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Firm footing

Profile image for By Jenna Duncan
By Jenna Duncan

Shifting soils push up demand for foundation repairs

Though there has been mild heat this summer, the region still has not seen much rain — causing soil to dry out and create problems for manmade structures on top.

At the base of every home lies a foundation — but as soil dries up the foundation can shift, causing structural damage to the home with either cracks, slanted doorways or even roof leaks. Most of the soil in Denton is clay and sand-based, so it swells and shrinks dramatically depending on rainfall, creating problems only experts can fix.

“Trying to keep a house even with this soil and climate is a chore,” said John Potts, a supervisor at Concrete Repair Systems in Corinth. “With the water restrictions, it tends to keep the homeowners at odds to keep the foundation stable, and that’s where we come into play. ... Everything sitting on soil is affected.”

Representatives from Concrete Repair Systems, A1 Guaranteed Foundation Repair in Flower Mound and other foundation repair companies said that in the last three summers and throughout the year, business has picked up as drought conditions continue and water restrictions have gotten stricter.

“We’re experiencing a lot of dry weather right now, and the dry weather started about three months ago when we started hitting triple digits,” said Jeff Kattner, owner of A1. “Now all that hot weather has depleted the soil, and then it causes a dramatic dropping [in foundations].”

A1’s crews travel throughout North Texas to dig trenches and install additional support systems to keep buildings level, with different types of pads and piers to support different foundations. Crews are able to then raise the foundation up over those piers, and the house is then supported by the new piers instead of just the soil, Kattner said.

The process takes one or two days depending on the severity of the issue, and this summer his crews have been handling 15 to 20 jobs a week.

For Concrete Repair Systems, this summer has brought an uptick in homes that also need interior repairs, such as replacing beams. Such jobs take more time and can displace residents, Potts said.

Telltale signs that the foundation is giving out include cracking in the brick, doors sticking and cracking in the drywall. Foundation problems can affect plumbing, too, because water and sewer lines run below a house, Kattner said.

“It causes irreversible damage once you get a severe foundation issue,” he said. “Sometimes you can’t get it back to perfect because people have let it go too long, so it’s a good idea to call somebody to get it checked out.”

Although their businesses rely on the failure of foundations, they don’t want customers to continue having problems. Foundation repairs can be costly, and both companies said they try to keep customers from returning to the business.

“We also try to help people prevent needing our service — go figure that,” Kattner said. “We teach them how to water around their foundation using a drip line or a soaker hose, then we teach them how much water to put around the foundation. By doing that, we create a very good, honest reputation instead of just trying to go out there and sell people foundation repair work.”

After Potts and others at Concrete Repair Systems help repair a foundation, they warn customers about the foundation getting dry, but also about oversaturation of the soil, which can also cause problems. Storm water can pool in a yard, and it’s best to keep it away from the foundation, he said.

Both companies said these problems can be worse based on the landscaping on the property, as plants and trees tend to soak up moisture. The more landscaping near the foundation, the more a client should water in that area, Kattner said.

The businesses are also prepared for the calls to continue, and Kattner says he expects the soil to get even drier in September and October. For the past few years, business has remained strong even through winter, and he anticipates with the current climate that it will remain that way.

“There is a widespread problem with water restrictions going on, and people don’t get to water, so right now business is good,” Kattner said. “We keep getting a lot of calls, and we’ve been going strong.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.