Ram Jack of Mid-Missouri - In The News
Homes on Shaky Ground
by Miglena Sternadori
November 16, 2004
When Karen Dwyer moved into a new home on a hillside in Columbia last October, she loved the location and the view. But there was a downside—cracks in the foundation and erosion on two sides of the house.
“We had it inspected, and I asked the inspector, ‘Is it going to fall down the hill?’” Dwyer recalled. The answer was reassuring: The home was safe, but the foundation needed work.
Dwyer hired a private contractor who said the culprit was the soil under the house, which tended to shrink during drought and expand in wet weather. An embankment filled with dirt has since reinforced the home’s footings. . . .
. . . Usually, the ground dries up in July and stays dry for several months, said Randy Miles, an MU soil expert. This year, drought didn’t start until early September. “When you go from dry back to wet,” it’s the alternating conditions “that cause problems,” Miles said.
Cracks, sticking windows and doors and sloping floors can be signs that a home’s footings are becoming unlevel. . . .
. . . Randy Gibbs, owner of Gibbs Co., said the soil is wetter than usual this year, and clay oozes upward around the footings. Wet years are often followed by dry years, so if the trend reverses next year, he expects many foundations to shift.
“My huge growing years have always been dry years,” Gibbs said.
The trend, however, can be disastrous to homeowners. Gibbs said the best way for homeowners to avoid soil shrinking is to use soaker hoses around the house to maintain moisture consistency. . . .