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Drought and Your Foundation

Drought can affect the soil under your home causing major foundation issues.


Parts of North Carolina have gone well over a month without rain, which is causing wildfires and wells to run dry. As the forecast for rain continues to look grim in North Carolina, there is another issue that residents need to beware of foundation settlement and foundation wall failure.

What is foundation settlement?

Simply stated, the settlement is the movement your home experiences when the soil below can no longer support the weight of your home. Homeowners often ask, “Well, the soil has supported my home for years without problems so what has changed?” The answer is… drying and shrinking of soil!

After many months of drought, clay soil dries out. And, as we know, when the clay dries, it shrinks. As the amount of soil around your house shrinks in size, it creates an empty space for your home to settle into.

Some signs of foundation settlement from drought include stair-step cracking, leaning chimneys, cracks above doors or windows, and drywall cracks.

Drought can cause foundation wall failure!

Clay around a home’s foundation expands and contracts as the amount of moisture in the ground increases and decreases. As the soil shrinks during a drought, it releases pressure around the basement walls and creates a void. When it rains and the clay soil gets wet again, it expands. As clay soil expands in size, it puts a lot of pressure on basement walls. When the pressure becomes more than the wall can handle, the wall will begin to push inward, bow or fail completely.

Some signs of wall failure from shrinking and expanding soil are horizontal cracks, shearing at the top and bottom of the wall, and interior stair-steps cracks at corners.

If the recent drought is causing you to see any of these foundation or wall issues, please contact a foundation repair specialist. There are steps that can be taken before the problem worsens and total foundation replacement is needed.

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