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Drought Creating Issues for Homeowners

Posted at: 01/09/2013 7:27 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The drought we've been experiencing since 2012 is digging into the wallets of many local homeowners. The lack of moisture in the soil is causing home foundations to shift, crack and in some cases sink.

"Right here coming off the window it's opened up, it was open about half an inch," said Nate Proper of American Waterworks.

This isn't the first time Nate Proper, of American Waterworks of Oronoco, has fixed this problem.

"This corner of the house had settled a little over three quarters of an inch. So we ended up coming in and doing is excavating around this side of the house over just to the first side window," said Proper.

Fixing sinking foundations has always been a part of his business, but this year is unusual.

"We've fixed somewhere around 115 houses this year, I'd say in the past it's been more in the 30 to 40 range," said Proper.

The problems are more prominent this year because of the lack of moisture and the types of soil some houses are built on.

"If your built on sand this is not a risk at all. Certain bed rocks are a risk, others are not," said Jeffery Broberg, Geologist and Vice President of McGhie and Betts Environmental Services of Rochester.

Houses that are built on clay have a better chance of cracking and sinking compared to one that is built on sand.

"Here's a pretty good example of shale soil. It's hard right now and very dry, but this particular sample if we were to wet it up it would start swelling up slightly and even at this scale if it's only 10 percent of volume you can see that you can have a substantial shrink and swell," said Broberg.

He says when looking at a geological map, Rochester has areas that are more risky than others.

"The green on this map are the shale units that are of risk to shrinking and swelling so anyone who has a building in the area that's green on this map," said Broberg.

Which is why Proper says, taking the time to research the ground you build or buy on, may save you money in the long run.  

While this is making a dent in local homeowners wallets, to make matters worse, this problem is usually not covered in home insurance policies.