The Houston area has been in a drought for the last couple years and it is affecting the foundations of most of the homes here. In 2010, we ended up about 10 inches below the normal amount of rainfall. 2011 was even worse, we ended the year around 24 to 28 inches below the normal rainfall we usually get.
Why does this affect the homes here? There is a large amount of clays in the soil. When the clays dry out, the soil will contract or shrink. When it rains, the water will re-hydrate the clays in the soil and they will swell or expand. As the soils contract or expands, the structures resting on the ground will move up or down somewhat with that changing soil.
In a normal year, this movement isn’t very noticable. But we have not been in a normal year, it has been very dry and if we are not doing anything to keep the moisture content of the soil consistent around the perimeter of the house, our houses will start moving. We will see that movement showing up in various places around the house like sticking doors and windows, cracks in the tile, brick, or sheetrock. We may see cracks in the garage floor, joints in the trim work opening up, or a feeling that we are walking up-hill or down-hill while we are walking across a room.
In my next blog, we will talk about what the average homeowner can do to address this issue.