Without a doubt, the foundation of any building is its most important part. Without a strong foundation, the house can wind up with severe structural problems. Cracks in walls and ceilings, shifting walls and doors and windows that become hard to open and close can result from an unstable foundation. Most of the time, the cause of foundation problems can be traced to the weather conditions the house is subjected to each year. In Texas, changing weather conditions often end up playing havoc with a home’s foundation.
What Causes Foundation Problems
What causes most foundation problems is different types of weather. Combinations of dry and wet weather cause foundations to expand back and forth, putting stress on the structure. The results can be seen when cracks begin to appear on inside and outside walls, doors begin to stick or not shut at all, windows start having gaps in them and floors start showing cracks. Extreme heat and prolonged droughts, which unfortunately are very common in Texas, play havoc with foundations. These weather conditions can cause foundations to shift, with homeowners winding up with cracks in drywall and exterior bricks. If the problem is not corrected, major issues with plumbing systems and roofing can result, often costing thousands of dollars in repairs.
The lack of water in the soil around homes puts tremendous stress on structures, and many foundation repair experts recommend using soaker hoses around the foundation to keep shifting to a minimum. While many people say it may help to keep doors and windows from sticking, others say it does little else to solve the problem.
The major reason for shifting foundations is changes in moisture levels in the soil underneath a foundation, which causes it to shrink and swell. The weather in Texas during the summer can be subtropical, with temperatures well above 90 degrees. When the humidity is factored in, the heat index can rise to close to 120 degrees. Prolonged periods of hot, dry weather will often dehydrate the soil and lead to foundation cracks. With the state receiving most of its rain in the spring, and winters usually being cool or mild with occasional freezing temperatures, weather conditions are prime for foundation problems.
Many parts of Texas, particularly in the northern part of the state, lie in a tornado region covering parts of the Midwest. The result is a number of cold fronts moving through the area in the spring, which collide with very warm and humid air from the Gulf of Mexico. The result is severe thunderstorms, an abundance of rain and sometimes tornadoes. This is usually followed by periods of severe heat and drought in the summer, resulting in foundations shrinking from their swelled conditions of the spring. The back and forth stress on the structure results in shifting and cracking, leading to the various issues with windows, doors, roofing and plumbing.
What Can Be Done
While it’s impossible to change Mother Nature, there are steps homeowners can take to decrease damage to the foundation. In addition to soaker hoses mentioned earlier, installing root barricades to guard against tree roots damaging foundations can also help. The best thing to do is keep track of any changes to the foundation and make needed repairs before a small problem becomes a big one.
About the Author
Peter Wendt is a writer and researcher working out of Austin, Texas. For readers who are already losing the battle against the Texas climate, he recommends they check out a San Antonio foundation company such as StableLift.