How to Maintain Your Home's Foundation

by Michael Franco
crack in the foundation

Every home has a foundation that, quite literally, supports the structure and bears the weight of the entire house. It’s not surprising, then, to learn that keeping your foundation in tip-top shape is one of the most important aspects of owning a home.

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That said, it can be tricky to determine how to properly maintain a home’s foundation. After all, you don’t encounter your foundation during day-to-day activities like you would your yard, plumbing or even your roof. Instead, your foundation is down there, buried underneath your home, just ... doing its thing. At least, you hope it is.

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Foundation Maintenance: 8 Tasks to Add to Your Checklist

Want to make sure your foundation is in solid shape? Luckily, there are several easy tasks you can complete on the regular to make sure your foundation is in good condition. These tried and true foundation maintenance will help you rest easy and let your home’s foundation continue to do its thing for years to come.

Make Sure the Soil Stays Moist

As soil gets dry, it contracts, and when it gets wet, it expands. It’s this constant expansion and contraction that puts unnecessary stress on your concrete foundation and can lead to cracks. To avoid this, it’s important to make sure that you maintain consistent moisture levels of soils around your foundation. To do this, use a sprinkler system to keep the soil under your home moist.

Keep Water Away From Your Home

While you don’t want the soil around your foundation to dry out, you also don’t want things too wet, either. After rainstorms, take a look around your foundation wall or slab to look for any standing water. If so, create a drainage plan.

If you need to, consult a landscaping professional to recommend a long-term fix for your drainage issues. Even before any rain occurs, examine the downspouts around your home to see if they are long enough to divert water away from the foundation.

Maintain a Consistent Temperature in Your House

Similar to the effects of moisture on soil, your home’s temperature can make concrete, wood and drywall contract and expand. In fact, temperature fluctuations are oftentimes the sole cause of foundation cracks. You can keep on top of this by not turning the thermostat off when you go on vacation. Instead, leave it on a low setting that will prevent extreme temperature shifts. A general rule of thumb is to never let your home get above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).

Consider Tree Placement

We all love trees in our yards, but ones that are too close to your home can be extremely harmful to your home's foundation. Depending on the size of the tree, its root system can be immense and can easily damage the concrete of your foundation — and even your home’s plumbing system. Furthermore, large trees drink lots of water, and several of them planted nearby will dry out and shrink the soil near the foundation. If you have several trees close to your house and don’t want to resort to removing them, you can install a root barrier to prevent roots from growing into your foundation.

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Practice Smart Landscaping

Just as you should avoid the detrimental effects of trees too close to your home’s foundation, you should also be mindful of any large shrubs or bushes as well. As a general rule, you’ll want to make sure that anything you plant is at least 2 feet (60 centimeters) away from your foundation.

While you’re at it, examine your yard. Take measures to ensure that any landscaped areas are sloped away from the foundation to maintain proper drainage. If your home is at the bottom of the hill or slope, you may need to install a system of French drains or other drainage solutions to keep water from collecting near your foundation.

Pay Attention to Cracks

If you notice a crack in your foundation, don’t panic. In most cases, cracks are a normal part of the settling process. That said, you should make note of cracks and, if possible, write down the date you observed it and any changes over time. Monitor the cracks in the foundation and look for any changes in width or length. If the crack becomes wider or longer, schedule an inspection with a foundation specialist.

Schedule a Plumbing Test

Another way to make sure your foundation stays in good condition is by making sure the plumbing system under your home is leak free. Even small leaks can negatively impact the integrity of your foundation over time. You can keep abreast of any leaks under your home by scheduling a plumbing test once a year as part of your regular foundation maintenance.

Get a Foundation Inspection

Last but not least: To keep tabs on the condition of your foundation, never hesitate to hire a professional foundation consultant to perform an inspection. Not only will they be able to report back to you on the condition of your foundation, but they can also pass along some helpful prevention measures that might apply specifically to your home.

Make Sure Your Home Is on Solid Ground

After reading this foundation maintenance guide, hopefully, you can complete some of these effective measures to keep your foundation in great shape. Following these tips will help protect your home against expensive repairs and damages. That way, you can rest easy knowing your home is in a stable state.

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