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Historic drought destroying foundations – know the warning signs

Cracked foundation photo by WayTru.

The worst drought in over 50 years

Currently, Texas and several surrounding states are experiencing record temperatures and one of the worst droughts in a generation which has gone on for over a year.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor Index map, almost all of the state is under the severest of drought conditions and driving through the state, it is common to see signs posted reminding residents that there is a burn ban disallowing any open fire, fireworks, or anything that risks wildfires, of which there have been many in Texas this summer, especially in residential areas.

Drought causing massive foundation failure

Many parts of Texas and even New Mexico are experiencing drought conditions so bad that home foundations are failing at an accelerated pace. Houston is among the worst hit with foundation repair companies reporting a backlog of inspection requests having nearly tripled their business in recent months.

Some inspectors are unable to meet demand until October or November at their current pace and are hiring temporary help from neighboring states.

Homeowners and Realtors should be equipped to spot problem cracks

Homeowners should know the warning signs of foundation problems during this natural disaster, but Realtors should be able to spot them not only when representing a buyer, but in the event a homeowner vacates their home, a listing agent should be able to recognize the signs of impending foundation failure.

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Foundation problems typically begin along the exterior edges of a home and cracks can begin appearing above doors and windows in a home interior. Sloping floors is also a sign of shifted foundation and potentially of failing soil beneath the foundation which is common in clay soils which expand and contrast more drastically than many other soil types.

Preventing foundation failure is a catch 22

Watering a slab is the best way to minimize the impact of dry conditions and can be done via soaker hose for 15 minutes twice per day, but most drought stricken areas have extremely strict restrictions on watering lawns and hefty fines are levied against anyone who violates the rules. Some areas in Texas allow for soaker hoses even on no-watering days, but most do not, so homeowners (and listing agents hoping to help a homeowner) are in a catch-22 in that can really only prevent foundation damage if they risk violating watering restrictions and paying a fine, or they can risk a dry foundation that could cost thousands to repair.

There is no doubt that the drought is no longer simply punishing farmers and ranchers, it is also putting home foundations at risk.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Brian

    August 30, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Good post! You are exactly right, subsidence is a huge problem right now. There is a lot of good information out there on how to water your foundation, but soaker hoses are really hard to find. You can find a link to them here:

    Good luck to all the homeowners and home buyers out there there this summer!

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