By inspecting your foundation twice a year, you’ll be able to detect early warning signs of problems such as water damage, pest infestation and structural weaknesses. All of these issues become very expensive to repair if they are left unchecked, so be thorough in your inspection and catch any issues early!
Look for standing water. This is best done during, or immediately after, a rainstorm. Look for any place where water is pooling near your house, particularly around the downspouts. If your downspouts are dumping water less than five feet away from your house, it’s a good idea to purchase gutter extensions, which cost $10-$50 and can be purchased at your local hardware store. If you haven’t already, it’s also a good idea to check your basement for leaks during a rainstorm. For details, read: Inspect Your Basement.
Look for cracks. Cracks are common in the exterior of foundations, and small ones aren’t a problem. However, it’s important to make sure little cracks aren’t growing, and to have big cracks checked by a professional. Hairline cracks can be ignored. Cracks that are around 1/8-inch wide (about the width of 1-2 toothpicks) don’t need to be dealt with either, but it’s a good idea to check them every few months and make sure they’re not expanding. For cracks that are wider than 1/4-inch, it’s best to contact a qualified expert to take a look and make any necessary repairs. These may indicate an underlying structural problem in your foundation, so don’t ignore them!
Check for termites. A serious termite infestation can cost upwards of $5,000 and permanently devalue your home. To check for termites, look for pencil-thick tunnels of mud, which termites use to travel from their underground colonies to your house. If you find any, break one off. If it’s rebuilt, termites are active in those tubes. For details on getting rid of them, read: Pest Control: Termites.
Check for rodent entrance points. Rodents such as rats and mice frequently enter houses through holes in the foundation. Look for any holes or cracks that a rodent could use to enter your house (mice can squeeze through holes the size of a nickel, so check carefully). Areas where pipes or electrical wiring enter your house are common problem areas. Seal these areas with metal or cement as soon as possible.
Water your foundation. This is only necessary for houses that are built on clay soil and are located in warm areas prone to drought such as Texas and Arkansas. This is important because dry clay soil can shift and cause damage to your foundation. The easiest way to water your foundation is to bury a soaker hose – which costs about $50 at your local hardware store – three inches into the ground and about a foot away from your house (do not place it directly against the foundation, which can lead to structural damage). During the summer, it’s best to run your soakers for 10-15 minutes, 3-4 times per week. In a drought, this might be necessary every day to keep the soil consistently moist. During the winter, you’ll probably only need to water the foundation 1-2 times per week. Note: If you’re not sure what kind of soil your house is built on, visit: United States Department of Agriculture: State Soils.