Originally Published: February 6, 2015 6 a.m.
Q: We recently purchased a home that is 10 years old. We have noticed that the walls are cracking, and there are a few doors and windows that are difficult to open and close. I have been told this is due to expansive soils and water issues. Can you give us some input?-Ron and Cathy, Williamson Valley
A: Preventing water damage around the foundation of a home is a lot less expensive than paying for repairs. We at the Yavapai County Contractors Association have seen severe settling issues in many areas around town, and damaged foundation walls have ranged from $15,000 to $160,000 to fix.
Water damage is the number one cause of weakened home foundations. We have all heard about core strength of the body; the foundation is the core strength of your home. If water seeps under the foundation, it will eventually cause cracks, uneven settling, and leaks, which can lead to mold, rot, and other issues.
Here are some prevention tips for ensuring water is directed away from your foundation.
Don't let your downspouts be a downer! Make sure your home has proper downspout drainage, and that the downspouts are directing water 5 to 10 feet away from your foundation.
Clean your gutters, which will prevent cascades of water from flowing down the side of your home directly into the foundation. You can buy extenders from plain ($15) to fancy ($30) - or bury a long downspout diverter underground and drain the water to the curb, a storm drain, or to a spot in your yard where the water will percolate into the soil.
Make sure your home/yard has good drainage and water flows away from the home, and there is no ponding of water around the foundation. You can do this by making sure your yard is sloped at least 6 inches over a 10-foot span away from your foundation. That slope keeps water from getting down right next to your foundation, where it could cause walls to lean and crack, doors and windows to not operate properly, and the floor to heave.
Poor soil evacuation can direct water to your foundation, so it is also important not to let the soil get too dry. Long dry spells let the soil around your house dry out and shrink. A whopping rain may make the soil expand and put pressure on your foundation walls. In a dry period, run a soaker hose around your house at least 6 inches from the foundation and 3 inches under the soil. That should help quiet soil contraction and expansion.
Another solution to drainage and foundation issues is a French drain, a simple, gravel-filled trench designed to channel water away from your house. A perforated pipe inside the trench helps gather up water, and a slight slope to the pipe allows gravity to do the work of moving the water through the drain system.
In order to prevent a war for water, it is important to know that tree and shrub roots can compete with your soil for moisture during a drought, causing your foundation to settle and sink unevenly. Plant deep-rooted trees and shrubs away from the house. A good rule of thumb is if the branches touch the house, the tree is too close.
If you have any of these issues with your home, YCCA recommends you obtain professional opinions.
Tune in to YCCA's Hammer Time twice each weekend 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday mornings on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM, or on kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners.