Austin TX Real Estate - Hill Country Austin Lakeway Homes for Sale: Do You Water Your Foundation?

Do You Water Your Foundation?

Do you water your foundation?

I work with a lot of relocation into the Dallas area.  With that, it takes a lot to educate someone not only about our market, but also about how to take care of their properties.

Most of the North Texas area is built on Clay Soil.  It's usually Red Clay, but Black Clay is also common.  Either way, it's Clay and Clay is a very interesting and unique material to build on.  The Clay is constantly expanding and contracting.  That means your house is constantly expanding and contracting.  With this movement, you can get many cosmetic cracks on the interior along with the exterior.  These cosmetic cracks will eventually turn into structural cracks if not taken care of.

The goal is to create as little movement as possible.  In order to do this, you must water your foundation year round.  What do I mean by watering the foundation?  You need to keep a consistent amount of water around your slab (or even pier and beam foundation if you're in an older home).  This is accomplished in a couple of ways.  If you have an automatic sprinkler system, as long as you can see the water reaches up to the house, you should be fine.  If you are manually watering with a sprinkler, make sure you get all over and not just the front and back yards because that's where your main grass is.  You need to be watering the sides of your house too.

Where I'm getting the freaked out look from people is when I mention placing soaker hoses around the foundation.  For the past couple of years, North Texas has been in a drought and we've been put on watering restrictions, which I've blogged about before.  With the restrictions, most areas could only water once a week, while a select few areas were allowed twice a week.  With the heat of the summer, this is not enough moisture to keep around your foundation for consistency throughout the year.  Soaker hoses, since the water goes directly into the ground, are allowed everyday, though your regular watering is not allowed.  Soaker hoses, to cover an average sized house, will cost approximately $50 and it's a good $50 to spend.  These hoses, usually black, should be placed 12-18 inches away from the house.  You do not want to put them right up against the slab because then too much water could get stuck under the slab and the house could rise.  You're just looking for consistent moisture around the foundation.  Using the soaker hoses about 10-15 minutes 3-4 days a week in the summer, and maybe only once or twice a week in the winter will help you save thousands on future foundation repair in the future.  It's a simple, easy fix for hot, dry summers, and there's no excuse for a bad foundation when it's part of everyday house maintenance when you're a home owner.

Yes, we're having close to record rainfall this year, but we're just catching up with what we need.  Our lawns are very green right now, whereas last year, everyone's looked like we were in a desert.  But, YES, we're still on water restrictions.  And the soaker hoses are for house maintenance, not just using them one year and not another.

Do you Water your Foundation in your neck of the woods?


Comment balloon 19 commentsDonna Harris • June 25 2007 12:14PM


Great post! I lived in dallas for a number of years and never knew that. T hansk for the information.
Posted by Ricardo Cobos (SunTrust Mortgage) over 11 years ago


Good advise on a normal year. RE: NORTH TEXAS DFW

This year we have had double the rain and the sprinkler is NOT needed for most of our foundations.

The principle of balanced moisture around your foundation is sound and necessary.

Topography and vegetation will determine the amount each side of your home requires.

Take into consideration the micro climates created due to solar orientation and or tree canopy.

It can be just as damaging to over water as under water.

My engineer does not recommend soaker hoses. The standard product is so inconsistant in the distribution of water that imbalance is possible.

 The key is balanced watering and positive drainage away from foundation.

Posted by MISSION BUILDERS (Design ~ Build We Care. ) over 11 years ago
I must be way behind the times!  My experience with expansive soil was that, at all costs, DO NOT have water around the foundation (water encourages expansion; expansion creates pressure against the foundation; pressure against the foundation creates movement).  That's why most of the houses in Denver are constructed with a rock area around the foundation, and low water plants.  Also, the obvious slope providing drainage AWAY from the foundation, always.  Is your soil bentonite?  Interesting how other parts of the country have varying soil issues.
Posted by Laurie Mindnich over 11 years ago
Hi there thanks for the info.  I recently purchased property in Dallas and I live in California.  I will have to check on that with our management company.  thanks again.
Posted by Cathy Marquez (Keller Williams Realty) over 11 years ago

Your part of the country is having record rainfall, while here in L A we have had all of 2 inches this season, lowest rainfall in the area on record . In 2004-2005 season we had almost 38 inches.  In many areas we have adobe type soil which expands and contracts also .... and needless to say, we have a lot of contracting going on right now.

And I am in a hillside area so the cycle goes like this:  Really dry season = brush fires in the summer months that burn off the vegetation that help hold the hillsides.  Dry season is sooner or later followed by a heavy rainfall season, but the vegetation hasn't grown back on the hillsides yet, so you have mud slides.

Ahh, L. A.

Posted by Cheryl Johnson over 11 years ago
We have expansive soil and some areas of soil fissures. I have not heard of watering the foundation before. What I do like to do when I suspect expansive soil is to look for homes with poststressed foundation slabs.
Posted by Jim Little, Your Sun City Arizona Realtor (Ken Meade Realty) over 11 years ago

Ricardo- You better look all around your foundation and check for cracks in the mortar or soil separation from the slab.

Mission Builders- Yes, this has been a very wet year, but it's still something to be aware of because the rain could stop at the end of this week (it's in the weather report for all week), and it might not rain again all summer as we had over 40 days last year over 100 degrees.

Laurie- That's why I suggested having the soaker hoses 12-18 inches from the foundation.  You don't want the water to go directly under the house, but you do want the soil from under the house to pull from the moisture around the house.  If you're watering your yard and you never allow the soil under the house to be the same moisture level, you're going to have issues.

Cathy- The problem with rentals is the tenants have to pay the water bill, usually, and they might throw a fit, though water is typically cheap. You might need to make sure there is something in your lease agreement that specifically says how many days the tenant is required to water a week in order to maintain the house.  Some landlords put soaker hoses on timers and put a locked box around the timer so the tenants can't mess with it.

Cheryl- Yes, we're having record rainfall, but the last time we had this much rain was in 2004 and before that, it was about 2001.  We have massive amounts of rain every 3-4 years, but in between those times, it gets really hot and dry and the foundations shrivel up.

Jim- We call is Post Tension Cable slabs and most all houses from the late 70's to the present have them, but that doesn't mean anything... if you're not taking care of the foundation, the cable mean diddly.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - over 11 years ago

I do a lot of loans for people moving to the area. They really perk up when I bring this topic up.


Posted by Tom Burris, Texas/Louisiana Mortgage Pro - 13 YRS Experience (NMLS# 335055) over 11 years ago

Yep, we watered our foundation when we lived in Austin (in a house with a slab built on a limestone outcropping and fill, as it happens).  Now that we're on a pier and beam foundation, though, even though we're on that lovely black gumbo clay soil, we don't - and the house just dances, and doors have minds of their own, refusing to say closed or open depending on the weather.  Since it's a 1935 house, we just write it off to "personality". ;-)


Posted by Tricia Jumonville, Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense (Bradfield Properties) over 11 years ago

Tom- is that sarcasm?  No wink or smiley face so I can't tell.

Tricia- With the limestone in Austin, foundation problems aren't heard of too much there, but it happened to my husband's sister even though I warned them about all the trees too close to the house.  The trees sucked out the moisture and the house almost split down the middle.  It was only 2 years old, so the builder's had to fix it before they sold it and got out of there.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - over 11 years ago
Does that mean the post tension assembly will fail if the soil isn't kept wet? I ask, because yes we have expansive soil, but "wet" years every once in a while. Also recent building into areas of former desert and farm land is raising some questions.
Posted by Jim Little, Your Sun City Arizona Realtor (Ken Meade Realty) over 11 years ago
Jim, It's not that the soil needs to be kept wet, but it needs to be kept the same consistency.  Arizona doesn't typically have cold, cold winters, and you guys don't get very much rain, so we're talking about very different types of soils.  Yes, in my area, the post tension fails all the time because the foundations are not well kept.  It is fairly cold in the winter, averaging around 40 degrees (much colder the last few years) and it averages 95 degrees in the summer (last year was over 40 days over 100 degrees).  With such a drastic temperature change, the foundation needs to be kept consistent, which means moisture.
Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - over 11 years ago
Thanks Donna. We did have a hard freeze this year, it happens about every 7 years and only lasts for a couple of days, but you probably get more rain in a week than we get in a year, normally 7 inches. Appreciate the response.
Posted by Jim Little, Your Sun City Arizona Realtor (Ken Meade Realty) over 11 years ago

Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids.

Really, when I do a loan for people moving to Texas from out of state.... I always try and remind them about the soil issues and how they need to water the foundation. They really pay attention because they have never heard of such.


Posted by Tom Burris, Texas/Louisiana Mortgage Pro - 13 YRS Experience (NMLS# 335055) over 11 years ago
No water needed.  It hasn't stopped raining all year....... Brad Brusenhan in Plano, KW Agent looking for the fun in the sun.  Did I get lost in Seattle?
Posted by Brad & Traci Brusenhan (Brusenhan & Associates Realty - Dallas, Texas) over 11 years ago

Jim- Believe it or not, we don't usually get "this" much rain.  We're WAY above average for the year, not just the month.  It usually rains/hails in April and May, and the rest of the year, it' a couple of times a month.  So, this is a very unusual situation we're currently in, but maintaining the foundation is still important because this rain can stop any day now.

Tom- Thanks.  It's really hard sometimes showing people houses and they're concerned about every little cosmetic crack in the house.  We also have humidity which makes the pieces of wood not always sit flush to each other causing minor sheetrock separation.

Brad- nope, you're in Dallas!  I was in Seattle and it didn't rain at all in those 2 days, except a 30 second period of some spitting where we thought it would rain, but went away.  I'm originally from Tacoma, so I know the Sea-Tac rain!

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - over 11 years ago

We have a lot of foundation issues here in Waco too. I've heard foundation professionals say many things, but one thing I hear a lot is the consistency thing, but they seem to have slightly varied solutions. A common solution I hear as well is the watering thing, but right now with all the rain...well, not much need to water at the moment...

I am not a native Wacoan or Texan, so the foundation deal was very surprising to me. Boy did I get edcated fast!

Posted by Wendy Montoya, REALTOR® Broker Associate, 254-315-4906 (Towne Adams REALTORS) over 11 years ago
Wendy, probably with all this rain we've been having, you hear the foundation guys say more and more about how the houses should get gutters to help keep the water away from the foundation.  My neighbors don't like gutters, but I kept on them about it, and they ended up putting partial gutters on their house a couple of months ago.  Boy are they happy they did it!
Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - over 11 years ago
We've had so much rain in the Houston area that watering right now would be a waste of money.  I do have to agree with you that the foundation DOES need to be consistently watered or movement will occur. 
Posted by David Slavin, CDPE, ABR, SRES Keller Williams Premier (Keller Williams Premier) over 11 years ago