A. Introduction

  1. Many areas have soils which are referred to as expansive or active. This type of soil generally contains clay minerals which expand and contract depending on their moisture content. Areas with extended dry or wet periods require special homeowner maintenance and precautions. Improper homeowner maintenance can adversely affect the performance and structural integrity of the foundation constructed on active soils and may void the Limited Warranty on your home.

To minimize damage caused by shrinking and swelling of expansive soils, you should:

maintain an even moisture content in the soil around the foundation;

maintain the grading about the foundation;

maintain the landscaping.

  1. This section lists Homeowner maintenance requirements for homes constructed on active soils. Your failure to properly maintain your lot can void the Limited Warranty on your home.
B. Maintenance

1. Trees and Shrubbery

Trees and shrubbery may absorb large amounts of water daily, reducing the moisture in the soil and causing shrinkage. Soil shrinkage near the foundation causes settlement in that area. Soil in areas around trees and shrubbery must be adequately watered to prevent settlement and shrinkage. In extreme drought, areas around trees and shrubbery will need more water.

Trees especially can damage the structural integrity of the foundation. Root systems of trees can penetrate the foundation, reduce moisture and cause additional damage to the foundation. Precautionary measures may be needed to prevent trees from adversely affecting the foundation. Homeowner maintenance may include the placement of root shields which reduce the absorption of moisture from the soil between the shield and the foundation.

Prior to planting trees and shrubbery, and if existing tree branches extend over your roof or the root system extends into the foundation, you should contact your Builder or those who are experienced in planting trees and shrubbery to discuss proper maintenance options, including the costs involved. Your county Agricultural Extension Office will be able to suggest appropriate plant life and proper maintenance procedures. Limited Warranty Coverage is conditioned upon proper Homeowner Maintenance.

2. Final Grade

When a Final Grade Certificate is obtained, you should receive a copy from your Builder confirming that the grading (the slope of the ground) around the foundation has been established to cause water to flow away from the Home. It is your responsibility to maintain the grades. Make sure water does not collect or become trapped in localized areas near the foundation. These conditions can cause changes in moisture content that can damage the foundation.

Builders often direct surface water to disposal areas (such as streets, storm sewers, etc.) by way of drainage channels called swales. Swales must be maintained and not left to erode or fill.

Fences installed over drainage swales must be kept off the ground so water can drain properly. Obstructions in the drainage swale can interrupt proper drainage of water from the lot.

3. Landscaping and Yard Maintenance

Maintaining adequate ground cover such as grass is essential to maintaining uniform moisture content in the soil. The presence of ground cover minimizes evaporation of moisture. When watering grass, shrubbery and other plantings, you should use a systematic, uniform manner of watering so soil on all sides of the foundation is kept moist, NOT SATURATED. Just as too little moisture causes soil shrinkage, too much moisture causes swelling. Both conditions can damage a foundation. Areas of soil that do not have ground cover may require additional watering as they are more susceptible to evaporation, causing an imbalance in soil moisture.

Position sprinkler heads so water is directed away from the foundation. Shrubs planted close to the foundation may have to be watered by hand.

When landscaping, be sure that flower beds do not trap water next to the foundation. Planters and curbs often hold water, causing increased moisture in localized areas. This can cause damage to the foundation. If curbs and planters are installed, drainage holes must be provided to maintain balanced soil moisture around the foundation.

4. Gutters and Downspouts

If the Home is equipped with a roof drainage system such as gutters and downspouts, water discharged from the downspouts should be directed to flow a minimum of 5 ft. away from the foundation. When downspout extensions are removed for mowing or other maintenance, they must be returned for proper surface drainage. Rainwater should not be rerouted to flower beds or other areas near the foundation. This can cause localized saturation and uneven moisture which may damage the foundation. Such negligence can void the Limited Warranty on your home. Placement of gutters and downspouts is a homeowner responsibility if not installed by the Builder.

5. General Information

When very hot and dry conditions exist and soil begins to pull away from the foundation, you should act immediately to correct the situation. If you will be away from home during these conditions, you should plan to have someone maintain your lot.

Uneven moisture content of the soil surrounding the foundation can cause movement in the foundation. If moisture content in one area is substantially different from another, differential movement can occur which can cause the foundation to bend. Although this may not damage the foundation, it may cause signs of distress such as wall and ceiling cracks, tape separations, doors which swing open or closed on their own, window frames out-of-square, and cracks in brick veneer and mortar joints. You should check the soil conditions around the foundation and correct any problems. Homeowner maintenance is a prerequisite to the Limited Warranty on your Home.

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