We’ve talked about foundations before. Caring for your foundation is a fact of life here in South Texas. While my particular problem isn’t the foundation, the root cause is the same. Since we’ve had a lot of rain recently, the ground is nice and wet. As we begin to dry out, the ground begins to shrink and shift. In this case, a main water supply broke. And after fixing it and releasing the water back into the system, another part broke. Then another. So it’s just an endless cycle.
While the crews work on fixing it once again, it seemed like a good time to discuss what happens that causes these types of problems and how you can help prevent them. (Cross your fingers that this time they fix it and it stays fixed…)
Because of our wet/dry flip-flopping here in South Texas, we experience a lot of changes in the ground. If you remember your basic science classes, when things dry up, they tend to shrink and shrivel up. When they get wet and start soaking up water, they expand. It’s like those little foam toys they pack into pellets and when you add water they grow into dinosaurs or monsters or whatever is the new cool thing that kids love. It’s simple science at work. The ground is no different. As it dries it begins to shrink and compact. When it gets wet, it swells and expands. Ever noticed how the soil in your potted plant pulls away from the sides of the pot if you forget to water it? Exactly.
As the ground shifts, it can move a lot of weight. This includes your foundation. When it expands it creates forces against your foundation, literally pushing it into a new position. When the ground dries up and shrinks away, it can leave voids – and all that weight likes to be supported, so your foundation will shift to fill that space left behind by the retreating earth. This could compromise your home’s structural integrity.
In the case of my water mains, it’s the same principles – voids left as the ground began to try left the pipes unsupported and the weight of all the water they were carrying caused the pipes to sag to fill this void…until the pipe couldn’t take it any more and burst.
So how do you combat this issue? Follow good foundation care. Keep the area around your foundation moist when the summer heat cranks up and the ground begins to dry up. You don’t want standing water around your house (that can lead to the same problems), but you don’t want it so dry that you can see the ground pulling away from your foundation either. This article from Texas A&M is an excellent guide to watering your foundation.
Take care of your foundation and it will take care of you. And don’t forget, your foundation carries the pipes to your home, so you don’t want to wind up like me…sitting here wishing you had enough water to take a shower.
image courtesy of joshme17