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How Does Drought Affect a Home’s Foundation?

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Drought or persistent soil dryness can cause severe damage to your home’s foundation. While the damages may not be readily apparent above ground, you can bet the soil is shifting below ground.

As moisture declines, subtle and then more significant signs of damage to homes, roads, driveways, sidewalks, and patios will start to appear. That drought impact also includes your garden and local agriculture. 

Drought is currently upon us. NOAA’s shows that 52% of Minnesota and 69% of South Dakota are experiencing severe drought. North Dakota shows 92% in severe drought along with 48% in extreme drought.

In these terrible conditions knowing what to look for can help you take action now to avoid damage to your home. Here’s how drought conditions affect your home’s foundation and what to do about it. 


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How Your Home Can Be Damaged by a Drought

What’s happening underground can have a big impact on the structural stability of your home and its foundation. Look for these key signs of drought damage.

On the outside of your home, a drought could cause:

  • Cracked walls
  • Warped and cracked driveways and patios
  • Leaning chimney and chimney cracks

On the inside of your home, drought could cause:

  • Sloping floors
  • Cracks in drywall or ceiling
  • Difficulty opening doors or windows
  • Broken pipes

These signs of foundation problems show how your house is responding to the changing moisture level in the soil. Generally speaking, the larger the signs, the bigger are the structural problems. However, even small signs of drought stress can accumulate into significant damage. 

It’s further critical to realize that any structural shifts can cause secondary issues. For example, shifting walls can cause roof damage in addition to cracks in the drywall.

What’s Happening Below Ground During a Drought?

Understanding what’s happening below ground can shed further light on what you’re seeing above ground with your home and its foundation. As just one example, you’ll start to see settling and sinking happening within your home as well as with driveways, patios, or pools. 

It all starts with the soil. Expansive soil is common in our area. It expands when wet and shrinks when dry. As much as a 10 percent volume change is common.  As the dry conditions worsen, the amount of soil that is affected increases, causing still more movement. That creates gaps underneath the foundation in dry weather, followed by upward pressure after heavy rain as the soil expands. Over time cracks start to develop allowing moisture and even critters to enter your basement or crawl space.

How Do Soil Changes Affect Your Home?

As the soil shifts due to drought conditions, or even moderate drying, your home’s foundation will come under stress and strain due to changing levels of support from the underlying soil.

It can also be further exacerbated depending on the consistency of the soil under the foundation, walkways, and driveways. Given the original excavation and grading of the home site, different types of soils may be present along with different levels of compaction of the soil.

This is called differential settlement and can happen over time no matter the level of drought. It leads to one side of the home sinking at a different rate than the other side. This leads to tilting of the foundation and all the related effects of cracks and even significant structural damage.

What Happens to Your House After the Drought Ends?

While a break from drought can be a major relief to your garden and local agriculture, it can cause some serious issues with your home. Rainwater can find its way to any openings including soil that has shrunk and pulled away from your foundation walls. That causes hydrostatic pressure that can find any cracks, then enter your basement or crawl space. It can further develop new cracks. All this can lead to increased moisture or even flooding.

That new moisture in your basement or crawl space can further lead to excess humidity throughout your home. In turn, you may find mold and mildew developing not only in your basement or crawl space but throughout your home. 

It’s clear that ending the drought can, if not cause more problems, certainly open your eyes to the damage that has been underway throughout the drought conditions.

How To Protect Your Property From Drought Damage

The absolute best approach is to take preventive action before damage can happen to your home. While they are not the first things you think of in the middle of a dry spell, basement waterproofing, including an interior drainage system and a sump pump, can help a great deal in protecting your foundation and dealing with excess water after the drought.

Additional aspects of addressing foundation problems caused by drought include foundation repair solutions including:

  • Structural wall repair
  • Foundation settlement repair
  • Retaining walls
  • Exterior drainage
  • Interior drainage
  • Concrete lifting

If a drought is causing soil to shrink around your home, you need to act promptly. Foundation damage will only get worse over time. Without intervention, homes can lose a significant amount of their property value in addition to the resulting higher repair costs as the damage mounts. 

We Can Help

Since 2005, we at Innovative Basement Authority have been dealing with drought conditions and their impact on home foundations throughout the area from our offices in Fargo, Minneapolis, Rush City, and Sioux Falls.

Rather than guessing about what’s going on with your home or what solutions you might need, request a free inspection from the foundation repair experts at Innovative Basement Authority.

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Innovative Basement Authority Service Map

We service Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Eastern Montana for basement waterproofing and crawl space repair.

Fargo, ND

1330 41st St. N
Fargo, ND 58102

Minneapolis, MN

6265 Carmen Ave.
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076

Rush City, MN

1325 S Frandsen Ave
Rush City, MN 55069

Sioux Falls, SD

101 S. Reid Street, Suite 307
Sioux Falls, SD 57103