Friday, August 3, 2012

Effects of the drought

As the drought continues in the Kansas City area, here's a home owner's maintenance tip for you. Water your house's foundation. That's right. It probably won't grow at all, but watering the dirt against the foundation might help keep cracks from forming and water from seeping into your basement. Assuming it ever rains.

How much should you water? That's a tough one to answer. It's like tightening a plastic fastener. The instructions always say "Don't overtighten". In other words, when it breaks, then you know that you've overtightened it. When watering the ground around your foundation, you want the soil to be damp. Not wet. Not soaked. Damp.

Keeping the soil around your foundation damp keeps it from drying out and moving away from your foundation. If the soil shrinks away from the concrete, it opens up a channel between the earth and the concrete. And when we finally do get some rain, guess where the water will go - straight down that new opening between the dirt and concrete and, perhaps, into your basement. Damp soil will instead stay up against the concrete and will then absorb the eventual rain water as it did before the drought.

Keeping the soil damp around your foundation also helps avoid the "elevator" effect of the soil. When the soil is very dry, it compacts, which can cause the house to settle. Dry soil also shrinks and gets lower on your foundation, causing a negative slope that will route future rain water towards the house. Then rain can make the soil swell pushing against your foundation. That shifting, or heaving, up and down puts stress on the concrete and can cause cracks to form.

So, the grass may be dormant or burned up. The flowers may have already wilted. But remember to water the ground around your foundation. A rule of thumb is that if the plants against your house are watered, then the foundation should be fine.

Then, just pray for rain.

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