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RE: Have you heard of watering your foundation?

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When I lived in a newly constructed subdivision north of Dallas, about 12 years ago in my pre-engineering days, we were all told to water our foundations.  We were told that uneven moisture distributions could lead to foundation problems, and that allowing the soil to completely dry out could lead to foundation problems.  I don't know the extent to which it helped, but most people in the neighborhood were conscious of it.  There seemed to be quite a few more foundation problems in that area than anywhere else I have ever live, so I suppose people take any possible remedy a lot more seriously there than in most of the country.  That is the same part of the country that taught me to be careful about the grading around the house, to make sure that the water always drains away from your foundation so as not to create isolated wet spots.  I think that is good practice wherever you live. 
Paul Crocker, PE, SE

-----Original Message-----
From: Brian K. Smith [mailto:smithegr(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, November 18, 2002 9:40 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: Have you heard of watering your foundation?

    It is not uncommon to hear of this practice, although, I have not recommended it to any of my clients, especially not on new construction.  You have to remember that clays are not too bad of a material, provided you keep them either wet or dry all of the time.  By watering the soil around the foundation, the theory is that you keep the clays in an expanded condition, which prevents the shrink-swell cycles which ultimately destroy the foundation.  I have heard one engineer discuss in detail an automatic watering sytem that turns on and off based upon the soil moisture.  
    By the way, the soils in Dallas may have a PI of 55+.  I don't know what you typically encounter in New York.
Brian K. Smith, P.E.
-----Original Message-----
From: Trobridge, Bruce [mailto:Bruce.Trobridge(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, November 18, 2002 10:47 AM
To: 'seaint(--nospam--at)'
Subject: Have you heard of watering your foundation?

I was asked this question by my brother who is building a house in the Dallas area. I am a structural engineer in New York state and my response was- What? Why? I have not heard of this practice and neither has anyone I work with. The people he has spoken to (who are not engineers) say that if you don't water the concrete it somehow loses strength and cracks. The only thing I can figure is that the clay soil there has not been preconsolidated by glaciers as it has here and the moisture is kept up to prevent consolidation and settlement of the house. Am I on the right track?

Bruce C. Trobridge PE
Senior Building Structural Engineer
NYS - Office of General Services
(518) 486-1749