Watering Your Foundation – Getting Ready for the Summer

June 6, 2012

As mentioned in my last post on watering your foundation; Here in North Texas it is essential.  Since this is not a one time event but a regular requirement, you might as well look at a relative permanent approach to the solution. I identified two ways to do this last time, one is fairly quick, where the second one is a bit more involved. This is the quick one.

Soaker Hose Solution: This is a fairly simple homeowner task but there are some limitations and issues that have to be addressed before you start.

  1. Length Limitation: No one single hose shall be more than 100 ft from the source. In other words, if it is 200 feet to circle you house from one outdoor faucet, you will need to either create two systems or split the line from the faucet with one line going clockwise halfway around the house and the other line going the other way.
  2. Pressure Regulators: Especially with a porous type soaker hose, high pressure will cause un-equal watering, meaning it will be real wet close to the source and fairly dry at the end of the run.  A 10PSI regulator is recommend. Worse case, no more than 30PSI.
  3.  Elevation: Because there is no way to regulate how much comes out of the pores, placing a hoses down (or up) a slope will cause the hose to over water on the low side. (No more than a 2in rise over 100ft)  If this is an issue try cris crossing horizontally to get up the hill.
  4. Backflow: Technically required to protect your water system; the backflow preventer, keeps water from seeping back into the pressurized water system.
  5. No Kinks: Simply said, do not allow the hose to kink as this will disrupt the flow of water to the system.

Building a Soaker Hose System: So now with the limitations understood, you should be able to construct a system without too much of an issue. Here are the major elements of the system. This bill of material is based on a one hose system originating from an exterior water faucet. NOTE: Most of the provided links are from Dripworks.com and MrSoakerhose.com. I have never used them, but their materials appear to be high quality, they have been in business for 20/30 years  and they will give you a price cut when buying volume. If you have a bad experience with them, let me know and I will pull the references.

  1. Hose Splitter: (not pictured)  Since you will probably still want to use the faucet for regular landscape watering, you will need to split water into two sources using a hose splitter. Spend the money and get a good brass unit with individual cutoffs. This will take a lot of abuse as you will keep the water turned on at this point, most all the time.  If you are building a multi-hose system, you will need a splitter with more than two outlets. Look at Dripworks at their selection. Avoid the plastic modes as they will only last a season or two. NOTE: if you need to run multiple soaker hoses, you will need a splitter after the regulator as well.
  2. Backflow Device: As mentioned above, these are technically required to keep contaminated water from traveling into the household water system.
  3. Timer: A battery operated single timer should meet most of your needs. You will have to monitor the water output initially to make sure you are getting good saturation. If you find pooling water, cut back the water usage. I would start with an hour a day two to three days a week. The water usage should be about 145 gallons per hour for 100 ft of soaker hose at. Using my current water usage rate of  .00020 cents per gallon that’s about 3 cents a day.
  4. Pressure Regulator: As mentioned above, this is required to promote equal water flow.
  5. Filter: (optional) on a system using the porous style of water hose, filtering the water for small particulate is fairly insignificant as you dont have limited holes to release the water.
  6. Garden Hose or Polypipe: Depending on where your water source is, you may need a section of water hose to get you to the foundation. Use the shortest length available or make up your own length.  If you need to build one, go the polypipe route. You can cut the hose to length and use the polypipe fittings to make up the ends. Make sure the polypipe and fittings are the same dimensions. Since all these connections are on the low pressure side of the system, these fittings are just simple resistance (chinese finger) snap in connectors.
  7. Soaker Hoses: Since this is a simple single run you may choose to just buy prebuilt hoses ($30 for 100ft). If you want to build you own, ($9 for 100ft, plus two fittings)

So here is what it looks like in dollars. Admittedly, you can probably do this a little cheaper, but I used high quality components, so this should last for years to come. Additionally, you could upgrade to a solar based timer so you wouldn’t have to worry about changing the battery in the timer as often.

Next time we will look at the HomeowerBOB foundation watering solution that builds the system off your existing lawns sprinkler system. (See Watering Your Foundation Part III) This is the “Tim the Tool Man Taylor” version and may be a bit extensive, but I have had little to no problems since installation. We will use the existing  sprinkler timer, add a new solenoid valve and a different style of distribution hose for more equal disbursement of water.

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Watering Your Foundation – Its a Texas Thing

March 5, 2012

If you are new to North Central Texas you may have never seen soil quite like this. Known locally as Black Gumbo, this clay soil has  a Jekyll and Hyde personality. In the fall, winter and spring it can be tolerable even though it will stick to everything that it touches it. But dry summers will change its personality. It can create cracks in the ground  large enough to swallow small animals. Break it up into small pieces and it become a weapon of mass destruction…. throw a clod at some one and you can easily put some ones eye out (as my mom would say). I have never met a shovel that liked it. The weapon of choice to dig in black gumbo? A Pic.

With all that said, what does that have to do with home foundations you ask? A lot; the properties of this soil allows it to shrink more than 15%. For this reason, the soil surrounding the foundation can easily pull away and leave it un supported or cause footings to permanently move.  Because of these characteristics, foundation repairing is a big business in Texas.

The two most common foundations are pier and beam and post tension slab foundations. Both can be repaired but slab foundations tend to be the ones with the most dramatic problems.  If foundation concerns are not addressed BEFORE they start, it can cost 10’s of thousands of dollars to repair them.  To protect your foundation (regardless of the types mentioned), you must water your foundation. Even though most sprinkler systems will help, most were designed to spray water away from the house. To complicate it further, many cities are enforcing landscape watering restrictions. Probably the most important fact associated with watering foundations is to do it 12 months a year. It is very import to maintain a constant moisture content to retain soil  consistency. Even if you only have minor issue (sticking doors, squeaky floors), managing the porosity of soil will even out the issues for a more stable foundation.

How to Water a Foundation: There are several methods.

  1. Hand Watering: I dont recommend this method, but it can work. It can be difficult to consistently apply the same amount of water around the entire foundation with a systematic approach.
  2. Soaker Hoses: By far the most popular,  “soaker hoses”,   are easily attached to water outlet and draped around the foundation of the house. These come in 25 and 50 foot length and can be connected in series. Try to place them within about 6 inches of the foundation. (TIP:Keep bare landscaped areas covered with a natural mulch (pine or hardwood bark, etc) This too will assist in retaining the moisture content around the structure. Covering the soaker hose with the mulch is acceptable.). You will need to inspect these regularly as I have found they deteriorate fairly quick (less than 3-5 years). Additionally, neighboring visitors (rats, mice, raccoons and such) have found a liking to chew on hoses, in turn puncturing them causing excessive water to come out in one place. Once broken, I have not seen a good way to repair them, so you will have to replace the hose.
  3.  Drip Lines: These hoses are designed with drip emitters in the hose every 12 inches. You can deploy them in the same method as mentioned for the soaker hoses, but the hose material is a bit more stiff. Staking them will help as they do not like to lay flat to the ground. You can purchase the hose in bulk from the Orange Box store of Sprinkler Warehouse. You will need to also purchase inter-hose connectors as well as a way to connect to your water source.

Regardless of the method of disbursement, doing it consistently is just as important as the watering itself.

Take a look at Watering Your Foundation to see a semi-permanent installation guide  to foundation watering.