Can Foundation Sinking Be Caused by Drought?

Foundation Settling Drought

Incidents of foundation sinking and settlement are on the rise in both Utah and Nevada, and our current drought conditions may be to blame.

In Utah, more than 77 percent of the state is experiencing abnormally dry conditions and rainfall totals have been significantly below average for several years. The situation is even worse in Nevada, where almost 2 million people live in drought areas.

Unfortunately, many residents are now learning that these abnormally dry conditions can even disturb their home’s foundation.

Why Drought Conditions Can Affect Your Home’s Foundation

When drought conditions persist over the course of years, the area’s soil becomes more and more dry. As it dries out, the soil compacts or shrinks, pulling away from your home’s foundation. When it does happen to rain, the soil rapidly expands, then shrinks again as soon as it dries out.

The Intermountain West is even more prone to these problems because our shallow clay-type soils expand and contract excessively, and are unable to retain moisture well. This roller coaster ride can throw your foundation into a cycle of sinking and heaving, with settlement damage as the likely outcome.

But wait, there’s more.

In extended periods of excessive dryness or drought, established plants, shrubs and trees send their root systems out in search of water. If you have any plants near your home, the chances are excellent their roots are down there right now, sucking up the last of the soil’s precious moisture.

And, of course, that exacerbates the existing challenges.

The Alarming Potential of Excessive Settling

If your home found a way to settle evenly all the way around, you would probably never notice a problem. Unfortunately, it almost never happens that way.

As the soil dries and shrinks, the foundation loses more support in some spots than others. The weight of the structure forces those unsupported portions downward

Normally, a home’s weight presses downward equally around the perimeter, where the foundation’s support is the strongest. When one corner or side of the foundation sinks, the delicate balance of weight distribution shifts. Walls begin to flex and lean, exerting pressure on walls that were never meant to support it.

In extreme cases, left uncorrected, excessive settling can render the home structurally unsound and uninhabitable. If caught and corrected, however, settling is relatively simple to correct.

Watch for These Key Indicators of Foundation Settling

The most common indicators of settling include the development of cracks in your walls, floor tile or exterior stucco. If your home is made of brick or block, you may notice z-shaped cracks developing. The true telltale cracks are those that extend diagonally from the corners of window and door frames.

If you notice that doors or windows suddenly stick or refuse to open, you may have a problem in the works.

Leaning chimneys and sloping floors are some of the late-stage indicators. If these symptoms appear and you haven’t yet sought help for the problem, time may be running out.

The good news is that foundation settlement can be corrected. Atlas Piers specializes in stabilizing the structure and preventing further problems. Serving clients in Utah, Nevada and Wyoming, we are standing by to assist you with repair and stabilization for all of your commercial and residential foundation sinking problems.

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