Posts Tagged ‘foundation’

Dry Soil

Author: Tom

Dry Soil and Foundation Damage Los AngelesThis photo seems at first to have nothing to do with foundations, but in reality it shows a very significant cause of what goes on when a house is settling.

Please do yourself the favor of taking a few moments to read this. It is very important recent news that may affect your foundation… 

We took this photo just a few days ago, it shows what can happen when a yard does not get the amount of water it’s used to. This homeowner went looking for a foundation company when the walls in her house started showing new cracking in July. What she didn’t know until we got there and showed her was that having dialed her water usage back about a month ago, the soil of the yard had contracted as it dried out from lack of its usual watering schedule. This in turn created gapping at the ends of the landscaping not only next to the city sidewalk but also next to the house itself.

Recent water restrictions can damage your foundation! This is a word of advice, there is easily preventable damage that can be avoided by taking a few common sense steps that will allow you to follow the guidelines of water usage and yet do so in a way that keeps your house from being adversely affected by it.

As you are likely aware, recent water usage restrictions have been put into effect that drastically reduce the liberty to water your yard as you see fit.  There is a hidden downside to this that can create new foundation problems and it is for that reason that we are sending you this message.

Simply put, cared for landscaping adjacent to a house that is used to getting the correct amount of water includes the factor of having the soil in that area contain a relatively steady level of moisture in it. This tends to keep the soil from drying out too much which in some types of soil could otherwise allow for soil contraction to occur. Combined with the recent high humidity, greatly reducing or even eliminating the watering of landscaping near the home is causing issues to “activate” that until recently had not been present.  When the soil next to the outside of the house shrinks, it allows room for the soil next to it to contract and the foundation walls can then shift towards that newly created gapping. This is enough to cause the house to display new issues.  We typically inspect several foundations a day in various parts of Los Angeles county and over these past weeks, there has been a distinct rise in the amount of situations where new clients that are calling for inspections are speaking of things happening in houses that seem to have “suddenly started”. One for one, we have found altered watering schedules to be the single common denominator of all of these issues. Where this pertains to you is that if you have reduced the watering of the foliage areas adjacent to your home, new manifestations may begin to appear. These would be things in the home like cracks in walls, sticking doors, floor seams showing separation, etc.  We go from house to house, all day every day, looking at various occurrences and so are extremely in tune to why these things occur.  Having an external force such as the water municipality introduce a variable into the existing “recipe” of a workable watering schedule is a concern. This is a change that they do not likely even realize can cause foundation issues that would not otherwise have occurred.

We are not advocating that you ignore the restrictions but rather that you alter your watering scheduling to ensure that the landscaping closest to the house gets the closest to its “previously normal” watering program and that the further from the house an area of the yard is, the less relevant it is to the foundation.

We hope this information is helpful to you, please do pass it on to others you know who may otherwise experience similar issues. Specific recommendations can be found at as to how to go about tuning your particular yard watering to find a happy medium that both reduces water usage and keeps the house from damage. Our objective is to help your house have a healthy foundation and a big part of that objective is preventative care such as described above.

Bad Foundation BoltTRUE: All legally permitted houses built after 1936 in the City of Los Angeles and most surrounding cities are “bolted” to their foundations.

FALSE:  Those bolts are in the same condition now as they were when installed…

Having crawled under 1,000’s of houses and seeing many interesting sights during those “adventures”, above is a photo of something that we see all too often. This is one of a series of failed anchor bolts in a “bolted” house built in the late 1930’s.

There are several key points in the photo. First, and most obvious, the rusted anchor bolt was removed by simply lifting it out of the piece of wood that was originally anchoring it down to the foundation. No tools required, it just came right out. Secondly, notice the chunks of concrete lying in the dirt below. This is the cracked foundation created by the expansive pressure of the rusting metal over time. Why? Water coming through from the exterior over time.  Next you’ll notice the white chalkiness on the concrete, this is the mineral deposits that water has pulled out of the concrete foundation, further weakening it.  On the ground you can see the metal shards that once formed a perfectly good steel anchor bolt.

If you’re not sure of the status of what’s holding your house down, we can come out and perform a fast, honest, and accurate evaluation of your foundation system and can tailor a prescription to bring your home up to current standards seismically.