Causes

Causes of Foundation Failure in Ridgeland

Even a sturdy home on a strong foundation may succumb to the elements of moisture, weather and shifting soil. Here are seven reasons why foundations fail and what causes the damage.

Evaporation

High temperatures in the summer months and hot, dry winds increase the rate of evaporation of moisture in the soil which causes the soil to shrink beneath the foundation. Voids in the space between the dirt and the footings of a foundation compromises the strength of the foundation causing it to sink. Homes most susceptible to foundation problems are those in a semi-arid climate with a wet season and dry season as well as with expansive soils (typically clay soils), such as the soils found in Texas and other southern and southwestern locations in the United States.

Transpiration

Tree roots extract water from the soil in a process called transpiration. During a drought or dry season, plants fight to survive by leeching all the moisture they can find from the surrounding soil or moisture trapped below foundations. Once the moisture is extracted, the soil shrinks and causes foundation problems. Many times, transpiration can be avoided by ensuring trees and shrubs are planted a proper distance from your structure. When planting a tree, for instance, the industry standard is to determine how tall the tree will be at maturity then plant the tree that distance away from the home. So if a tree will be 60 feet tall when it is mature, it should be planted 60 feet away from the home.

Installing a root barrier may also reduce foundation problems. Placed between the foundation and a tree, a root barrier is a 3-4-inch wide trench dug about 36 inches deep. It is lined with plastic, stopping feeder roots from burrowing too close to the foundation.

Plumbing Leaks

Man-made materials can also cause foundation problems. Plumbing lines close to the surface are susceptible to the heaving and shrinking of the soil; the lines become weak and can crack or break. Bathrooms and kitchens are most susceptible, where heaving floors are a problem due to the swelling of the ground below due to cracks in plumbing lines. Drain pipe leaks, while the most common type of plumbing problem, may not be immediately visible. Pressure leaks are more evident and more quickly recognized.

Drainage

Flower beds and planters located at the base of a home may add curb appeal but they do little for protecting a foundation. Just as planting trees and shrubs too close to a home’s foundation can cause issues, putting planting beds that have improper drainage next to the home can be just as damaging. Excess water needs to flow away from the home, but most flower and shrub beds are not designed to slope away from the home, so daily watering or excessive rains puddle against the foundation. The change in the moisture content can cause soils to move, thus leading to foundation problems.

Inferior Foundation Construction

Man-made materials and human error cause foundation failure. The amount of steel or rebar in a foundation can affect its structural integrity. The use of poor-quality concrete or not allowing the concrete to cure long enough will also make a foundation weaker and more susceptible to soil movement.

Inferior Ground Preparation

As heavy equipment machinery creates level pads for home construction, the movement of a high spot of soil to fill a low spot breaks down the strength of the soil. Rather than having compacted soil to build on, the movement of the fill dirt causes it to become loose. The low-level dirt is no longer consolidated, and the high-level dirt that was moved is now exposed to moisture. The home built on this pad can now heave and settle causing tremendous pressure changes in a foundation slab.

Poor Soil Conditions

When a home is built, the footings are poured and the soil is backfilled. Over the next few years, backfill becomes loose and settles and creates negative drainage. Water gathers in low spots near the foundation and changes the moisture content of the soil. In some areas of the country, such as Florida, the soil is made up of organic matter, such as dead trees or plants, so the soil is soft and spongy. Weak soil is a prerequisite to foundation problems, so the better the soil is prepared and compacted, the better the chances of reducing potential foundation problems.

Contact the Experts

More often than not, foundations don’t really fail; rather, the soil around them does. New technologies such as helical piers support a foundation from deep within the soil (typically 10-30 feet below the surface).

For homes in dry, warm areas with slabs close to the surface and footings an average of only 2 feet down, the potential for a foundation problem is high. Any repairs are usually done in the zone of influence (18 feet deep in the soil) where the moisture cycle fluctuates the most. Below 18 feet, the soil doesn’t move as much and is less susceptible.

By understanding what causes foundation failure, a homeowner can help to maintain these positive drainage conditions. They will also be better prepared to recognize problems and can contact a foundation repair specialist for service before the problems get any worse.

Contact Ram Jack Mississippi today for your free* foundation estimate.

*Free estimates in the Jackson metro area.

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