AUSTIN (KXAN) — The summer heatwave has resulted in one of the worst droughts in recent Texas history. With that drought comes a lot of changes to our environment. Caves are drying up because of the drought. Farmers are being forced to restrict water usage. Now the ground itself is shrinking and putting homes at risk.
“We’re right in the middle of that drought. Things are starting to move around,” said Paul White, production manager with Foundation Support Specialists in Austin. He said during the summer and intense droughts they see an increase in calls from homeowners reporting damaged foundations.
“When concrete breaks and rebar bends, that’s permanent damage that definitely needs to be resolved.”
According to White, the specific soil that many Central Texas homes are built on is to blame for the increased calls during these dry spells. “We’re known for having pretty unstable soil. And that comes in the form of clay.”
According to the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office, the soil east of Interstate 35 is primarily clay. What makes this type of soil so dangerous for homes is how it reacts to weather. During wet periods, it swells and grows denser. During dry periods, however, it shrinks.
This swelling and shrinking places different forces on a home’s foundation, weakening it over time. White said this happens with all soil types over time but is most noticeable with clay.
Why clay soil is bad for your foundation
During these dry periods, the shrunken clay causes extra issues. “It causes gaps underneath homes, and those homes will, by way of gravity, start to fall into those gaps, creating some settlement issues and some unevenness across the home,” White said.
While the soil will return to its original shape over time, the foundation will not likely recover. “You’re gonna see cracking in your drywall, you might see cracks that were previously there, that start to widen, you’ll see cracking in the ceiling,”
If you notice these symptoms, White recommends calling an inspector who can confirm your home’s foundation has shifted. If they notice a shift after taking measurements of your home, they’ll straighten it out by driving steel beams into the ground, then attaching the beams to your home.
Preventing damage to your foundation
White said the best way to prevent your soil from shrinking and damaging your foundation is to do something you’re likely already doing: watering.
“Water your yard, just keep doing that. And that’s probably the best thing you can do.”
However, White said overwatering can cause further issues. He said to make sure water doesn’t pool around the foundation of your home. Water that gets under your foundation can cause further damage and could cause you to spend even more on repairs.