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Dealing with drought…

Watering your home’s foundation can help prevent cracking

Robert Thomas, Information Specialist, Extension & Ag Information, University of Missouri


Note: The following information applies to conditions in Missouri. Check with your state Extension office for recommendations that apply specifically to your state.


While drought conditions that have plagued Missouri can take a toll on crops, landscape plants and lawns, extended dry periods also can cause shifting or cracking in the foundation of your home.


In addition to watering your lawn and trees, it’s a good idea to water your home’s foundation, said a University of Missouri housing and environmental specialist.


Dry soil problems can be slowed by using a soaker hose to provide a consistent, but not flooding, water source to the soil immediately surrounding the home’s foundation, said Michael Goldschmidt. For best results, place the soaker hose around the perimeter of the house 8 to 18 inches outside the foundation.


“Shifting ground can crack foundations, especially during drought conditions. This damage often shows up as cracks or separations around doors and windows or brick veneer,” Goldschmidt said.


Before using a soaking hose, inspect the exterior side of the foundation for existing cracks. The cracks should be cleaned and filled with foundation waterproofing, which is available in most hardware stores or lumber yards, he said.


Cracks also may appear in the cement slab of a carport or garage. If there are cracks in the carport area, you can usually assume that the cracks do not end there, but extend through the house.


“A crack in brick or drywall does not necessarily mean there is a major problem, but if the crack begins to shift or form a gap there might be a problem,” he said.


Foundation cracks can result from the seesaw effect of the winter rains/snow followed by drought-like summer conditions on the soil. When soil is extremely wet, it expands and lifts the foundation. When the soil becomes extremely dry it contracts and the foundation sinks.


Proper drainage in wet months and keeping the soil moist in summer lessen the impact of stress on your home’s foundation, he said.


Missouri’s clay soil can absorb a lot of water, causing it to expand. When water evaporates, clay soil shrinks forming cracks that can extend many feet deep and damage foundations, he said.


Source: Michael Goldschmidt,


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Last update: Thursday, August 02, 2012