Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 14

Thread: Watering the foundation

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Posts
    13,460

    Watering the foundation

    Seems like we've gone from feast to famine lately with rain. I think I may have gotten a small sprinkle today, but has been pretty dry and predicted to be in the high 90's the next two weeks. I notice several large cracks starting to show around the front yard while walking around last night.

    Given that our house has had some foundation issues in the past, I don't want to take any chances, so I ended up dragging out some hoses and watering the foundation. Anyone else do this? I'm considering just having sprinklers put around the house itself, to water the flower beds but also keep the ground around the house a little more stable.
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    ABQ NM
    Posts
    30,020
    What kind of soil is your house on? What kind of foundation problems did you have in the past? Do you have a basement? Where I come from (which is definitely not KC), watering around a foundation is often a recipe for problems. But out here, we can have either uncompacted native sandy soils or expanding clays. Neither benefit from water, at least not after a building has been placed on them.

    There's an expensive gated community here in ABQ that was built on native sandy soils. The soil was compacted to a depth of 20' to 30', which is most cases is ample for supporting a house. However, some of the homeowners felt compelled to disregard the soils engineer's recommendations and installed landscaping that required a lot of irrigation. Over time, some of these expensive houses started to settle, because water had reached the uncompacted native soils, which started to collapse. One house we investigated was watering the law with the equivalent of 8" of rain daily. We did a drilling investigation that found saturated native soils 40' deep. That house had 8" of elevation differential from one side of the living room to the other.

    I also did an investigation once on an Apache reservation in Arizona where a lot of the government-supplied houses were cracking badly. At first it was thought the houses were settling, but we determined that they were built on expanding clay, which was swelling underneath the houses. This normally wouldn't be a problem if rainwater was directed away from the edges of the house, but at the houses where we found the problem, the site grading had been changed and water was pooling right beside the house. It also didn't help that there were no rain gutters installed on these low-cost houses, so the water was going everywhere instead of being directed away from the foundation.

    Probably way more info than you were asking for, but as someone who used to make a living investigating failed foundations, when someone says "watering the foundation" it tends to send a flag up for me.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    ABQ NM
    Posts
    30,020
    Thinking about this a bit more, I suspect the cracks you're seeing are merely surface cracks, and not an indication of deep movement. I honestly can't think of any case where adding moisture would help stabilize the soil under a structure. (On a hillside under specific conditions might be another story.) Let me know what kind of soil and foundation you have, and I'll consult my resident soils and foundation engineer (my dad), who does have some experience with KCMO soil conditions.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Posts
    12,262
    Vaughn you made me laugh. Back in SA good old gov did the same on low cost housing. Built it on clay. Units were done as a job creation project. Note 99% of housing in SA is built English style with double wall brick outer wall and single wall brick inner wall. Then walls are plastered with cement and roughed over with a hard broom. Then painted with cheap PVA.

    Well banks got the shock of their life when the tenants decided (after getting no joy from authorities or builders) that they no longer wanted the house or the mortgage that went with it at any price so they went into the banks gave the keys back when the huge cracks began to appear at joints and through complete walls.

    I loved it because it was better than occupy wall street. These simple people just put the keys on the counter and left the bank with the bag. Pointless going after them they had pretty much nothing to go after them for. Man I loved it real People Power. At the time I felt like going out and cheering them on. Sometimes it takes simple folk to show the way it should be done.
    cheers

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Decatur, Alabama
    Posts
    518
    My yard gets cracks when it's dry. After I had to walk around to find a sprinkler valve that was leaking by, I figured out every trench line for the sprinkler system just about had a crack open where it was run. Our house is on mostly clay below the topsoil.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Posts
    13,460
    The damage that was fixed on the house was about where they filled for when the septic lines were, so I suspect that the settlement there caused the footings to settle in that area. They ran supports down to bedrock and pinned the walls down that side according to the documentation from the previous owner.

    I base my watering off of what most home inspectors say around here, which is that they've never seen a house with foundation issues where the home had a sprinkler system. I've been told that by many builders as well, including my dad. All say even if you don't water your yard, at least water your foundation as the changes in the soil will eventually cause issues.
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Yorktown, Virginia
    Posts
    5,021
    We are in an area of shrink-swell soils. New homes require soils to be testing for shrink-swell and special treatment for foundations where appropriate. They can be a problem and IMHO, if you can stabilize the clay to prevent the damage caused by the extremes of wet/dry you prevent serious issues later on.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    ABQ NM
    Posts
    30,020
    Quote Originally Posted by Darren Wright View Post
    ...I base my watering off of what most home inspectors say around here, which is that they've never seen a house with foundation issues where the home had a sprinkler system. I've been told that by many builders as well, including my dad. All say even if you don't water your yard, at least water your foundation as the changes in the soil will eventually cause issues.
    I'd go with with what the locals recommend. Still not sure I understand why it works...I'll have to ask my dad to educate me.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Amherst, New Hampshire
    Posts
    10,604
    Maybe because I live in New England where the is lots of ledge and rocky soil but I have never heard or could ever imagine watering my foundation ?????

    Live and learn I guess
    Faith, Hope & Charity

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Posts
    13,460
    What Ted mentioned is the way I understood it. When it gets dry the soil drys and compacts, but should that happen too deep it could affect the footings/foundation on the structure. When the soil re-hydrates it may cause some areas of the foundation to stress and crack.

    I know my dad mentioned it about my last house, I had an abnormal amount of cracks in the basement floor. The electrical company had severed one of the drain tiles at the bottom of the foundation on one side, which my builder later fixed. However the prior pressure from the saturated soil under the basement floor had heaved causing many of the cracks I was seeing. I had a couple of times that the ground became so saturated that the basement flooded via the rough-in for the shower drain down there (this was a walk-out basement, entire back half was above the ground). We later installed a sump-pump to prevent anymore flooding.
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

Similar Threads

  1. fill holes in foundation
    By Chuck Beland in forum Carpentry and Construction
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 03-25-2012, 09:51 PM
  2. Shed Foundation
    By Mike Gabbay in forum Carpentry and Construction
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 12-10-2007, 09:59 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •