Navigating Structural Settlement in Your Dallas Home

Author: Clayton Houston, Blackland Home Inspections TREC 8059

I often get asked about the name of our inspection company. Our clients want to know how we chose the name, “Blackland Home Inspections”. Well, it is simple. I was performing a home inspection in a custom home that was well furnished. A map of Texas on the wall showed the names of the geographical regions of Texas. The region we are in is called the Blackland Prairie. The Blackland Prairie region of Texas runs from the Red River along the border with Oklahoma down to San Antonio. The Blackland Prairie includes cities in North central Texas such as Dallas, Ft. Worth, Greenville, McKinney, and Corsicana. The region is known for its black clay soil that is very expansive, which is conducive to structural settlement. Therefore, Blackland Home Inspections is the perfect name for a home inspection company in this region.

Now that you know how we received our name, owning a home in or around Dallas, Texas, is great, but there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to your home's foundation. You see, the soil and weather here can be a bit tricky, leading to potential problems with your home's structure. Having concerns about structural settlement in your home, is as normal in and surrounding Dallas, Texas. It is as normal as backyard cookouts with your family and friends serving your favorite BBQ. Although, the latter is much more fun to have! Don't worry though, I've got some tips to help you take care of your foundation by watering it the right way.

So, what is it about the soil and weather that leads to problems in foundation performance?

1. Tricky Black Clay Soil: So, the soil in Dallas, called expansive clay soil, can be a bit moody. It swells up when it's wet and shrinks when it's dry. If you have ever walked in a park or field during a drought around here, you may have noticed wide cracks in the ground. The cracks can be several inches wide in some places. I am sure you had to watch your step so you would not twist your ankle in one. It is not a place to wear high heels! After enough rain fall, the cracks will close as the soil absorbs the moisture. This illustrates how much expansion black clay soil can have. This constant expanding and contracting of the soil can put a lot of pressure on your foundation, which could result in structural cracks or even shifting.

Black Clay Soil Cracks

2. Uneven Settling: Imagine parts of your foundation playing a game of "who can settle the fastest." It's called differential settlement, and it's not a fun game. It can make your floors uneven and give your walls a case of the cracks.

3. Water Woes: If the water around your home doesn't flow away properly, it can hang around near your foundation. That's not good news because it can mess with the soil and cause erosion, making

your foundation feel like it's on shaky ground.

4. Moisture Imbalance: So, if the soil around your house dries out in some places but not others, things can get a bit awkward. It's like one side of your house is giving a big tug-of-war heave while the other side is just chilling.

Taking Care of Your Foundation with Water:

Now, let's talk about watering your foundation to keep it happy and healthy:

1. Regular Sips of Water: Just like you need your daily dose of water, your foundation needs some too. During dry spells, make sure to water it consistently. This helps keep the soil from shrinking too much. But hey, don't go overboard and drown it!

2. Soaker Hose Strategy: Imagine gently drizzling water around the edges of your house using these things called soaker hoses. Put them about 18 inches away from your foundation and let them run for around 30 minutes. This slow and steady approach helps the soil get the right amount of hydration without any sudden shocks.

3. Water Timing: Picture this: early morning or late evening. That's when you want to water your foundation. You know, when the sun isn't glaring down. This way, the soil can soak up the water without it evaporating too quickly.

4. Frequency Check: Depending on how parched the weather is, water your foundation once or twice a week. But don't stick to a strict schedule—adjust based on what the weather's up to.

5. Not a Swimming Pool: Remember, you're trying to keep the soil consistently moist, not create a mini lake. Don't overdo it, or you might end up with soggy problems. Pro tip alert: An easy way to manage this is to use a water timer to turn the water supply to the soaker hose on or off at normal intervals. Or, use a zone in you irrigation system set up a with drip irrigation around the perimeter of the foundation.

6. Keep an Eye Out: Every now and then, take a stroll around your foundation and see if there are any cracks or signs of settling. If you spot something fishy, tackle it before it gets worse.

7. Friendly Gutters and Downspouts: Make sure your gutters and downspouts are playing nice by directing water away from your foundation. You don't want extra water pooling around there.

8. Experts Have Your Back: If things get a bit confusing, don't hesitate to chat with one of our professional inspectors. They know their stuff and can give you personalized advice for your situation.

So, while watering is key, don't forget to also give your foundation some love with regular checkups and fixing any drainage issues. Your home's foundation will thank you with years of steady support!