Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a homeowner quite like the thought of having to deal with a cracked foundation. Yet many homeowners fail to understand the sorts of things that can lead to this all too common problem. If you would like to help protect your home from suffering foundation damage by educating yourself about common causes of foundation cracks, read on. This article will introduce you to the threat of expansive soil.
Expansive soil is the name for ground soil that contains an above average proportion of clay. The problem of expansive soil has to do specifically with the ability of such clay to absorb and retain water. During periods of heavy precipitation, this clay's ability to suck up water can cause the soil's volume to expand as much as thirty percent. This sort of expansion places a great deal of structural stress on the foundation of a home, and over time will lead to the formation of cracks, heaving, and other serious problems.
Expansive soil presents just as much of a problem in periods of excessive dryness as it does in periods of excessive hydration. As the soil grows dryer and dryer, the shrinking clay will cause it to recede from the walls of your foundation. This decreases the support on the outside of the walls. The gaps that form in this way between the soil and the wall also create problems the next time it does rain, since they allow water to pool up in close proximity to the foundation, thus increasing the risk of leaks and other forms of water damage.
The key to reducing the negative impact of expansive soil is to ensure that the earth around your home remains as evenly hydrated as possible. As you can imagine, this is easier said than done. The first step is to employ landscaping tactics that will promote better drainage. This may involve regrading the slope of the soil, or installing drainage features such as drywells or French drains.
Things become harder when summertime rolls around and the soil begins to dry out. Now the challenge will be to keep your soil from getting too dry. Watering your lawn helps--but only so much. That's because the soil deeper down may not benefit as much from such watering, and can still end up causing problems. To combat this, many people use a soil auger to drill evenly spaced holes around their yard. These holes allow water to penetrate down to deeper parts of the soil, thus ensuring adequate and even hydration across your entire yard.