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Home Foundations Falter From Drought

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: Blame this 25 year old Garland home's sloping hallway & unusable door on the area's dehydrated clay soil, & the big tree in front.

David Isbon, Structural Engineer: We're in the den in the middle of the house. If you walk here you can see the slope. It's like walking uphill. SLAM. This one, see, doesn't close at all. Not any of the interior doors close

Zeeble: David Isbon is a structural engineer who inspects foundations. This otherwise sound home adjacent to a golf course has sunk 6 inches in the center, and needs to be leveled.

David Isbon, Structural Engineer: This house here likely had plenty of water underneath the middle of it, and with the drought, it's come in and dried the inside of it out underneath and caused it to shrink

Zeeble: Roots from the big tree in front have grown & spread over the decades too, sucking yet more water from the clay. Elsewhere, off Garland Road in East Dallas, Brad Bertelsen, with Arch Foundation Repair, says this year's about as bad has he's ever seen it.

Brad Bertelsen, Arch Foundation Repair: The 1st response from homeowners - there were never any problems in the last 30-35 years and all of sudden, past 2 weeks, we've had cracks unbelievably.
Seems like calls we receive now are a little more frantic. You know my house is cracking up please come right away.

Zeeble: If watering your foundation regularly and removing all the big trees won't work, the house can be leveled by driving piers down to bedrock, then lifting it up using a hydraulic press. That's what Bertelsen's workers are doing, at 18 different, 2-foot deep sites they've dug around this home's perimeter

Bertelsen: Double steel walls 2 7/8 inch diameter pier. We'll be able to press this down till we hit rock in this area.

Zeeble: This job will cost the homeowner at least 10 thousand dollars. Bonnie Morris, who recently had just one corner of her home's foundation fixed, paid 5 thousand. She's also an insurance agent, whose policy holders have peppered her this summer with foundation repair questions and tales of woe

Bonnie Morris, homeowner/insurance agent: I've had customers tell me it was 20 thousand dollars, they've had to re- mortgage their home, refinance and re-mortgage to have the money to repair the damage, it was so severe.

Zeeble: Morris the insurance agent, warns homeowners coverage may not help

Morris: Shifting of ground, cracking? No, it would have to be due to a break of something. After-effects of water, after-effects of something causing the damage. But no, shifting of ground won't be covered. Its' the responsibility to keep the foundation moist.

Zeeble: But this summer, even that's hard, according to David Isbon, because of city water restrictions,

22. We really need rain. You cannot do what rain can do even with soaker hoses.

Zeeble: For KERA 90.1 I'm Bill Zeeble
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