top cause of foundation problems

What Causes Slab Foundation Problems? The #1 Texas Culprit

Who or what is to blame for your slab foundation issues? It’s your home and you’ve got to know who to be mad at about this foundation problem stuff. You live in Texas, so once you know whose fault this is, you’re sure to shake a stick at them.

Anchor Foundation Repair Bryan College Station

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we know homeowners worry about foundation problems. You wonder how it happened, who’s to blame, and if you could have prevented it. After 35+ years of fixin’ foundations in the Brazos Valley, we know the top cause without even thinking about it so we can fill you in.

In this article, we explain Texas’ top culprit of slab foundation issues so that you know just where to direct your righteous anger. Then, we’ll touch on your next logical questions such as, “Could I have prevented this?” and, “What can I do now?”

Countdown of the Top Causes of Foundation Problems in Texas

There are lots of potential causes for a problem as complex as foundation settlement. We’ve whittled down the list to the top causes we tend to see around these parts in Bryan, College Station, and the surrounding Brazos Valley communities like Brenham and Navasota.

Keep in mind that foundation issues rarely have one clear and isolated cause, it’s more often a combination of factors happening over many years. These top situations play the biggest roles.

Here is the basic list ordered from least to most common. This list is non-data-based, just general impressions off the top of our heads.

# 7. Poor Pad Site Development at the Time of Construction (least common)

# 6. Timing and Conditions at the Time of Slab Installation

# 5. Foundation Construction Standards, Types, and Shapes

# 4. Property Drainage

# 3. Consistency with Lawn Care and Watering Maintenance

# 2. Under-Slab Plumbing Leaks

# 1. Expansive Clay Soil (most common)

#1 cause of foundation problems

We’re only going to *expand* on the #1 cause of expansive clay soils in this post. If you want more detail on all 7 causes of foundation issues, check out this article.

What Is the Top Cause of Slab Foundation Issues?

In the countdown list above, expansive clay soil is the top culprit here in Texas. In the overwhelming majority of foundation problem cases we see here in the Brazos Valley area, it’s the soil that’s the biggest problem, while items 2 – 7 combined are a contributing cause in a much smaller fraction of cases. 

expansive clay

Expansive soil is reactive to moisture levels. Expansive clay molecules get bigger when they are wet and shrink when dry. A reactive clay molecule’s size can increase up to 10 percent in heavily saturated conditions, exerting massive continuous pressure on a foundation. 

This is an issue for many Texas homeowners. Unfortunately, the kind of native soil we have in our area is predominantly some type of expansive clay.

Why Do Texas Homes Have Frequent Foundation Issues?

Homeowners often move to Texas and are surprised by the frequency of foundation problems in the state. It does seem to be a bigger issue around here than elsewhere in the country. So what’s up with that?

texas soil

If you look at an expansive soil map of the United States, you can see expansive clay types all over the country, but Texas has more of the higher percentages covering large portions of the state. The expansive clay soil situations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, and the Dakotas also appear similar to Texas.

What makes Texas conditions a little different than some of these other states is the *sometimes extreme* fluctuations in moisture conditions coupled with the expansive clay soil. So really, the dirt is just ingredient No. 1 in this foundation problem area, and the rainy/dry seasons are ingredient No. 2.

Expansive Clay Soil + Consistent Moisture Conditions

If you had expansive clay soil, but the moisture/rainfall conditions were fairly consistent, it wouldn’t cause so many problems. For example, if it’s mostly dry OR there’s stable and equivalent monthly rainfall throughout the year, your clay molecule size won’t change so much. 

With a consistent level of moisture (no matter what level that may be) the expansive soil would not expand and contract all the time. The clay molecules maintain a more consistent size and their level of expansion and contraction is significantly less. You’ve *probably noticed* that consistent moisture conditions are not what we have in Texas.

Expansive Clay Soil + Inconsistent Moisture Conditions

In Texas, we have times when it rains a whole lot. In the spring there can be some huge flooding rainfall events. Then in the fall, it’s hurricane season and that can bring in bucketloads of rain too. In between those drenching seasons, we have the delightful drought-ridden summers where even the bugs don’t spit.

welcome to Texas foundation problems

Texas homes seem to have more problems than other areas due to the combination of native soil plus major swings in moisture happening year after year. Expanded soil pushes up on a slab foundation, and then in contracted dry soil, everything sinks. This happens over and over.

These strong natural forces are tough on even the strongest of foundations, exerting as much as 20,000 pounds of pressure per square foot. Your home starts to develop signs of foundation settlement or movement. Cycles of seasonal settlement and rebounding can turn into worsening problems that eventually require foundation repairs.

Could I Have Prevented My Foundation Problems?

Homeowners often wonder if there is or was anything they could have done to prevent foundation issues. When you understand that the #1 cause equates to soil + moisture levels, it’s hard to see a way to prevent things that are 100% out of your control. 

can I prevent foundation problems?

You can’t control what kind of soil we have. You can’t control the weather either. So in many ways, there’s not a whole lot you can do to prevent foundation problems resulting from the top cause.

There’s a little hope when you look at the other possible causes of foundation issues though. Within the listing of causes 2 through 7, you can control or influence some of those situations, and prevention is more of a possibility.

Focus on Foundation Repairs and Maintenance

Now that you understand the #1 cause of Texas foundation issues, you can certainly be mad at the dirt and water if you want. But rather than anger, it’s better to direct your energy towards your solution by either:

  1. Choosing the best foundation repair option for your situation, and/or
  2. Applying proactive monitoring and maintenance whenever possible.

foundation care checklist

We understand the stress and anxiety that comes with overwhelming home problems. At Anchor Foundation Repair, we offer fair and impartial assessments, empowering education, and a fully transparent repair process. If you’re in the Brazos Valley and you’re ready for foundation repairs already, reach out to us.

But if you’re more interested in the proactive maintenance angle right now, check out the ultimate annual foundation care checklist we’ve got for you here.