Ram Jack of Mid-Missouri - In The News
Unique Missouri Soil and Weather Patterns Harmful to Foundations
by Jonathan W. Crowell
Columbia Business Times
November 27–December 10, 2004
Unusual weather patterns in Missouri—a wet and cool summer, followed by predictions for an abnormally dry summer 2005—may cause foundations to shift more than normal.
Missouri is home to some of the most expansive clay soil in the United States. The soil soaks up moisture and expands like a sponge, then shrinks and recedes when dry. Over the years, this push-and-pull effect on the foundation of a home or building can inflict serious structural damage if not monitored and tended to properly. . . .
. . . “When the ground is overly wet, it swells and oozes up higher than normal on the foundation itself, without lifting the structure up,” said Randy Gibbs, founder, owner and operator of Columbia’s Gibbs Co. Inc. along with his wife Kathie. The Gibbs are both experts in foundation and concrete repair.
“Afterward, when it dries out, the clay will recede and drop,” Gibbs said. “this pressure on and off the structure can damage its integrity and stability. Over the past 10 years or so it has not been uncommon to have a very wet year followed by a very dry year. We are seeing 15 to 20 percent more foundation problems now than we have seen in a long time, and we haven’t seen the worst of it yet. We’re expecting a very dry summer next year.”
The expansiveness of the clay soil fluctuates in direct proportion to the moisture in the ground, according to Gibbs. Rain, water run-off and moisture absorbed by large nearby trees greatly affect the moisture level’s fluctuation around a house or commercial building. This fluctuation is evident in Missouri’s soil from the immediate surface down to 18 feet deep. Proper drainage management and watering a foundation during a dry season are preventive steps that can slow detrimental foundation shifts, he said.
Craig Brumfield, a Shelter Insurance agent with the Chuck Wilson Insurance Agency in Columbia, became a customer of the Gibbs Co. last year when his home suffered severe structural damage during a particularly dry period.
“We first noticed an obvious problem at the end of summer 2003,” Brumfield said. “In the front room there was a crack that ran from the floor, all the way up the wall, and then eight feet across the ceiling. The crack had split the drywall and was one-half to three-quarters of an inch wide in some places.”
The receding clay surrounding Brumfield’s home had left enough room for one side of the home to start sinking under the weight of a storage room located beneath the garage.
“They had to install piers underneath and around the foundation to stabilize the structure,” Brumfield said. “They dug below the foundation of the storage room and had to jack it up about 3 ½ inches, which is very significant in this context. It’s a structural condition that, once started, gets out of hand very quickly. It’s much easier to watch and help prevent such problems than it is to remedy a very expensive catastrophe later.”