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Foundation Watering and Expansive Soils

clock July 18, 2011 10:06 by author blogadmin
Using soaker hoes alone will not prevent foundation related repairs and problems. Foundation design is the key to properly maintaining your home built upon expansive soils.

What is Foundation Watering and Expansive Soils

Foundaton watering and expansive soilsExpansive soils are known to be present in every US state and throughout the world. Every year expansive soils contribute to billions of dollars in damage to homes. In a typical year expansive soils cause greater financial loss to property owners than earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tornados combined. The proper design and care of your foundation is very important to preserving the integrity of your home.

Foundation watering through the use of soaker hoses has become very important in an attempt to preserve the integrity of your home. Some clayey soils have the ability to shrink or expand at alarming rates, depending on the moisture content of the soil and weather patterns. The goal for proper foundation maintenance should be to maintain a consistent level of moisture in the soil thus eliminating swelling and shrinking of the soil that is supporting your foundation.

The Causes of Foundation Watering and Expansive Soil

If the soil around the exterior of the home becomes excessively dry, it will shrink leaving a gap between the soil and the foundation. These cracks allow additional evaporation and more cracking deeper in the soil. When heavy rains happen, these cracks allow excessive amounts of water to penetrate soil layers causing swelling of the clay soils that are intended to support the foundation. This rapid expansion can cause settlement, foundation cracking, drywall cracking and the need for foundation repairs.

The lack of uniform moisture levels can be caused by:


2.Lack of guttering and downspouts on the home

3.Improper drainage

4.Plumbing leaks

5.Improper grading

6.Excessive watering

7.Trees too near the foundation

8. Poor soil conditions

Expansive soils, combined with a shallow foundation, creates a scenario that can manifest itself into major foundation problems. Shallow foundations (foundations very near the surface) rest upon soils that are greatly influenced by rain and ambient temperatures. These foundations become highly susceptible to movement which causes cracking and structural damage. Opposed to deep foundations (foundations that are set below the zone of influence), shallow foundations are cheaper and account for the greatest financial losses due to foundation repairs and structural failures.

Deep foundations penetrate expansive soils providing support for a structure without being effected by shrinking and swelling clay soils. These foundations are most effective when used during initial construction but can also be retrofitted using a high quality end bearing foundation repair system. End bearing is the key here. Foundation repair systems that rely on skin friction fail very quickly when soils dry out and separate from the pile. Deep cracks in the soil are a sign that a skin friction pile has become unsuitable. The highest quality foundation repair systems use slender steel shafts that drive deeply to load bearing soils or rock. Being slender in nature these piles allow expansive clay soils to move around the shaft without negative effects.

To summarize, the expansive clay soils are generally not the problem. The foundation design or foundation repair design is generally the problem. Simply adding water around the foundation most likely will only affect the upper most soil layers which does not solve the problem. Water must be deeply injected into the soil in a wide radius around the foundation to help maintain a consistent soil moisture level. This is generally unfeasible due to the huge amount of water required in dry seasons.

Foundation Failure Prevention

The most effective solution to foundations in expansive soil areas is through professional design. A deep foundation along with proper guttering, grading and landscaping will create an effective foundation for homes and commercial buildings alike without the concern of structural cracking and foundation repair work.

For existing homes:

1.Maintain guttering around the perimeter of the home

2.Direct downspouts at least 10’ from foundation

3.Create proper grading around the home

4.Remove trees and large shrubs that are within 15’ of structure

5.Maintain plumbing pipes beneath foundation

6.Use only high quality end bearing foundation repair techniques

The swelling and shrinking of expansive clay soils create serious problems in shallow foundations throughout the United States. Differences in performance of foundations arise from differences in design and the extent of disturbance of natural conditions. Methods of identifying potentially troublesome conditions and various foundation and foundation repair design to cope with these problems are now available to foundation specialists. Soaker hoses alone will not solve your problem, a trained foundation specialist is generally required.

Signs of Foundation Failure

If you don't identify the causes of foundation failure, then you may experience major changes in your home's structure and foundation. Signs of foundation repair can occur inside or outside of your home as well as the garage. Some signs include: leaning walls, leaning chimneys, concrete cracks, sloped floors, water stains on floors/walls, sticking doors/windows, bowing walls, and settling foundation. Every homeowner should also provide adequate waterproofing solutions to eliminate water damage and foundation cracks. A foundation specialists can assess the situation and determine the best solution for your home.

There are many foundaton repair methods to repair your foundation such as steel push piers, helical piers, porch piers, tieback anchors, retaining wall tiebacks, plate anchors, and hydraulic lift slab pers. Foundation specialists will provide the best ECP foundation repair method to repair your foundation damages.

Foundation Repair Information and Advice

clock October 17, 2010 18:15 by author blogadmin
Expansion soils cause foundation failure and wall cracks. Contact a professional engineer to make the necessary foundation and basement repairs.



Repairing potential foundation problems should be a priority for every homeowner. Foundation repairs prevent little problems from becoming bigger, keep your home safe, and protect the value of your property. Fortunately, foundation problems tend to develop and worsen slowly, giving you time to make a thorough evaluation and decide on the proper action for the repairs.

Foundation Cracks

Foundation wall cracks that are less than .064” wide typically do not leak. Any crack repair performed on these cracks is cosmetic only. Larger foundation cracks or ruptures do need to be addressed. These cracks are signs that you have, or had, foundation movement.Each type of crack gives you a clue to what is happening with your foundation. Stair step cracks, cracks that follow the grout lines between blocks or bricks, generally indicate settlement. Cracks that are wider at the top also indicate settlement. Horizontal cracks generally indicate bowing or inward movement. Repairing cracks and patching cracks should not be confused. Patching a crack is merely Band-Aiding a possible problem. Crack repair is much more involved and require special training and specialized equipment. Before structural crack repairs are performed contact a professional engineer for guidance.

Foundation Drainage

A common culprit is water accumulation in the soil around the foundation, which expands the soil and puts pressure on walls and foundation footings, causing cracks to appear. Check to make sure all gutters and downspout drains are in good working order, and that the soil around your foundation is properly graded—it should slope at least 6 inches for every 10 horizontal feet.

Most foundations are required to have a perimeter drain system that channels sub-surface water away from the foundation. The drain system is made of concrete tiles or perforated plastic pipe buried in a gravel bed. It usually drains externally (a pipe that opens onto a low spot in your yard), or connects to your sewer system.

It’s possible for this drain to become blocked, causing water to accumulate in the soil and putting pressure on your foundation walls. If you suspect a blocked perimeter foundation drain, seek the advice of a licensed foundation contractor.

Buckled or Bowing Walls

A foundation wall that has tipped, bowed, or severely cracked requires substantial reinforcement to prevent further deterioration. Repairing basement walls from the inside is usually accomplished carbon-fiber mesh or wall anchors spaced 4-6 feet apart along the entire wall.

Carbon fiber wall repair involves placing vertical strips of high strength carbon fiber in a bed of an epoxy compound. These carbon fiber strips will strengthen the wall far beyond its original strength. While it will not straighten a wall, carbon fiber repair will greatly strengthen basement walls that have not bowed more than 2”.

Wall plate anchors are also strengthen basement walls along with being able to straighten them. They consist of metal plates placed in your yard (installed by excavating), and metal wall plates on the inside of your foundation walls The plates are connected by steel rods that can be tightened to pull the wall back outward.
Helical tieback anchors perform the same functions as wall plate anchors. Helical anchors have tremendous strength and require engineering calculations to install correctly. The largest difference between helical tieback and wall anchors is the amount of excavating required. Helical tiebacks require full excavation on the outside of the basement wall opposed to wall anchors that only requires spot excavation.

Foundations and Expansive Soils

If your house is out of level and there is no obvious reason, it may sit on soil that expands when damp and shrinks when dry. This so-called “expansive soil” is found in all states and has damaged about a quarter of all houses in the U.S., according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. If you suspect you have the problem, check with your local building authority to see if expansive soils exist in your area.

Dealing with this kind of soil is most difficult if you have a slab foundation because access beneath the slab is limited. The first remediation is to reduce moisture fluctuations of the soil around and under your home. Making sure soil slopes away from the house, and draining away all gutter and downspout water is necessary.

Professional Engineering

Trustworthy advice comes from a professional engineer. An initial visit should reveal the severity of your problem and tell you what to do next. In the end, you should get a written report that makes specific recommendations and lays out pros and cons of each option. If you need a complicated fix, you might want to hire the engineer by the hour to inspect while work is underway.


Expansive Soils in Texas

clock August 2, 2010 14:32 by author blogadmin
Expansive soils can cause foundation cracks in driveways and homes. Hire a professional to inspect your damages and install a helical steel pier system.

Damage to homes and commercial structures in the US is commonly related to soil characteristics, with expansive (shrink/swell) soils and collapsing soils causing the most problems. Cracking of foundations, walls, driveways, swimming pools, and roads costs us millions of dollars each year in repairs. Severe or recurring damage can lower the value of a house or property. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, about half of the houses built in the United States each year are situated on unstable soil, and about half of these will eventually suffer some soil related damage.  This damage causes greater financial loss to property than earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes and tornados combined. 

Each spring and summer homeowners in Texas are reminded of this, as the moisture content of their expansive clay soils dramatically increases and decreases with the seasons.  The causes of soil expansion or collapse are related to the type of clay minerals in the soil and original soil density. A change in soil moisture content can cause clay minerals to swell like a sponge or to collapse as it dries.  Expansive clay soils can cause walls and foundations to crack and roads and sidewalks to warp.  

The first sign of expansive soils causing a need for foundation repairs is when you notice a misalignment of doors and windows. Another indication of soil expansion is when your patio or driveway slabs buckle or move away from the house. Non-load-bearing walls, which do not have enough weight to resist the pressure produced by expansion, typically crack before load-bearing walls do. Upon drying, expansive soil shrinks, forming large, deep cracks or "popcorn" texture in surface exposures. 

Decreasing the effects of expansive clay soils can be accomplished several ways. The application of hydrated lime to swelling soils is a common treatment that is usually effective in reducing expansion. Another effective method is to replace the expansive soils with non-expansive fill. This can only be accomplished in new construction projects. The application of protective barriers, such as geo-membranes, that surround the homes foundation help keep soil moisture levels constant and prevent the infiltration of surface water. 

For larger problems caused by expansive soils, helical piers or steel piers can be an effective solution. These piers extend the foundation below the active soil layers to a non expansive stratum of soil. The key to these types of foundation repair techniques is depth. One must bear these piers on deep soils at least three times their diameter below the expansive layers.

Poor drainage can result in ponding of water, which allows clays to absorb water, expand and cause problems. Gutters and downspouts should direct water at least 10’ away from the foundation to help maintain consistent soil moisture. Deep watering of landscaping plants and lawns by drip irrigation systems also can trigger soil expansion.




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