Originally posted 4/10/18; revised 7/30/21
After a cold winter, warm sunny days encourage us to get out of the house and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. Of course, spending time in the sun means you need to protect yourself against seasonal concerns like insect bites, sunburns, and dehydration. But did you know that warmer weather also brings risks to your foundation’s health?
Family-owned and operated, Acculevel focuses on foundation repairs and waterproofing. Our goal is to help homeowners like you, who want to protect and preserve their greatest investments. Since we first opened our doors in 1996, we’ve restored health and stability to over 30,000 homes in our service area. We believe it’s important for homeowners to understand how weather -and weather extremes- affect your foundation.
We’re going to explain how both hot dry spells and heavy rainfall present challenges to your home’s structural integrity. As we go down the list, we’ll also review contributing factors and what symptoms you should watch for.
What Happens to Your Foundation When It Doesn’t Rain?
If you’ve lived in the Midwest for very long, you know that summer often means either too much rain, or not enough. A dry spell- even if it’s just a few weeks without rain- can cause significant settling around your home.
Factors to Consider
If you have expansive (clay-based) soil, your home is more likely to settle in a drought. When expansive soil dries out, it shrinks, pulling back and away from your foundation. This can leave enough of a gap under the foundation for it to sink or settle downward.
Another factor to consider is the depth of your foundation. Shallow foundations are usually slab homes or those with a crawl space. This is important because the ground dries at the surface level first. The longer the weather stays dry, the farther down the soil dries out. It has to be dry for a significant amount of time before the ground contracts 8-10 feet down.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during a free estimate appointment. The long spidery crack in this ceiling is a sign the home’s foundation is settling.
Signs of Settling
There are three major signs that your foundation is settling, and they don’t all happen at the foundation level.
- Cracks in the foundation. When your foundation settles in one area, it pulls and strains at the point where the settling part connects to the rest of your foundation. Since your foundation is not meant to bend, it cracks.
- Cracks in your drywall. Since the foundation is pulling at the rest of the house, your living spaces will also display signs of stress. These are spidery cracks in the ceiling, or cracks above door or window framing.
- Windows and/or doors that “stick.” This can be a door that won’t stay open, a window that you can’t close, or vice versa. If you have seen cracks in the drywall around the frame, test the door or window. Just as your foundation is straining, the framing of your house is also stressed- and this causes slight warping or twisting of the wood framework.
What Happens to Your Foundation When It Rains Too Much?
On the other side of the coin, too much rain causes different problems for homeowners. Given that we can get “too much” rain in a very short amount of time, taking action as soon as you see warning signs is critical.
Factors to Consider:
If you have granular soil, erosion is a major concern. As the name suggests, granular soil is made up of many little granules (pieces). This allows water to move through it more easily, but it also makes it easier for the water to carry the soil away with it.
When your home is built on granular soil, erosion is the primary cause of settling. The signs and symptoms of settling are the same as above; only the cause is different. It is also true that a shallow foundation will settle more quickly.
Hydrostatic Pressure and Water Intrusion Cause Major Problems
When it rains, the soil around your home absorbs as much water as it can hold. After that limit is reached? The excess moisture keeps flowing, trying to find a place to collect. This is when it becomes a problem for you and your home.
Hydrostatic pressure is our industry’s term for the force applied to your foundation by the excess water in the ground around your home. Hydrostatic pressure does not care what kind of soil you have.
Cracks in Your Foundation
In all likelihood, your foundation is made of a porous material (brick, stone, or concrete). This means that water can seep through it, given enough time and opportunity. As water moves through the foundation, it starts to form a path. This path eventually wears a space in your wall, in the form of a crack (like the Grand Canyon, but not so pretty or so large).
Once a crack forms, the next time a major storm comes through, the excess rainwater will go right to this path. This happens again and again, until water makes its way all the way through into your home.
It is in your best interest to have cracks repaired as soon as they develop. Repairing a small crack is less expensive than a large one- and often, this can postpone or prevent water intrusion from becoming an issue. We believe that epoxy fill is the best crack repair method.
If a crack is left untended, it will eventually widen. Worse, it may be joined by new or worsening cracks. If you see a long horizontal crack, or a zigzag crack in a concrete block wall, you need to kick it into high gear. These cracks indicate that hydrostatic pressure is actively pushing your wall inward, and it will begin to bow.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during a free estimate appointment. You can see long horizontal and zig zag cracks have formed.
Bowing walls are a genuine threat to the stability of your home. Once the wall begins to split, it will only get worse, and more expensive to repair. The best repair method for a bowing wall depends largely on how far it is bowing inward. As it bows, the pressure increases, and it takes increasingly more significant bracing to secure it.
Water Intrusion in Your Basement
If you have water getting into your basement, you know how frustrating it can be. No one likes going downstairs and discovering they need to remove water, mop, and dry a floor. It’s worse if you have seasonal items stored in your basement, because these items may be damaged or ruined. But if you have finishings like carpet, drywall, and furniture? That’s a very expensive mess to clean up.
Waterproofing your basement is a good investment in your home, and the best type of water drainage depends on the kind of floor you have. If you are planning to finish your basement (or re-finish if it’s been badly damaged), we recommend wall encapsulation as well. This is a great way to make sure any water coming in your basement will go directly into the drainage and not into your drywall.
If you spend any amount of time in your basement- even if it’s just doing laundry- you should also consider installing an egress window. This is an important safety feature that adds value to your home. It guarantees that in case of an emergency, anyone in the basement can escape to the outside quickly and easily.
Water Intrusion in Your Crawl Space
If you don’t have a basement, this doesn’t mean you can ignore water intrusion. In many ways, a wet crawl space is worse for a home than a wet basement! This is because the wooden flooring components in your home (joists, beams, subfloor) are much closer to any water intrusion. Moisture only has to travel 2-3 feet to reach those vulnerable components- and damp wood encourages not only biological growth, but damaging insects like termites.
The best waterproofing method for your crawl space is with GeoChannel. GeoChannel is designed specifically for the dirt “floor” that makes up your crawl space. If your crawl space was originally insulated with fiberglass insulation, you should consider replacing it with spray foam. Spray foam insulation has a much higher R value, repels moisture, and completely fills the spaces where it’s applied.
What’s Next For You and Your Home?
We’ve covered all the potential issues that can develop in warm weather- and there are a lot! If you have additional questions about the symptoms you’ve seen in your home, please use our free Symptom Checker to learn more.
Do you need a professional to evaluate your home, and determine the best solution(s) to your current situation? You should look for a reputable contractor in your area. We recommend that you check with the Better Business Bureau, to confirm that the company is properly accredited and insured.
If you live in our service area, give Acculevel a call (866-669-3349) or fill out our contact form to request an estimate. We’ll schedule an appointment with one of our helpful and knowledgeable project advisors, and they will:
- Meet you (on time!) at your home.
- Listen to your concerns.
- Diagnose any problems and
- Give you a free written estimate.
Our goal is to provide you with a whole-home solution that helps you preserve and protect your home. We aim for five star customer service every step of the way.