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North Carolina Drought & Foundation Damage

During dry weather, your home may still be susceptible to damage caused by expansive clay soil and poor drainage. Learn how you can fight back with Tar Heel.

Sunny, dry weather may be celebrated in the typically stable state of North Carolina—but too many consecutive weeks or months without generous rain are cause for concern, and venture into drought territory. 

Paired with NC wildfires and even a burn ban, droughts can become very serious in a very short amount of time. 

While the safety of yourself and your family is top priority, many homeowners fail to consider how droughts can negatively impact their foundation, basement, or crawl space. Here, we’ll discuss why dry soil can be detrimental to your foundation, and what you can do before and after drought conditions to combat foundation damage. 

What Droughts Do to Soil in North Carolina  

Some soils are classified as “expansive,” meaning that when it rains or the soil interacts with water, it expands, or gets bigger. It’s common for soil to increase in volume by 10% after a substantial rain. The inverse effect occurs when it’s dry. After a long period without any water, remaining moisture content from the soil evaporates, causing the expansive soils to shrink. This effect is especially present in clay soils, which have this expansive property. 

In North Carolina, Cecil soil is the most common type of soil, spanning 1.6 million acres primarily across the piedmont region including Raleigh, Durham and Winston-Salem. Cecil soil has red clay properties and is sometimes referred to as “Georgia Red Clay” (despite also being in NC). While this type of soil is excellent for agriculture, its expansive characteristics make your home vulnerable during a drought. 

How Does Drought Affect Your Home’s Foundation, Crawl Space, or Basement? 

As the soil beneath your home dries up during a drought, the shrinking can form air pockets. Without the needed support from the soil below, these unsafe pockets weaken the soil supporting your home and can cause structural problems. While you may not be able to look underground to survey the structural defects, you may notice damage in your everyday life through these common problem signs: 

  • Leaning or tilting chimney 
  • Wall cracks on the exterior of your home 
  • Foundation cracks 
  • Cracked driveway or patio concrete 
  • Cracks in your ceiling or drywall 
  • Doors or windows that are stuck open or shut 
  • Uneven or sloping floors 
  • Broken or cracked pipes 

What To Do During a Drought To Prevent Further Foundation Damage 

The first rainfall after a drought is a pivotal time for the structural soundness of your foundation. Without the right preparations and support set in place, you could face in-home flooding, leaking, and even mold. 

Clean Out Your Gutters And Drains 

Rearing up for the first substantial rain, you’ll want to make sure your existing drainage systems are clear and well-equipped to take on the long-awaited water. Ensure to routinely clear out leaves, brush, nests or critters. 

Install Sprinklers  

If there are no local restrictions or rationing of water, it will help your foundation and home landscaping to prime your lawn, even with a little bit of water. This will help you keep an eye on water grading around your home and help ensure that water drains away from your home’s foundation and doesn’t pool. 

Install Drywells 

Drywells are underground drains used to safely dispose of excess runoff water or storm water away from the home. This type of drainage system specifically benefits homes that suffer from negative grading (water flowing toward your home instead of away from it). Drywells are installed close to the home where it collects water and drains it to a place far from the home. 

Invest in a Sub-Surface Drainage System 

A sub-surface drainage system, such as a sump pump in your crawl space or basement, is an underground system that removes water from within and underneath your home’s foundation. These systems are vital especially during a flood, which is possible during the first rain after a drought due to the previous shrinkage of soil and structural damage your home may have endured. 

Install a Dehumidifier in your Basement or Crawl Space 

Since the soil beneath your house has been without moisture for a while, the lower levels of your home may not currently suffer from excess moisture levels. When rain falls once more, moisture may have an easier way inside your home. Dehumidifiers work to control the levels of humidity your basement or crawl space experiences.

What Will Happen to Your Foundation After a Drought Ends? 

First, it’s important to know what indicates the end of a drought. A small drizzle is not substantial enough to end a drought, as it’s quickly soaked up by the local plant life, then evaporated. A drought is over when soaking, heavy rain falls for long enough to deeply quench the soil and re-energize the ecosystem. 

Once a drought ends, your Raleigh, Durham, or Winston Salem home’s foundation problems unfortunately won’t go away. 

If underground soil pockets formed beneath your home, these could fill with rainwater, expand the soil, and potentially exert hydrostatic pressure on your basement or other foundation type. 

Due to the change in the soil around your home after the drought, water may also drain differently. Worst case scenario, it will grade negatively toward your home and puddle, as opposed to being directed away. This makes your basement, crawl space or the interior of your home more prone to flooding. Poor yard drainage may also exasperate hydrostatic pressure in the soil around your home. 

How Can You Repair Your Foundation After Drought Damage? 

If you suspect foundation damage after a drought, acting quickly can make or break the structural integrity of your home. Since foundation problems only worsen with time, installing preventive measures or correcting foundation issues early on can save you money and stress in the long run. 

Determining what’s going on with your home is the first vital step in preparing or repairing it from the stress of drought. Tar Heel Basement Systems offers free inspections with a no-obligation quote, so you can make the best decision for your home. 

As professionals who specialize in foundation repair and protection, we take pride in providing these solutions for your home. 

  • Structural wall repair 
  • Helical or push piers 
  • Foundation settlement repair 
  • Retaining walls 
  • Exterior drainage 
  • Interior drainage 
  • Concrete lifting 

Our goal is to give you the right repairs once, so you can have peace of mind through rain or shine. Call the experts at Tar Heel Basement Systems today to set up your appointment. 

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Our Locations

Fayetteville Location

3400 Walsh Pky, Suite 220
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Greensboro Location

611 Summit Ave, Suite 5
Greensboro, NC 27405

North Raleigh

208 Millbrook Rd. Suite C
Raleigh, NC 27609

Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill Location

3333 Air Park Road
Fuquay-Varina, NC 27526

Wilmington Location

2155 Enterprise Dr. NE
Leland, NC 28451

Winston-salem / High Point Location

2910 Griffith Rd
Winston-Salem, NC 27103