Southern winters can be somewhat unusual, with temperature extremes in the Carolinas ranging from the single digits to the mid-60’s just in the past few weeks. While we can expect some occasional flurries and a blanket of snow every few years, it’s usually winter rain that can cause havoc with your home.
Anytime a large amount of water is allowed to soak and soften the soil surrounding the home’s foundation is a potential for disaster. The Southern red clay soil becomes compromised, shrinks, and the foundation begins to move. While heavy rain is a common culprit, any moisture source that soaks the soil – from a misplaced downspout or water in your crawlspace – can cause problems.
Moisture issues don’t discriminate. Homes of all ages, sizes, and prices are all potential victims. The best advice to avoid serious problems is to prevent them in the first place.
The next time it rains, grab an umbrella and take a walk. Where are your downspouts overflowing? Where is the water pooling? In 40 percent of homes, downspouts are directing water towards soil near the foundation and they need to be re-directed. Also, examine the drywall or brick around the base of your home for any cracks. Anything greater than ¼” indicates a situation that needs immediate attention by professionals to avoid more serious repairs.
Have you noticed entryway or closet doors in your home not closing properly? This is also a clear sign that your foundation has shifted and needs to be repaired.
Foundation issues, when allowed to progress, require professional repairs. This involves digging a trench around the foundation down to the weight-bearing soil level. An underpinning – a steel bracket structure designed to support the foundation – is installed, and the soil is replaced and repacked. In North and South Carolina, a certified engineer must sign-off on the design and repairs. While this type of repair does not usually disrupt your landscaping or yard, it can disrupt your budget, up to thousands of dollars.
If you are considering a move, it’s a good idea to call a professional to examine your foundation before listing the property. This allows you to control the level of repairs and eliminate any concerns of a potential buyer.
A happy home requires a strong, solid foundation. Be an observant homeowner to keep moisture away and your home a rock-solid investment.