Now that fall is upon us, it’s easier to forget that the past summer was hot, dry – and not completely out of the ordinary. Texas saw a serious drought in 2012 –the worst on record since the devastating period in the 1950s. This year’s summer sun-bake wasn’t nearly as severe as that of 2012 – but it sustained a trend toward increasing dryness and decreasing precipitation that climatologists say is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Extreme aridity paves the way for crop failure, water usage restrictions, higher utility bills, and sick animals, among many other dangers. But drought can cause more insidious damage, too – and if you know what to look for, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.
Drought in Texas and the Midwest: It’s here to stay.
State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said max summer temperatures in Texas could be up to 5 degrees higher by 2060. This year, San Antonio temperatures averaged out to 98 degrees in August. If Nielsen-Gammon’s research follows through, that puts the southernmost regions of the state in the triple-digits for much of the summer season.
Nielsen-Gammon drew from research from the National Center for atmospheric Research and the National Climatic Data Center to identify a pattern of steadily increasing temperatures since the abnormally cold – the coldest record, actually – decade of the 1970s.
And drought directly impacts the buildings in affected areas. An extremely arid climate – and even a climate that’s prone to rapid changes in weather – can pose serious threats to the structural integrity of your home. Unfortunately, many homeowners neglect minor repairs due to foundation problems and end up with a much more costly project in the long run.
Is drought causing foundation problems in Texas? You bet.
This map of the U.S. depicts the soil compositions across the country. That blue shade that makes up the majority of Texas represents soil containing up to 50% expansive clay.
In Texas, expansive clay accounts for almost 50% of most of the soil – and this means the soil is more prone to shifting when moisture is removed. As Ram Jack’s Randon Gregory explains, the soil in Texas isn’t unique to the state: “…many other states have similar soil conditions. What they don’t have is the enormous seasonal swing that Texas has – very wet springs and extremely hot summers! – causing the soils to move sporadically.”
Here’s how drought causes foundation problems, from the ground up:
- When the soil loses moisture, it begins to crack.
- The cracked soil pulls away from your home’s concrete base.
- As the soil shifts and cracks, it can cause cracks in the basement walls and floor.
- If your concrete slab cracks, your home’s structural integrity is compromised.
If you’re not sure whether or not your home is having foundation problems, look for these signs:
- Cracks in drywall, bricks, mortar
- Doors and windows not sealing properly or difficult to open
- Large gaps between walls and floor
- Large gaps between built-in fixtures (fireplace, inset stone) and walls or ceilings
- Unevenness in floors
If you prefer more concrete examples (pun intended), we have a more extensive list of foundation trouble red flags on our site here.
Prevent drought-related foundation damage now – you’ll be glad you did.
There’s not much you can do to prevent a drought in your area – but you can guard your home and yard against major structural damage.
- Point any major draining features – gutters in particular – pointed away from the home. This will keep the much-needed rain from washing the soil out from under your home.
- Pay attention to any cracks in your home and yard. If you notice any damage and think it might be foundation-related, call us for a foundation inspection as soon as possible. (Don’t worry – estimates are completely free to homeowners.)
Awareness and prevention go a long way in terms of long-term repairs. Don’t ignore any new cracks or damage – the longer you wait to address a problem, the worse it will become.
In later posts, we’ll discuss how different methods of foundation repair work – and which methods would work best for your home.