Has the Drought Affected Your House?

January 9, 2024

can drought affect house

If you live in south Louisiana, you know the drought of 2023 was rough.  Oppressive heat and dry weather made life miserable for everyone.  One of the big consequences of the drought was damage to houses. 

Thats right!  Has anyone noticed doors “sticking” or binding when opening or closing the door?  How about brick cracks in the exterior walls of your house?  Did you see any wall cracks or separations in cabinets during the summer or early fall of 2023? 

If so, there may be a reason.  HOUSETIPS will share some thoughts about the possible effects of the drought on your house.

1. No Rain = Big Problem

Let’s acknowledge that too much rain in Louisiana causes flooding – a problem we are all too familiar with here in the Bayou State.  But the lack of rain can also cause problems too.  You see, the foundation of your house depends on the “strength” of the dirt below the foundation and the “strength” of the dirt depends on the correct amount of moisture in the dirt, among other things.

It’s no secret that the moisture in the dirt usually comes from the rain.  So, the drought of 2023 may have had a large impact on the soil supporting your house – specifically, the soil may have been weakened by the lack of moisture.  Weakened soil leads to a weakened foundation performance.

2. Local Drought Study

HOUSETIPS recently researched the amount of rainfall, or the lack of rainfall in the New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Louisiana area.  A period of six (6) months, from May to October 2023, was reviewed for the study.  In published reports from the National Weather Service (NWS), there were only 16.29 inches of rain in the New Orleans/Baton Rouge area during that time. 

With an average annual rainfall of 32.40 inches, the rainfall shortage was -16.11 inches…… almost half the rain!

3. The Impact Droughts Have on Houses

can a drought cause damage to your house

So how would the drought affect your house?  The most common effect of the drought on your house is the settlement of your house’s foundation.  How would you know what to look for with foundation settlement? 

Common symptoms of foundation settlement include “sticking” doors, wall cracks, trim separations in the walls, sloping floors, etc…  The impacts can be major and affect the use of areas of your house to minor impacts that are only cosmetic.

can a drought cause wall cracks

Other common systems of drought are the discoloration of your lawn, shrubs, and trees.  Often, concrete driveways and sidewalks will crack and separate because of the drought.

Large trees can also impact the foundation of your house during droughts.  Large trees need a lot of water, compounding the need for moisture in the ground.

4. The Path Forward – Repairing Drought Damage

Your remedy to fix or repair damage from the drought often varies with the amount of damage to your house.  If the door “sticks” or wall cracks are minor, you may want to try sprinkling water in the lawn for a long time (think a couple of weeks) near the damaged area to add moisture to the soil and strengthen it.  This technique may, or may not work, depending on the soil.  Give the situation some time.  When rainfall returns to normal, you may see the damage or distress go away requiring you to only perform cosmetic repairs.

If the damage is severe, then the installation of supplemental foundation support may be needed.  Generally, supplemental foundation support is considered expensive, and the repairs will depend on the type of foundation supporting the house.  If this is your path forward, it is time to call the professionals.

Before any repairs are installed, homeowners should consider hiring a licensed professional architect, engineer, or home inspector to evaluate the conditions that may be related to drought influence on your house.  Competent professionals should be able to assess your house and provide a practical repair program to fix your house.

The lack of rain during drought periods may create problems and damage to your house.  Often, these problems are identified by poor performance in your house foundation because of the soil drying and becoming weaker.  When the soil dries, the foundation sinks and cracks may occur in your house. 

The proper approach to the repairs is important to minimize your cost for the repairs.  Licensed professionals should be considered in diagnosing and developing a plan for repairs before hiring a contractor to install the repairs.

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