Most of us try to do a good job taking care of our homes but sometimes what we do might have a result that we were not expecting.  As an example, if our goal is to keep the grass green and healthy in our yard, there are a number of ways we can do this.  We can fertilize, install a sprinkler system or have a sprinkler on the end of a hose and move it around the yard, etc.  We could also hire a yard maintenance company to do it for us.  Painting the grass green is not on the list of ways to accomplish our purpose – and thus it is a ‘failure path’.

When we try to do the right thing to take care of our foundation, there are also failure paths that some of us do that gives us a bad or unintended result.  In this part of Texas, we have very expansive soils because of the clays in the soils.  As the clays dry out, they shrink and contract, as they re-hydrate, they swell and expand.  We all know that trees can affect the foundation of our homes.  Roots travel under our house and pull out the moisture from the soil.  There are a number of ways that we can address the problem of trees so that we reduce the impact they have on the foundation.

Planting a tree far enough away from the house so that it will not affect the house as it grows is one of the best ways, but usually the tree has already been planted when we purchased the home.  Watering more around the tree sometimes helps but that alone usually will not stop the roots from traveling toward your house.  Sometimes root barriers can isolate the foundation from the tree roots and help reduce the loss of moisture from the soil under your foundation.

Tree stump

Tree Stump

Many people get frustrated with this problem and want to cut all the trees down.  This could be the beginnings of a failure path if certain conditions exist.  Many large trees can pull out 200 gallons of water a day from the soil.  If you cut down the tree, where does all that water go that use to be taken up by the tree?  The answer is – nowhere.  The water will usually stay there and start to re-hydrate the soil with this extra water.  The soil will then start to expand and swell.  If the tree was planted after the house was built, this may bring the house back to an elevation that it was originally.  But if the tree was there before the house was built, cutting down that tree could raise that corner of the house much higher than it was.  One house that I inspected that had this happen to it, one corner of the house had moved up about 7 inches!!  This could cause big problems with the structure of the house and the functioning components like doors and windows not working properly, not to mention the cosmetic issues with the sheetrock, tile, brick, etc.

In the next installment, we will talk about failure paths concerning gutters and soaker hoses.