What is Foundation Watering?
If you are wondering if foundation watering is a gimmick, we certainly can’t blame you. Admittedly, the idea of intentionally applying water around the perimeter of a structure’s foundation sounds odd. However, we can assure you that in some of the hotter states, such as Texas, Arizona, and Florida, foundation watering is not only occurring but is capable of providing great benefits! This practice can be applied anywhere there are changes in the moisture content of soil and has been a certifiable practice since 2007. As we enter hotter and drier times, we expect to see foundation watering continue to grow in popularity.
Why Would Somebody Water Their Foundation?
Did you know that shifting moisture content within the soil can cause the foundation above it to warp? This warping can cause stuck doors, cracks around door frames, uneven floors, and general foundation damage. A clever way to combat the moisture fluctuations within the soil a structure’s foundation sits upon is to provide water - hence, foundation watering consistently!
Who Should be Watering Their Foundation?
We believe foundation watering is worth consideration if you live in a hot, dry area, However, another great way of determining if this practice is right for you is a visual inspection! Earlier we mentioned a few indoor indicators that can be visually spotted (cracks around door frames, uneven floors, etc.), however, there are also some outdoor indicators:
Dirt that has pulled away from the foundation
Cracks in the dirt around the foundation and surrounding yard
Cracks on the foundation’s exterior
Dirt that feels dry to the touch
Dirt that crumbles easily between your fingers
The inability to stick a screwdriver or moisture meter into the soil surrounding the foundation
What Should You Water Your Foundation With?
Similar to irrigation projects, you can choose between a drip line or drip tape to water a foundation. However, we find that drip line is the more common choice made by our customers. Not only can the drip line flexibly mirror the footprint of your foundation, but it also comes in many spacing options and levels of GPH. What is GPH you ask? It is the maximum gallons per hour that your system uses. The drip line also has built-in filtration and the ability to consistently discharge water over a pressure range of 12 - 50 PSI.
Foundation watering is most effective when the drip line is set approximately 12” to 18” away from the foundation. To keep the drip line in this position, you may want to stake down the drip line using our 6" Heavy Duty Wire Staples.
If you’re interested in learning more about the difference between drip line and drip tape, please check out our article, Poly Tubing, Drip Tape, Drip Line, and Soaker Hoses!
When Should You Water Your Foundation and How Often?
A foundation watering cycle can be drastically different, depending on the season and environment.
During hot summer months, foundation watering is most efficiently done either early morning or early evening, to avoid evaporation. Additionally, you may want to look into watering more often during the summer, as the soil beneath the foundation will dry out quicker in comparison to other months. You might expect to water your foundation for 15 to 20 minutes twice daily, three to five days per week in the peak summer heat. In drought conditions, you may need to water for up to 45 minutes every day.
During winter months, you might expect to use less water due to cooler temperatures and increased soil moisture. One consideration with winter foundation watering is to perform the routine while the sun is out to avoid freezing. Other tactics to prevent the freezing of the drip line or to protect the tubing from UV damage would be to bury the line or to cover it with a layer of pea gravel or decomposed granite.
Typically speaking, foundation watering may be performed the least during spring and fall due to more consistent rainfall and moderate temperatures.
How Do You Know If You’re Watering Your Foundation Correctly?
Foundation watering should supply enough water to keep the moisture content in the soil under your foundation consistent throughout the year. If the amount of water applied is only enough to keep the surface damp, the watering program will not work. Foundation watering’s goal is to keep the soil moist enough to prevent your foundation from sinking and cracking.
The easiest and most common way of determining the effectiveness of your foundation watering regimen is to conduct a screwdriver test! Using a standard screwdriver, you will want to walk the perimeter of your foundation and test several locations. To test, push the tip of your screwdriver into the soil approximately 6 inches from your structure’s foundation. If your screwdriver is tough to push into the soil then you will need to water more. If your screwdriver is easily inserted into the soil and comes out covered in mud, then your watering should be toned down. However, if your screwdriver goes in easily and comes out without globs of mud, you are watering just right!
Another way to judge the effectiveness of your foundation watering is to check the capillary action of the soil using a Soil Moisture / PH / Light Meter Similar to a screwdriver, a moisture meter should also be inserted into the soil approximately 6 inches from the foundation. Once this has been completed, your moisture meter will produce a reading of the moisture percentage. Depending on your soil type, a reading between 5 and 15 percent is ideal.
A final good sign regarding your foundation watering routine is the visible connection between your foundation and the surrounding soil. After a few days of foundation watering, you want your soil to expand and meet up with the side of the foundation. This test-and-see method can help you find your foundation-watering sweet spot!
Does Your Soil Type Affect Foundation Watering?
The type of soil you have will influence how quickly water is absorbed; therefore, the soil is a major factor in foundation watering! Each foundation is unique; a foundation that sits on sandy soil will need a much different (and more vigorous!) watering schedule than a foundation that sits upon clay soil. We have found that the 1/2"Polyethylene Pressure Compensating Drip Line is a great diameter drip line for most of our foundation watering customers. With the diameter selected, the next three things you must know to make a final purchase are your desired roll length, emitter spacing, and flow rate. Drip Depot’s website makes it easy to see all sizing options and would like to recommend our articles on Know Your Soil Type and Tubing Buying Guide to help choose a particular drip line.
What If Some Sides of Your Foundation Receive More Sun Than Others?
The natural surroundings of your structure can affect the amount of sun that hits the foundation and surrounding soil. For example, what happens if one side of your foundation is constantly bombarded by the hot sun, whereas the other side is shaded by a thick wall of trees? Situations like this make it possible that some sides of a foundation need different watering schedules or amounts of water than another side(s).
There are tons of ways to get creative with your foundation watering, as shown by some below overviews! Please note that each of these proposed overviews would need a head assembly. That can also be found in our Foundation Watering Kits.
Each of the below pictures is described using north, south, east, and west.
Multiple Drip Lines
In this first picture, we have a foundation that receives a lot of sun on the east and south sides, but less sun on the north and west, due to bushes and trees. To ensure that the sunnier sides receive more water, our 1.0 GPH Drip Line is shown, whereas the other shady sides of the foundation are being watered with our 0.5 GPH Drip Line.
2. Incorporating Main Line
What happens if you would like to line around their entire foundation, but have one (or multiple) sides that require no foundation watering at all? This example is illustrated below, by the foundation that receives a lot of sun to the north, east, and south, but not the west. To ensure the west side is not overwatered, you could use our ½’’ perma loc fittings to tie in a run of our ½’’ solid poly tubing mainline.
3. Y Splitter
A final, nifty trick you can use to balance out your foundation watering is to attach a Y splitter to the hose bibb. The Y splitter will allow you to attach different drip lines to each of the ends. The incorporation of this is shown on the foundation below, where one side of the Y splitter is
Attached to a 1.0 GPH drip line for the sunny east and south sides of the foundation, whereas the other side of the Y splitter is attached to a 0.5 GPH drip line, to feed the shady north and west sides.
We hope you found the information within this article to be helpful and informative. Please see our installation video below.
Have questions? We are happy to answer those just reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org