This summer’s drought could really cost you


I read an interesting article in the Des Moines Register the other day. I recently posted about a drought mitigation webinar being conducted by the Iowa State University Extension office, but farmers are not the only ones impacted by one of the hottest, driest summers in decades. In fact, all homeowners have cause for concern.

As the soil dries out, it contracts, pulling away from the foundations of homes and buildings. Cracks that were seemingly innocuous months before are suddenly more noticeable and concerning. Windows and doors may jam as the foundations settle, and in some cases the nails can pop right out of the homes’ rafters.

“Right now, we are getting calls daily,” said Justin Porter, owner of Iowa Foundation Repair, which operates within a 60-mile radius of Des Moines. And these repair bills aren’t cheap—one Des Moines home racked up a $7,000 repair bill, and some cost thousands of dollars more.

So what can be done? “Quite a bit of the business we are getting deals with foundation repairs, replacements of basement foundation walls, a lot of bracing and what we call ‘piering,’ ” to stabilize foundations, Henderson said.

Additional risk factors for foundation issues due to the dry soil are new additions to an existing structure. New patios, rooms, garages, etc. are usually built on foundations that are not as deep as the existing foundation. When the soil contracts, these newer, smaller foundations can pull away from the original, said Corey Utsler, general manager of Anchored Walls of Winterset.

Just how dry is it out there? According to state climatologist Harry Hillaker, 2012 is easily the driest in Iowa since at least 1989. The statewide average of about 16 inches of precipitation as of Aug. 1 is scant when compared with almost 22 inches normally received.

“This was certainly our worst July since 1936 for a combination of heat and dryness,” Hillaker said. The mean temperature in Iowa in July was 79.7 degrees, compared with 74.6 normally. Statewide rainfall averaged 1.16 inches, down from the normal 4.5 inches.

Although builders are often blamed for foundation troubles, the issue typically goes deeper, to the soil involved, which normally doesn’t undergo costly tests before a house is built, Porter said.

All of this sunshine has been great for getting out and enjoying all of our great community events this summer, but it sure would be great to have some rain, wouldn’t it?