One of the primary causes of foundational settlement is due to soil shrinkage underneath a home and its foundation. The soil shrinks and cracks when it is dry and has no water. This occurs primarily during the hottest summer months and in areas that have soil with a high content of expansive clays.
There are simple things you can do to help prevent soil shrinkage and ultimately foundational settlement of your house, especially during dry times when it is most likely to occur. One of the most important things is to establish a watering system.
To do this well, utilize a soaker hose. It is the best thing to use to keep the soil around your foundation from drying up. A soaker hose looks similar to a garden hose but is designed with a special fabric that allows water to seep out of its surroundings when it is under pressure. Soaker hoses are relatively inexpensive and can be found at most hardware stores.
Be sure not to confuse a soaker hose with a sprinkler. Sprinkler systems are designed to help grass stay green. They do not assist foundational maintenance and stability in any way. However, soaker hoses work well with sprinkler systems but it is the soaker hose that will ultimately benefit the soil around and beneath your foundation.
A good quality soaker hose will have a restrictor in the female end of the hose. The restrictor is what is responsible for dispensing the water in an even way all along the length of the soaker hose. The restrictor should be attached to a short piece of garden hose that is then attached to the source of water.
The soaker hose should be laid out around the base of the house about 12″ away from the foundation. Keep the soaker hose level on the ground as much as you can. Be sure to maintain the 12″ distance, even when rounding corners or running the hose under fences. This includes patios and swimming pools as well.
Err on the side of caution when running a soaker hose around such things as sheds and air conditioning units. It is best to have the soaker hose too far away before having it too close.
Do not run a soaker hose over concrete. Use a garden hose to stretch over the concrete and attach the soaker to the garden hose. If your house sits on sloped land, you may need to put the soaker a little closer to the foundation on the side of the house that slopes down and away from the foundation.
Once you have properly installed the soaker hose, you can begin your watering program. Start by running the soaker approximately 3-4 times a week for 20-30 minute intervals. Check the soil near your foundation after one week. If the soil feels dry, you will need to increase the number of times you water, or the length of time for which you are watering. If the soil feels real wet, reduce your frequency and/or time. Your goal is for the soil to feel slightly moist. Once you have achieved that, maintain your watering system in its present condition.
Remember, too much water is even worse than not enough! So it is important to monitor your watering system routinely throughout the hot months and ensure it is working properly.
The goal is to simply keep the soil moist so it does not dry up and pull away from around and underneath the foundation of your house. In order to achieve that, the moisture levels in the soil must remain properly hydrated. Implementing and maintaining a good watering program with the use of a soaker hose is a great way to protect your foundation.