occur from beneath. This makes it dangerous to any structures on land that are being affected by soil washout. Underground water sources can cause serious washout and lead to sinkholes.
This can cause settlement and sinking, but in a serious case could lead to whole sections of a home collapsing. Therefore, it never pays to ignore signs of washout altogether.
Each of these issues can cause washout soil, but in homes where there is evidence of prolonged washout, it is likely that more than one of them will have contributed to the overall state of the property. Learning to spot the signs of washout is imperative to being able to take effective preventative measures.
How to Spot Soil Washout
If you want to catch washout and nip it in the bud before it has a chance to cause foundation damage and sinking around your property, you will need to know what warning signs to look for. The following problem signs are not always the signs of washout, but they are the easiest to spot:
Bald Spots in Your Lawn
The sudden formation of bald spots in your lawn is a huge warning sign of hidden soil washout at work. This happens because of the way that washout soil strips nutrients and fiber from the earth, making it unhealthy. If you see no other signs of washout, but there are large fallow or bald patches in your lawn or yard, this is a strong sign that washout is occurring below the surface. These could even be the first signs of a forming sinkhole in that area.
Sinkholes are a serious sign of damage to the soil around your home, and if you find them in your yard, there is a strong chance that your home could be hiding more. Thankfully, sinkholes rarely crop up out of nowhere. There are some signs that you can look out for. As well as bald spots and fallow earth, you can look for the formation of dips and craters in your yard. These often precede the opening of a sinkhole.
Sinking Concrete Surfaces
Concrete surfaces like driveways and sidewalks hide a multitude of problems when it comes to soil erosion and washout as they will maintain the illusion of evenness for some time after the earth shifts. Sinking and unevenness in such surfaces is a strong sign of washout soil as is the formation of gaps between their edges and the earth.
One of the earliest signs of washout soil around a property is finding soil on your sidewalks or driveway after a rainstorm. Of course, this is also a sign that your property is experiencing elevated levels of runoff. This is a problem sign that also indicates one way that you can address the issue. By improving your drainage, you could mitigate some washout.
Seeing pools of water forming or standing in your yard after a storm or flood has passed is a sign that these areas have been impacted by washout. They are the result of soil displacement and will create pockets of extreme saturation that can contribute to the formation of sinkholes around your home. As such, you should address them as soon as you can!
While we understand that a little bit of soil displacement might not seem like a huge issue when you have a whole property to maintain, we urge you not to ignore soil washout. There are many (long-term and short-term) issues that are commonly connected to washout soil around a home. The level of damage your home and yard are likely to experience depends on how quickly you act.
Impact on Your Yard
Arguably the most seriously affected (and least discussed) area of a property when it comes to washout soil is the yard. While this may seem like the least important part of your home, especially if you are not a gardener, it is important to remember that your yard plays a vital role in protecting your home and regulating moisture around your foundation. As such, it is important that you maintain its health as much as you are able to. A yard that has healthy, well-cared-for soil is able to absorb and regulate saturation levels more effectively, for example.
While soil washout is most common in areas that already have light, loose, or unhealthy soil, it can be caused by extreme weather conditions or sudden flooding and will impact the health of the soil in question. This will gradually erode its ability to withstand and manage saturation, and it could even lead to the soil becoming fallow if the process is allowed to drag on for too long.
Impact on Your Home
One of the biggest side-effects of washout soil is the change in the landscape of an area. This may seem obvious; after all, this is a process of soil displacement. What you should keep in mind, however, is that your property is reliant on the placement and grading of the soil in your yard for its health and stability. If the soil around your home is moving, then there is a high chance that the soil under it is also moving and being affected by washout.
The implications of this are many. Most worrying is the possibility that a property can move laterally as a result of soil washout. This can rupture the main water and sewage lines that enter and exit the property if it is allowed to progress too far. This will lead to serious foundation problems like settlement and subsidence and can impact every part of your home’s structure over time. These issues are also expensive to repair.
There are some things that you can do to prevent excessive washout and protect your home. They all really concern moisture management.
While some level of washout can be unavoidable in your home, taking good care of your yard can make all the difference when it comes to minimizing its impact and spread. Washout is a process of soil removal aided by water. This is why heavy and absorbent soils like those made up of mostly clay are the least likely to be affected; they hold together well and are more likely to absorb water.
This level of cohesion and moisture retention protects expansive soils, though they can create issues of their own. If you have lighter, looser soil in your yard, then you can improve its cohesion and moisture-holding capacity by planting a varied mix of plants, bushes, and trees (if possible). The complex root systems this will create will not only hold the soil together better but also increase its moisture absorption capabilities, mitigating all but the worst of storms and floods.
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do to protect your home from washout, however, is to improve its drainage capabilities. By ensuring that your property collects and properly removes as much water as possible, you will limit the amount of moving water that your yard has to deal with (especially around your foundation perimeter). This can be as simple as implementing a maintenance schedule and as big as installing new drains.
This is why it is imperative to clean your gutters and drains on a regular basis. This is especially the case in fall when you can mitigate winter and spring run-off from your gutters by clearing debris and buildup. Investing in extra drainage options and extended downspouts will also maximize these benefits.
The shortest answer is that you should deal with washout soil immediately. Once you see signs that give you a strong indication that you have soil washout at work, you should start the process of investigation and repair.
Do Not Wait Too Long
Washout soil is like foundation damage; it will only get worse over time, usually at an exponential rate, and it will cost more to fix the longer you wait. What’s more, the damage to your yard will be far more expensive and time-consuming to fix than the damage to your home.
If you wait too long, your yard runs the risk of becoming fallow. It can take years and thousands of dollars to properly heal soil that has deteriorated to the state that it no longer supports plant life. Of course, soil this unhealthy will also be more susceptible to movement and displacement, meaning that your home will be at greater risk of structural damage.
Professional Concrete Lifting From Foundation Repair of Western Colorado
Have you noticed the signs of washout soil and erosion around your home? If so, it’s time to call the experts at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado to ensure that you get the right solutions for your home and your budget. We have been helping homeowners in and around Grand Junction, CO, to restore their homes to full health since 2005. We have years of collective experience and know just how to deal with even the most complex of situations.
It all starts with a free inspection appointment. This appointment is designed to let our team assess your home and identify the most likely causes of damage as well as the extent of the issues. This allows them to provide you with a written estimate detailing their suggested solutions, as well as the time repairs, are likely to take and the costs associated with their suggested work. These appointments come with no obligation to book work through us, so there is no pressure in your decision.