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Dry Soil Could Damage Your Home's Structural Stability - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Dry Soil Could Damage Your Home's Structural Stability

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  Shifting soil, caused by our dry soil conditions, could be causing structural damage to your home.

  Some warning signs are sticking doors or windows, or cracks in ceiling or walls.

  It cost much less than a new concrete floor, but one East Grand Forks homeowner needs a 2-thousand dollar repair job to fix their sunken garage floor.

  Dakota Mud Jack drills holes in the concrete and pumps in a mixture of lime and water under high pressure to raise the floor and make it level again.

Chuck Decamp, Dakota Mud Jack: "Yeah, it could be dry conditions, where the clay shrinks up and moisture comes out of it. That could be on of the causes."

  Now, DeCamp says it's not clear whether dry soil conditions or an underground washout caused the garage floor at this more to sink. However, the experts say there are some simple precautions you can take to protect your home's foundation from dry soil conditions.

  The NDSU Extension Service says the structural stability of your home could be at risk if you see a widening gap between the soil and your home's foundation.

  The solution is to simply water the lawn evenly around your home with a sprinkler.

  A couple of important points:  Do not stick a hose in the gap or you could create a wash out and do not fill the gap with soil, since once it expands with water, it could crack your foundation.

Reporter: "A way to help out at least a little bit?"

Chuck DeCamp: "Water your lawn…ha."

  The experts say there are no perfect solutions in our extreme climate, but it may be one way to protect the structural stabilility of your home and avoid what could be an expensive repair job.

 

MORE INFORMATION FROM EXTENSTION SERVICE:

By James Stordahl, U of M Extension
 

    The drought not only affects crops and plants. It also may cause problems for your home.
    "Sticking doors or windows and cracks in walls or ceilings may be indications that the building is shifting due to soil shrinkage," says Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer.
    As clay or other fine-particle soils dry, they shrink, creating gaps around the basement wall. This space exposes more of the soil to airflow, which increases the amount of moisture removal. A gap along the wall, through time, may allow airflow that will dry the soil under the foundation. The foundation's support is removed as the soil shrinks, which may stress the concrete enough to cause a crack to form.
    This also will occur around concrete slabs if the support base is clay or other fine-particle soil that swells and shrinks with changes in moisture content, according to Hellevang.
    The gap between the soil and basement wall also allows water from rain to run down the wall and may result in water seeping into the basement.
    To minimize these problems, Hellevang recommends maintaining a relatively constant moisture content in the soil around the house. Water the soil evenly around the entire foundation during extended dry periods if the soil is pulling away from the basement wall.
    "Do not apply water directly into the gap because this may cause water intrusion into the basement," he says. "Instead, apply water 1 to 2 feet away from the foundation edge. A soaker-type hose permits applying water to the soil without getting it on the house wall. Apply the water slowly with rest periods of several hours to permit the water to gradually soak into the soil to a depth of several feet."
    Sometimes people place plastic under rock next to the house as part of landscaping or to minimize water infiltration next to the house. This will prevent you from applying water next to the house. However, water added to the soil even 3 feet from the wall will migrate through the soil profile and wet the soil near the basement wall. It likely will not migrate enough to close the crack or gap near the surface, but it will wet the soil at greater depths and minimize the potential for soil shrinkage that may affect the structure.
    "Do not fill the crack next to the basement wall with soil," Hellevang says. "When the soil gets wet, it will expand, pushing on the basement wall, possibly with enough pressure to crack the wall."
    Even if cracks have appeared in walls or doors are sticking, you should apply water now to keep the soil from drying further and to rewet the soil to a normal level.


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