Understanding Seasonal Moisture Fluctuations
Foundation problems in Dallas – Fort Worth are often caused by shifting soils. Many homeowners notice that signs of foundation settling seem to come and go, depending on the season. The most common complaint is malfunctioning doors and windows. You’ve probably heard someone attribute the jamming to “the wood swelling from all the rain.” The reality is that in North Texas, swelling clay causes the more damage to homes.
The clay soil in Dallas – Fort Worth experiences expansion and contraction, depending on moisture levels. When it’s hot and dry outside, the clay soil shrinks. Adversely, clay has a tremendous capacity for retaining water. Heavy rainfall leads to swelling soil beneath our home’s foundation. To put foundation settling in a nutshell,
Your foundation becomes weak from the constant movement. Eventually, it cracks under the pressure – literally.
The Freeze (December-February)
During the winter, there is minimal rainfall and low, sometimes freezing, temperatures. The soil is relatively stable, leading some experts to believe winter is the best time for foundation repairs. Unfortunately, homeowners are reluctant to live in a construction zone during the holidays.Also, when the signs of foundation settling are less obvious, people tend to procrastinate on repairs. It is the classic, out of sight, out of mind scenario.
Spring Showers (March-May)
Many people plan home improvement projects during the spring. Often times, cracks are discovered during the process of replacing flooring or repairing damaged sheetrock. During this time, existing cracks may appear to grow as a result of swelling clay soil. Some experts suggest that spring is the best time to schedule foundation repairs, especially if you suspect that your foundation problems are worsening.
Dog Days of Summer (June-September)
You will notice that during June through September, high temperatures are accompanied by low levels of rainfall. Contracting soil creates gaps beneath your home’s foundation. As a result, you may see signs of foundation settling.
As mentioned earlier, the clay soil shrinks during these periods of intense heat. Foundation repair during these so-called “dog days of summer” may lift your home too much. However, a Licensed Professional Engineer takes seasonal fluctuations into consideration when making his calculations. Foundation companies offer free estimates but proceed with caution. Only a Licensed P.E. can ensure work performed on your home is necessary and correct.
“Fall” in Texas (October-November)
Summer seems to last half of the year in Texas, so there isn’t much of a fall season. Even so, fall is a great time to take a good look at your home’s foundation. Scheduling foundation repairs during this season will leave time to put the house back together before the holidays.
When is the BEST time to fix your foundation?
The answer is NOW! If you suspect that your home has foundation concerns, there’s no time like the present to call a Licensed Professional Engineer for a foundation inspection. He/she will present an 8-10 page Engineer’s Report highlighting issues and recommending repairs – if needed. If you do need piers, the engineer will tell you how many, what kind, and pinpoint the ideal placement.
Stop putting it off, schedule your foundation inspection today.
Call 817-576-1973 or email email@example.com to get on the list.
It’s a beautiful day in Texas. The birds are chirping, and the kids are happily playing in the yard. You spontaneously decide to open the windows and invite in the fresh air. There is only one problem; the window is stuck. In fact, several windows throughout the house refuse to open properly. Then, you notice a crack extending from the corner of the window frame up to the crown molding. Panic sets in.
Keep calm and call a licensed Professional Engineer for an unbiased evaluation of your home’s foundation.
You begin to ask yourself…
Does this house have foundation problems?
Will I lose the money I invested?
How will I afford to send the kids to college?
What about my retirement?
Maybe that is a tad overdramatic, but we get it! We’ve all heard the horror stories about homes needing $100,000 worth of foundation repair. The good news is that extreme cases like that are rare. However, when it comes to foundation problems, early detection is the key to maintaining your sanity (and home equity).
Sticking Doors, Jammed Windows, and Cracks – Signs of Foundation Problems?
All the above indicate foundation settling, but only a licensed Professional Engineer can determine if there is cause for alarm. Keep in mind that foundation damage is very common in Texas due to the presence of expansive soil.
Dallas is home to Texas Blackland Prairie soils. The clay soils in this region have high shrink-swell properties that require special design accommodations to ensure proper structural integrity.
Structural or Non-Structural?
Concrete slabs such as patios, sidewalks, and garage floors are often the first structures to show signs of foundation settling. So how can you tell if a crack is structural or cosmetic? One of the typical signs of a non-structural defect is that the crack is very thin or narrow, almost hairline. There is also no noticeable broken or dislocated masonry surrounding the crack.
On the other hand, cracks that may indicate structural failure tend to be wide. They often appear in a stair-step pattern and lead to displaced or crumbling masonry. When the concrete or masonry is disturbed, areas nearby begin to shift into the void space. For example, when doors and windows go out of alignment, it is usually the result of shifting exterior walls.
Look closely, your foundation may be trying to tell you something.
Unlevel pavement is a common sign that the soil beneath the concrete is settling.
Notice the frieze board separating from your brick? You may need a foundation inspection.
In the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex, precipitation levels are generally low, so you can rule out the probability of wood bloat causing windows to stick. However, it is highly likely that your home is constructed on expansive clay soil.
Expansive Clay Soil
The hot Texas sun scorches the soil during the summer months, robbing its moisture and causing the clay to shrink. When the clay soil retracts, the foundation moves as well. When moisture levels increase in the winter, the clay swells and the foundation lifts. This kind of back and forth movement stresses the concrete slab and often leads to cracking.
Homeowners tend to notice the most extreme signs of foundation settling during periods of excessive dryness or after a heavy rainfall.
If you have a combination of sticking doors, wide cracks and displaced masonry, then it’s time to call in the professionals who can best help you deal with your foundation problems.
Schedule a foundation evaluation today at 817-576-1973
There are many factors that can cause your foundation to lose structural integrity
There are many factors that can cause your foundation to lose structural integrity. Sometimes the soil beneath a home can start to settle and shift. Unfortunately, the foundation will shift as well.
Did you know that structural issues can affect electrical lines and plumbing systems, causing a variety of problems?
Slab leaks can occur as a result of foundation settling. Call an engineer if you suspect there is an issue.
Fixing unleveled flooring and filling cracks in the wall is easy, but you need to determine the root of the issue. Physical flaws in your home could be a signal to something more serious and complicated. Choosing an engineer for a foundation evaluation should be your first recourse.
Engineers are trained to look at all aspects of the home’s foundation, and they are equipped with the knowledge needed to recognize problems as they arise. When the foundation problem involves more than just the framing and foundation, having an independent engineer on your side becomes quite handy. They know how to look beyond the surface, and this is good because beyond the surface is probably where the problem belongs.
Factors to consider in finding a good independent engineer
Identifying and fixing a structural problem is like a sick person going to a doctor. You have symptoms that you’re not well, and the doctor examines you and conducts a couple of tests to pinpoint exactly what the problem is. The diagnosis of your disease will depend on how good the doctor is, and in the same way, getting to the bottom of your house's foundation problem will depend on how good your engineer is.
Here are some things you need to consider before choosing an engineer for foundation evaluation:
License: Having a licensed professional engineer inspect your house will streamline the process and ensure accuracy. As this article by HSH.com highlights, a home inspector could very well uncover a structural problem, but a licensed professional engineer not only uncovers the problem, but he or she will know exactly how to deal with it. Getting a licensed engineer from the beginning will save you the hassle---and money.
Professional Affiliations: Some people think that gaining membership to professional clubs is simply about paying the dues. Not true for engineers; they must pass difficult eligibility requirements and adhere to a strict code of ethics.
Credibility: If the independent engineer is affiliated with a credible inspection institution, then you should be fine. However, as a homeowner, you can never be too careful. Be sure to check their references and get referrals.