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Dry conditions mean a rise in foundation issues

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 16, 2011 at 3:16 a.m.


Gidgett Ganem knew her home on the 700 block of Queensway Trail had foundation troubles when she moved in two years ago.

"My brother told me it was going to need work," she said, noting hairline cracks and issues with the brick and mortar. "Back then, it would cost $2,000."

As time progressed, however, so did the problem.

A crack began separating the porch from the house. Inside, floor tiles cracked, doors wouldn't close and toilets leaked when they shifted with the house.

Now, the cost to make repairs is more than double.

"I'm sick about it because I can't get it done right away," said Ganem, an insurance agent and mother of two. "I don't just have $5,000 sitting around."

And she isn't alone.

Texas' unforgiving drought has meant a sharp increase of foundation issues in Crossroads area homes.

Dry weather causes soil to dry out and shrink, and some parts of Texas have seen up to 13 inches of shrinkage, said Jim Dutton, one of Du-West Foundation Repair's owners. That movement causes shifts in home foundations, which is where problems begin.

"What happens is, the middle of the house normally stays fairly moist because it's protected from the sun," he said. "The moisture level is higher. But you get edge drop."

The first tell-tale signs of trouble are cracks in drywall, freeze boards pulling away from the brick and so on, said Dutton, who also hosts the radio show "Texas Home Improvement."

Business began booming for Du-West within the last couple of months, he said, explaining the company went from booking 25 appointments statewide on Mondays to more than 100. Du-West has offices in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and more, but does work in the Crossroads.

Repairs, which typically call for installing supporting tiers below the home, start at $2,000, Dutton said, but average about $8,000.

Every foundation - even ones without homes on them yet - will have cracks, said Trey Ganem, who does sales for Coastal Bend Foundation Repair. While the problem should be addressed, he said it isn't the end of the world.

"The key is stabilization," he said. "You want to get the home to where it's as level as possible. Stabilize it."

Trey Ganem is Gidgett Ganem's brother.

He said people can take measures to keep their homes safe.

Watering the area about 18 to 20 inches away from the foundation can help keep the soil moist and secure, Trey Ganem said, noting the ground should not become squishy, but wet enough to where it's obvious watering has occurred.

Paying attention to trees also helps, he said, since they will move toward water sources when things get dry.

He encouraged homeowners to make sure trees aren't planted too close to the foundation itself. for trees that do sit close, water the the side of the tree that sits away from the house, to urge roots that direction.

Preventative measures are good but, once the tell-tale signs of trouble are there, it's important to notify a professional, said David Norrell, a technician for Hy-Tech Foundation Repair, whose business has increased about 50 percent in recent months.

"The water's not going to fix it," he said. "They need to call us."

As for Gidgett Ganem, she said she's lucky.

Because she's family, her brother will allow her to make a down payment, and then pay the rest off in increments. But the thought of such extreme repairs is still a bit daunting.

"It's a big project," she said. "It needs to get done. We just have to figure out how."

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