You’ve recently become aware of some foundation problems around your home. You also know that the top cause of foundation issues is expansive clay soil. So if everyone’s home is on the same dirt, why isn’t your neighbor having a foundation problem too? Why is this only happening to you?? Good questions.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been assessing and repairing Brazos Valley foundations for 35+ years and know all the common causes of foundation settlement in homes. We tend to focus more on getting your foundation fixed up than finding the *guilty party* that is to blame. But we can still offer reasons this might be happening to your home.
Most times it’s the soil, but sometimes it’s something else or a combination of factors.
This article will explore the reasons your home might experience foundation issues while others remain unaffected. While covering what causes isolated foundation problems, we will also assure you that you are not alone, and it’s not your fault. Let’s get to the real *dirt* on this topic now. . .
Most Common Reason For Foundation Settlement
You’re right that the top cause of foundation settlement and problems is expansive clay soil. When expansive soil gets wet it expands and when it dries out it shrinks. When you combine expansive soil with inconsistent climate conditions like we have here in Central Texas, it means the soil goes through very wet and very dry seasons over and over again each year.
These annual cycles weaken foundations with each passing year and can eventually cause problems for your home.
The soil + climate + time = the biggest culprit of foundation issues in homes. It’s logical to think that if expansive soil is everywhere in your neighborhood, then surely other homes would be having problems too. You’re not wrong in arriving at this conclusion.
We find that it is often a combination of factors that ultimately result in foundation issues for a home, and expansive soil is usually the top contributor. But there are certainly exceptions and other causes that could be isolated to just one home too.
6 Causes of Isolated Foundation Problems
Sometimes there are unique home situations that happen at just one house and not another. Here are 6 other reasons a home can experience settlement that would not occur at a neighboring home (listed from least to most common):
- Poor pad site development at the time of construction,
- Timing and conditions at the time of slab installation,
- Foundation construction standards, types, and shapes,
- Property drainage,
- Consistency with lawn care and watering maintenance, and
- Under-slab plumbing leaks.
These six root causes can happen at one home and not another. We will expand on each of these a little in the coming sections.
1. Poor Pad Site Development at the Time of Construction
Builders are responsible for properly preparing your homesite for construction. Sometimes this is not done to optimal levels. Soil preparation and existing tree removal impact your pad site’s quality and future performance.
Neighboring homes might not have these same problems because they would be specific to one homesite. Also, remember that these issues are the least common. Building codes and standards continue to improve, keeping construction methods more in check than in the past.
Workmanship, care, and effort are more difficult to monitor and control. Each person working on your home has the potential to either do a really great job or a not-so-great job with their tasks. You have no way of confirming how workers are trained, whether work is monitored, or if there was any oversight into one stage of work before beginning another. All these procedures will differ from builder to builder and home to home.
Pad sites perform best when a decent layer of native expansive clay soil is removed and replaced with select fill soil that is less reactive to moisture. Optimally, inches or even feet of soil should be removed and replaced. Every home does not get the same preparation
Not only does the soil need to be prepped, but it also needs to be compacted. A well-prepared homesite needs good soil compaction to support the weight of the home. If the soil is not tamped down enough or is uneven, foundation settlement can happen.
Different builders and different people construct each home. Some teams have more skills than others. Some contractors cut corners or just don’t know any better, unfortunately. You have no way of controlling or knowing that something like this could happen. We all assume that things are done well, and that’s not always the case.
Did the builder remove and replace the soil and compact it properly when the home was built? Maybe or maybe not, there’s really no way of knowing . . .
If a significant amount of trees were removed where the slab was placed, it can impact future soil stability. When trees are taken out to prepare a lot, roots underground decay long after the visible part of a tree is gone. There’s just no telling how many roots were under the earth taking up space and offering support to the soil and home. As roots degrade, pockets of space that were once filled become empty causing settlement.
Problems like this all go back to pad site development. Excessive tree removal takes extra work and extra care to prevent decaying underground roots from creating settlement issues. The builder needs to remove as much of the roots as possible and do additional sifting and compaction to make sure that pockets of space are well-filled and stabilized.
If they didn’t do that extra work, well . . . settlement and problems can occur down the line. Your neighbor might not have the same lot preparation as you.
2. Timing and Conditions at the Time of Slab Installation
Another issue that can impact the quality and future stability of a concrete slab is the outdoor conditions at the time of construction. There are better times to pour a foundation.
Slab-on-grade foundations are best poured when conditions are not too wet, not too dry, not too cold, and not too hot. You know . . . Goldilocks time (which rarely happens in Texas in case you haven’t noticed).
Unfortunately, construction companies have deadlines that prevent every slab from being installed at the *most perfect and optimal* time.
If a slab is installed when soil conditions are overly wet, there is a stronger chance for settlement to occur when hot, dry summers roll around. On the flip side, if conditions are already very dry, or drought-like when a foundation is poured, you might wind up with undesirable foundation movement when it gets really rainy.
This is not a rampant problem, but it could happen.
A better-prepared pad site (see item #1) lessens the chances of issues coming up with weather and climate conditions too.
3. Foundation Construction Standards, Types, and Shapes
How was your foundation constructed? Was your slab just meeting basic code requirements, made with slightly elevated standards, or custom-made outside the cookie-cutter assembly line of homes?
You likely do not know if your slab was constructed using minimum or *above the minimum* standards. Sometimes the minimum standard is not enough to prevent foundation settlement and problems with slab movement.
There are also different types of slab-on-grade foundations. There are conventional rebar-reinforced slabs, and what’s called a post-tension slab. The type of slab you have could make your foundation perform differently than your neighbors.
I’m not saying that one is better than the other today. In the past, there were problems with post-tension slabs when they first came on the scene. In recent years, adjustments have been made, but only time will tell if post-tension slabs match the longevity of the conventional rebar style.
Even the shape of a foundation can have an impact on whether settlement affects your home. A simple ranch-style home that basically has *just a rectangle* for a slab might be less susceptible to settlement. An irregularly shaped slab that has a wing that sticks out from the main home can move differently than the simple ranch style depending on its shape.
The point here is that your slab might be a different type or shape, or could have been constructed with different standards than your neighbor’s. That could be why you’re having an issue while they are not.
4. Property Drainage
Good drainage is important for a foundation’s health. If you have poor drainage conditions, your home could experience foundation problems and the house next door would not be affected.
Things like standing water near your foundation or gutters and downspouts that don’t carry water far enough away from your house are concerning drainage situations. We’ve got a whole article on handling drainage around your home to keep your foundation in the best shape possible: Can I Fix Poor Drainage Around My Home’s Foundation? 6 Steps to Take.
So maybe you have a drainage issue at your home, and your neighbor does not. This could be a reason foundation issues are isolated to your property and others are not experiencing problems.
5. Consistency with Lawn Care and Watering Maintenance
Let’s say your neighbor uses a sprinkler system and waters their landscaping and lawn faithfully. You typically give up every summer when anyone whispers the word *drought* which frankly is every year. Keeping your lawn watered is sometimes a way to prevent foundation settlement.
There’s never a guarantee that watering will prevent foundation problems. However, it doesn’t hurt to try. Sometimes that little bit of extra lawn watering can make a difference and might explain why one home has foundation settlement concerns while another does not.
We have some thoughts on watering you might want to consider: Can I Prevent Foundation Problems by Watering? Fact or Myth. Among other things, this article discusses why sometimes watering can help protect your foundation, but it’s not a magic pill that can cure systemic drought and its effect on homes.
6. Under-Slab Plumbing Leaks
Under-slab plumbing leaks are the most frequent culprit of foundation settlement affecting one home but not another. You have a leak and they don’t. Leaking drain lines under your home can go undetected for a long time. You might not know about the leak until you start to see early signs of foundation settlement.
Under-slab plumbing leaks go hand in hand with foundation settlement. Settlement can cause leaks and leaks can cause settlement. So, it’s often difficult to tell which came first, the leak or the settlement. No matter which came first or caused the other, this is a big reason you might have a foundation problem while a neighboring home does not.
What Caused the Foundation Issues at Your Home?
Foundation issues rarely have just one and only one clearly identifiable cause. It’s still most commonly a combination of factors all working together and affecting the living system around your home.
Even though the most common cause of settlement is the soil, a bunch of other things can play a small part in the problem: weather and time, original construction and conditions, maintenance issues, and other system failures.
It’s best to focus on fixing the problem, continually monitoring for issues, and controlling anything that you can control, like drainage and watering.
Foundation Settlement Is Not Anyone’s Fault
Because so many factors contribute to foundation problems, you can’t always point to a specific cause in all cases. But we do know that it’s not your fault. You can’t fully control how expansive clay soil behaves or the other factors discussed above.
You are not to blame for your foundation issues. You can’t control and prevent everything. We understand that homeowners often feel like they could/should have done something to prevent problems. But we’re here to tell you to put the guilt aside.
Check out this article for a better understanding of why foundation problems are not your fault.
You Are Not Alone In Your Foundation Problems
Often, this question of: “Why isn’t my neighbor having a problem too?” comes from a place of feeling alone in your foundation problem. You feel like the only one out there with this issue, and we can tell you that is certainly not true. We would have trouble staying in business for 35+ years if no one else needed foundation repairs!
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been fixin’ foundations in Bryan, College Station, and surrounding Brazos Valley communities like Navasota and Caldwell since 1985. Though you might feel alone in your foundation problem, you have us by your side to help guide you through this, and we’re not going anywhere.
Here’s further proof that foundation settlement is common in our community and nationwide: Many Homes Experience Foundation Problems: You Are Not Alone. So let’s keep your spirits high and give you the confidence to work through this problem with less stress and worry. We’re here to help whenever you are ready.