It’s a scenario that causes stressed-out homeowners: a leaky basement. This should be avoided at all costs because it can lead to extensive damage and create the perfect environment for a mould problem. Mould can be tricky to eliminate, it causes an unpleasant odour and it can even make you sick.
To prevent this, you’ll need to ensure foundation cracks are repaired promptly.
There are many causes of foundation cracks, though trees are usually blamed as the culprit. It’s usually more a case of poor drainage in the area around the foundation, not a direct result of growing tree roots. A good foundation contractor can usually isolate the cause, and this is as important to address as the problem itself.
Ground Settling – The Type of Soil Matters
Typically, the biggest culprit is soil drainage. Soil with a high clay content is more prone to expansion and contraction due to moisture and is slow to drain.
If your soil is a combination of clay, sand, rock and other organic materials, and is coarse in texture, called ‘loam’, then you are lucky – this is the ideal place for a foundation.
If you have moisture and foundation cracks in your basement, have your soil assessed, as this may be the cause of your problems, not tree roots. Fortunately, tree removal may not be necessary or even effective in solving the problem.
The Effects of Climate Change on Home Foundations
Climate change just might be making our homes more susceptible to foundation cracks. Frequent droughts followed by a deluge of rain makes shifting soils more likely, and foundations that would previously withstand normal fluctuations of temperature and moisture may not now.
Another factor may be newer homes that are not situated in an ideal location, as prime building land is already built-up.
Drainage Changes Can Be a Leading Cause of Foundation Cracks
If your foundation has developed cracks rather suddenly, chances are something has been changed in the way the moisture drains away from your foundation. Ironically, this can also be the result of a prolonged drought period, as soils high in clay content tend to shift when the moisture level fluctuates.
This can also be commonly caused by homeowners installing new landscaping or buildings that change a yard’s drainage. What many homeowners don’t realize is that drainage is specifically engineered to direct water away from your home and filling in or re-routing swales can have serious effects.
When Trees Can Affect the Waterproofing of your Foundation
If your soil has a heavy clay content, trees can tend to dry out your soil during drought periods, causing contraction. Later, when it rains, the water can run-off, pool or cause soil expansion and can add stress your home’s foundation isn’t equipped to handle.
Tree roots can also infiltrate drains seeking a water source. This can lead to underground cavities which can later be filled with water during periods of heavy rain. The pooled water then seeps into your home’s foundation.
Since trees add to the enjoyment of your home by adding privacy, shade and cooling, it’s wise to seek advice to ensure that they are placed in the correct locations. You should also select the type of tree based on the soil type to ensure it doesn’t cause problems down the road.
Advice for Homeowners for Foundation Crack Repair
It’s normal for small cracks to appear as part of a home settling, and not all cracks are a cause for alarm. But, if your basement has leaking or moisture problems, or cracks that are thicker than the side of a dime, it’s time to call a foundation contractor to assess your risk.
And before choosing your foundation contractor be sure to ask for advice on the ‘root cause’ of your problems – they should be able to provide some insight as to the cause, and advice on an appropriate fix to keep your basement leak-proof in the future.