This drought-ridden summer has had a greater impact on your pier and beam home than usual this year and it’s starting to worry you. How and why does drought affect crawl space homes differently and what can you do about it? Good question.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been inspecting and repairing all types of home foundations for 35+ years in the Brazos Valley. We’ve crawled pier and beam homes in the winter. We’ve crawled pier and beam homes in the summer. We’ve crawled homes every other time in between and can share our observations and expertise.
This article will review reasons why drought affects crawl space foundation homes a little differently than other foundation types. Then we’ll discuss things to consider when it comes to settlement prevention during drought and timing for repairs.
Are Pier and Beam Homes More Susceptible to Drought?
Just like slab foundation homes, pier and beam and crawl space foundation homes are susceptible to soil settlement problems caused by drought. The expansive clay soil contracts in dry conditions and then contracts even more the drier it gets.
The expansive and contractive strength of clay soil is shockingly powerful. Our soil can easily expand or contract by 10% with annual wet and dry cycles.
Drought affects all home foundations, but pier and beam homes might be even more prone to settlement damage during these dry Texas summers. Your next question is probably a *why* question. Why are these kinds of homes more susceptible to drought conditions?
Pier and beam and other crawl space foundations can settle/move more than slabs because they are:
- More lightweight compared to slab homes and the soil can move them more easily,
- Often challenged by drainage issues in wet seasons, causing movement extremes,
- Resting on many independent footings that all have the potential to move in different ways.
Because of the complex and interconnected structure of crawl space foundations, any movement has compounding effects throughout the base of the home. So it’s kind of a delicate balancing act to keep a pier and beam home in proper alignment at all times.
How to Handle Settlement Preventions for Crawl Space Home
Conscientious homeowners want to prevent problems and many folks think that *watering your foundation* is the way to prevent foundation settlement. I’d say this idea is one part true, one part cautionary tale, and one part myth. Let me explain . . .
How Watering Can Help Prevent Pier and Beam Foundation Settlement
Well, we just talked about how moisture causes our clay soil to expand and dryness causes our clay soil to contract. So it stands to reason that when it’s really dry, a little water might help keep things from settling (i.e. sinking due to soil shrinkage). This is true . . . but . . .
We recommend watering your lawn and live landscaping features, as well as watering your trees, in times of drought. We DO NOT recommend literally *watering under your home* or *watering your foundation* as that can cause other undesirable issues which we will soon discuss . . . like right now in the next section.
How Excess Watering Can Cause Other Issues for Pier and Beam Homes
Many pier and beam or other crawl space foundation homes are frequently challenged by:
All these issues get worse if you throw a hose under your house on top of the moisture challenges already present. Then you will have the reverse effect of contracting soil and get extreme soil expansion instead. Your house can then move too much in the other direction.
It’s very easy to over-correct with foundation watering. You end up with other problems like mold, mildew, wood rot, swampy smells coming up from your floors, and soil heaving. Then you’ve got compromised wood under your home which can mean more costs to replace decayed material and efforts to mitigate moisture problems.
This is why we just recommend watering your yard, shrubs, and trees and not under your house. Your goal should be to keep living things alive around your home and maintain moisture levels the best you can without going overboard.
How Preventions Sometimes Don’t Make a Difference
Sometimes all the foundation settlement preventions in the world won’t make a difference. If the entire soil system of your city, county, and state is experiencing extreme drought levels, then your little hose in the immediate area around your home won’t do *diddly squat* to save your foundation.
Often we humans forget that everything is connected underground and we are not that powerful in the grand scheme of things.
Watering your lawn does keep the grass green at your house, but that water only goes so deep. The watering efforts of one person only on their isolated property cannot counteract the massive effects of widespread drought. Your house is still sitting on and connected to all the rest of the soil that’s out there shrinking.
So even if you try to prevent settlement by doing some watering, it might not work. But please hear me, I’m not saying that you should just give up and not bother watering at all. I’m saying don’t expect guaranteed miracle results. This is why the notion of foundation watering is a myth that keeps homeowners confused.
Is It Possible for Settlement Issues to Improve on Their Own?
People often wonder if it’s possible for foundation settlement issues to improve on their own when it starts raining again. Well, I’d say one part yes, and one part no on this question.
YES, seasonal rebounding is a thing and your settlement issues can get better. Your home can *bounce back* from soil shrinkage and return to improved working order once it starts raining again this fall and winter.
Many long-time pier and beam homeowners witness this every year when their doors fit a little better or worse at different times of the year. Or maybe your floors rattle more when it’s really dry and then it improves and stops bothering you once the rainy weather returns.
But also NO, at some point seasonal rebounding won’t perpetually correct your settlement issues. For pier and beam homeowners, you have several problem sources when it comes to your home’s structural integrity. There are settlement issues, but there are also drainage issues, wood decay issues, and more.
Any one of these or any combination of these moisture (or lack thereof) and wood problems can all contribute to the worrisome signs and symptoms of pier and beam foundation problems for your home. At some point, there’s a *point of no return* with foundation issues and the rain simply won’t help you anymore.
When Should I Repair My Pier and Beam from Drought Damage?
Since this *parts* theme has developed in this article, let’s stick with it. There are 3 parts to deciding when pier and beam foundation damage should be fixed:
- If you have lived in your home for more than a year and patterns are clear, and
- Things don’t work right like doors and windows not latching, or closing, and
- The issues are causing you a great deal of worry, anger, annoyance, or distress.
If all 3 criteria are met, then it’s time to handle your pier and beam foundation repairs now. It’s actually best to repair crawl space homes when the ground is dry otherwise you have to wait.
Homeowners worry when they have foundation issues. Not only are you concerned about your home’s safety and stability, but you’re also worried about choosing the right contractor to take care of your largest investment. Handle your pier and beam foundation problems with 100% confidence by partnering with Anchor Foundation Repair. We’ve been in business in the Brazos Valley since 1985.
If you’re ready to do your crawl space repairs right the first time, get your quoting process started, by calling 979.690.2020 during business hours, or use our online contact form available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to avoid the phone tag hassle.