Foundation repairs can be expensive, but you may be able to avoid them with a little water. Using soaker hoses, you can set up a foundation watering system that can keep the soil under your foundation from contracting during extreme weather. This can stop the shifts that stress the support structure under your home.
What Does Water Have to Do with Foundation Damage?
The pores in soil act like a sponge. When the soil is filled with water, it swells, and when it’s dry, it shrinks. This expansion and contraction of soil around and under your home moves the foundation up and down. Often, this movement is uneven, lifting up only part of the building. These shifts can crack your foundation. When you keep the ground around the foundation moist in the summer, it shrinks less. This limits its movement, protecting your foundation.
Do I Need to Water My Soil to Prevent Foundation Damage?
There are a few factors that can make your foundation susceptible to soil-related damage:
- Any soil can shift with varying levels of moisture. However, clay soils expand and contract the most.
- The worst shifting happens during droughts and extreme heat in areas that get heavy rainfall the rest of the year.
- Slab foundations and pier-and-beam foundations are more susceptible to shifting than waffle slab or ribbed slab foundations.
Nationally, North Texas, Central Texas and Oklahoma have the worst problems with foundation shifting due to the heavy clay soil and extreme summer temperatures in those areas. However, no matter where you live, you need to water the soil if you see the ground pull away from your home’s foundation.
Soaker Hose Installation for Foundation Watering
Soaker hose is the easiest, most effective solution for managing ground contraction. This hose has numerous small pores that release water next to the soil. This minimizes evaporation while providing better coverage than a sprinkler. However, it only releases water directly over the ground where it’s placed. If you also need to water your lawn, you can use a combination of soaker hose and sprinklers for full coverage.
The best position for this hose is 20 to 24 inches away from the side of your building. You should never try to water a foundation directly. If cracks have already formed, the water will flow through them, collecting under the grade beam. This is the thickest part of the foundation, providing most of the load support. Once the soil underneath is saturated, it loses some of its load-bearing capacity. This can cause your foundation to shift more, making the problem worse. Moving the hose further away guarantees the water will percolate through the surrounding soil, spreading out expansion.
If there is a tree nearby, it will grow roots to reach the water, which in turn places those roots dangerously close to your foundation. You can keep the water from your hose from reaching the roots by installing a barrier. This is simply a trench filled with something solid, like plastic sheeting, to halt the growth of roots in that direction. If you want to add a tree to your property, talk to a horticulturist or an arborist first. This professional can tell you if you will have root problems and provide advice on planting distances to prevent foundation damage.
If you need your soaker hose foundation watering system to reach a building that doesn’t have a nearby spigot, use UV-resistant hoses like our MAXLite® or CoolTOUCH® hoses to connect the spigot to the soaker hose.
Our SoakerPRO® hose comes as a complete assembly in several different lengths. This lets you hook it up like a regular garden hose. If you want to create a soil watering system that perfectly fits your building, you can make one using our . Just make sure the holes in the hose are facing the ground during installation.
Limiting the length of hose connected to each spigot increases water pressure, so it takes less time to water your soil. If you have spigots on the front and back of your house, divide your installation between these two water sources.
How to Water Your Foundation
Foundation watering isn’t just a matter of compensating for lack of rainfall. You are also compensating for the water demand of plants surrounding your home. One large tree can pull up to 150 gallons of water out of the soil per day.
Foundation watering typically does not fall under watering restrictions enacted in the summer or during times of drought. However, you may be limited to using your soaker system at night. Adding a faucet timer will let you turn the water on and off automatically. When watering isn’t restricted, try to run the system early in the morning to minimize evaporation.
Soaker hoses take longer to saturate the soil than sprinklers, but they use less water. Expect to run your hoses for 15 to 20 minutes per day, three to five days per week in peak summer heat. In drought conditions, you may need to water up to 45 minutes every day. This should keep the ground moist but not muddy. After a few days, the soil will expand and meet up with the side of the foundation.
All content provided in this article is for general informational purposes only. The need for watering around foundations is specific to each building and dependent on soil type, rainfall, and other factors that should be assessed by a professional prior to beginning a watering plan. Overwatering foundations can cause damage. All use of products referenced in this article should be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
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