7 Home Maintenance Tips from a Foundation Engineer

Written by Adam Green of Crosstown Engineering
Updated October 12, 2015
foundation cracks
Monitor any cracks in your home's foundation, and call a professional if they continue to grow. (Photo by Jon Faulknor/iStock)

Check your foundation regularly to keep it solid.

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As all homeowners know, home maintenance can be a frustrating and costly aspect of ownership. From foundation cracks to unexpected water damage, it’s important for homeowners to be vigilant and prepared for any issues that may impact their property and home foundation.

Early detection coupled with on-going foundation maintenance can save homeowners time and money — and reduce the chance of long-term damage.

1. Pay Attention to Foundation Cracks

Regardless of the size, foundation cracks can cause long-term damage to your home foundation. A “minor crack” is not determined by size, but by the severity of the crack. Some details to consider when you first notice the crack are:

• The date you observed the crack and any changes over time

• Temperature

• Rain exposure

• Possible leaks in the home

It’s important to monitor the cracks and look for changes in width and length. If the cracks increase in length or become wider, it’s best to call a specialist for a foundation inspection.

2. Keep Soils Consistently Moist

Movement of the soil puts unwanted stress on your foundation. To avoid the constant soil expansion and contraction process, it is essential to utilize a soaker hose system. During the dry months, the soaker hose will help prevent the top layer of soil from drying out too quickly, which will prevent extensive evaporation. During the wet months, it will also prevent the soil from swelling. In addition, using the soaker hose system can help keep the moisture at a consistent level and prevent extensive evaporation.

3. Keep Water Away from the Home

Storm water runoff and sprinkler water can cause severe damage if the water is near the perimeter of the home’s foundation. Homeowners should routinely check for standing water that could be near the foundation wall or slab and confirm that the home’s downspouts have extensions to direct water away from the foundation.

4. Be Aware of Tree Placement

Tree placement is critical, as trees can be harmful and costly if they're too close to the foundation. Large trees can absorb up to 150 gallons of water per day. If trees are near a home’s foundation with limbs extending over the roof, damage to the foundation in that area could occur due to thirsty tree roots that can cause the soil in the area to shrink. To prevent soil shrinkage and other negative impacts, homeowners should consider installing a root barrier.

5. Be a Smart Landscaper

Homeowners should keep the ground elevations of any landscaped flowerbeds and brushes located close to the home at least three to four inches over the finished elevation of the wall. The landscaped areas should be sloped away from the foundation for proper drainage and to help prevent moisture intrusion from entering through the foundation.

6. Maintain a Consistent Temperature

Keeping home temperature consistent can prevent construction materials such as concrete, wood and drywall from contracting and expanding. Often, thermal fluctuations are the sole cause of cracks and foundation damage.

7. Get a Plumbing Test

Don’t delay in getting a plumbing test. Small leaks can slowly deteriorate the soils beneath the home over time. An inexpensive plumbing test may save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Following these recommendations and tips will help protect your home foundation and decrease the chances of costly damage and repairs. All homeowners should consider an annual inspection as part of an on-going foundation maintenance program. To learn more, contact a professional foundation engineer.

This article originally appeared on the Crosstown Engineering blog.

About this Experts Contributor: Adam Green, an expert in foundation repair and soil and structure stabilization, is a seasoned land-development engineer at Crosstown Engineering in Dallas. He has performed thousands of forensic evaluations of foundations and structures and is a preferred mediating expert for disputes regarding sinkhole activity, expansive soils, organic soils and method of remediation disputes. Follow this expert on Facebook and Twitter.

As of Oct. 12, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List. 

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