Ahhh the seasons . . . aren’t they great? Especially the three we have here in Central Texas: allergy-fest, hotter than Hades, and mini-fallwinter.
You’ve noticed that during some seasons your doors work just fine. At other times of the year, you see gaps and light around the edges or they stick and don’t latch quite right. You’re vaguely aware of the term “seasonal home settlement” but want to know more about what it means for your foundation.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been helping homeowners with their foundation needs in Bryan, College Station, and other Brazos Valley communities like Caldwell and Madisonville for 35+ seasonal cycles. We’ve seen it all from major drought to monsoon wet and know how your foundation reacts to these conditions.
This article will define what seasonal foundation settlement means for your home. We will discuss when and why it might become a concern for you and what to do about it whether it’s a big or small worry.
Definition of Seasonal Foundation Settlement
Here’s a little back*ground* on foundation settlement in general and it all starts with our dirt – expansive clay soil. Clay soil molecules are like little spherical sponges that puff up when wet and deflate like a ball when dry. The wetter it is, the more they puff out. The drier and drier it gets the more they shrink.
So, the moisture content of the soil is the direct cause of this expansion and contraction on expansive soils. But time is also a big contributing factor because the longer the soil stays wet, the more it can expand. The longer the soil stays dry the more it can contract. This is why you have to worry more about foundation settlement the longer a drought goes on.
We define seasonal settlement in a home as sinking or any movement that changes from season to season. The movement is primarily caused by the moisture content (or lack thereof) in the soil. The movement in the home causes doors to either stick or not latch right. Settlement can cause cracks in walls and brickwork to open and close throughout the year.
This part isn’t really in the Official Contractor’s Dictionary of Constructiony-like Terms** or anything, but the implied undertone behind the definition of seasonal settlement is that it’s not a huge deal and you don’t need to panic over it.
You end up seeing some signs of foundation settlement during a certain time of year and then it improves as the moisture content of the soil changes. When someone calls something “seasonal settlement” it’s not a particularly severe or bothersome issue. It might be something you vaguely notice for a while and then forget about.
What Should I Do About Seasonal Home Settlement?
Some occasional seasonal settlement should not carry a big worry factor for you. It’s kinda normal and typically if your home experiences some seasonal settlement it will rebound (i.e. get better) and go back to normal. But here are a few more thoughts on what *to do* about seasonal settlement if anything.
Get Used to It
This isn’t in the mean way your dad used to say, “Get used to it, kid” Instead, imagine Mary Poppins cheerfully singing a song about seasonal settlement and how it’s part of the circle of life (well, it might be on the Lion King soundtrack, I can’t remember).
Seasonal settlement can be a fact of home ownership life with expansive soils, but it doesn’t need to upset you. Accept that seasonal settlement is something that happens sometimes and move on to more pressing issues, like how to get your dog to not be afraid of those robo-vacuums so you can get one already . . .
Home maintenance activities can help relieve some seasonal settlement worries for you. Make sure that you have good drainage and address any issues with standing water or poor grading near your home. Handling poor drainage situations is a great way to help maintain your foundation and keep seasonal settlement in control.
We have a whole article with thoughts on foundation maintenance and settlement prevention that you can look over if you’re feeling proactive.
If you’re worried about summer drought, you can increase your landscape watering a little to minimize the impacts of seasonal settlement on your home. This doesn’t mean to literally “water your foundation,” it just means to water your lawn and landscaping shrubs/flowers to keep your plant life alive around your home. Don’t give up and let it all go if times get dry.
Monitor for Bigger Issues
The thing about seasonal settlement is that it does happen a little bit year after year. Your foundation is pretty resilient and can usually bounce back . . . until it doesn’t. Much like a paper clip that you bend back and forth repeatedly, the effects of seasonal settlement can weaken the structure of your home over time.
So always monitor for bigger foundation issues developing. Watch your drainage, watch for pooling water, and watch for signs of foundation settlement that don’t get better.
Get Your Foundation Repaired
When seasonal settlement does not rebound and improve, your foundation may have moved too much to recover. A slab-on-grade foundation and crawl space foundations are both surface-oriented. Neither one of these types of foundations are originally built with considerable ground penetration. They are defined as shallow foundations.
The stability of a home is greatly enhanced by supports that go deeper into the ground, where expansive clay soil is less reactive to moisture. This is where foundation repair comes in with ground-penetrating piles or piers.
There are a couple of common methods of foundation repair in Central Texas to consider. Check out this article to see how the methods compare on the process, cost, and pros and cons: Bell-Bottom vs. Pressed Pile Foundation Repair Methods: What’s the Difference?
Is Seasonal Settlement Going to Become a Foundation Problem?
Not all seasonal settlement becomes a “foundation problem.” Not all movement is a problem for your home if it moves just a little and doesn’t cause big issues.
When you have doors not locking or latching that can be a problem, especially if it’s your front door. Are big, ugly cracks in your living room preventing you from having people over? If it’s affecting your social life, I’d say it’s a problem. Is your brick cracking so much that it’s letting in moisture or bugs?
Are the signs of foundation settlement more than just passingly noticed and then forgotten? This might be more than just a li’l ol’ seasonal settlement. This is when foundation settlement becomes a foundation problem.
When Is the Time Right to Repair Foundation Settlement?
If the seasonal settlement is leaving you more *unsettled* – as in it’s bothering you a lot more than a little – then it might be time for actual foundation repairs. The need to get your foundation repaired depends a lot on how much all this stuff bothers you as well as how much it is affecting the functionality of your home.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been guiding homeowners through the foundation repair process since 1985. We will never rush you to decide on repairs that you don’t feel 100% on board moving forward with. You’ve got to feel good about getting repairs started.
Check out this article on deciding when the time is right for foundation repair if you are feeling on the fence about this issue in Foundation Settlement Confirmed: When Is the Time Right for Repairs?
**P.S. There is no such thing as the Official Contractor’s Dictionary of Constructiony-like Terms, I totally made it up while I was writing this article. But now I am thinking I should create this dictionary . . . you know . . . just for fun . . .