America

Persistent U.S. Drought Is Also Costing Homeowners

Contractors drive piers into the ground to stabilize a settling home in Manchester, Mo. on Aug. 29, 2012. i i

hide captionContractors drive piers into the ground to stabilize a settling home in Manchester, Mo. on Aug. 29, 2012.

Jeff Roberson/AP
Contractors drive piers into the ground to stabilize a settling home in Manchester, Mo. on Aug. 29, 2012.

Contractors drive piers into the ground to stabilize a settling home in Manchester, Mo. on Aug. 29, 2012.

Jeff Roberson/AP

Drought conditions remain dreadful in much of the country; the Drought Monitor produced by the Drought Mitigation Center says 54.25 percent of the United States is in moderate drought or experiencing something more sinister. This includes "severe, extreme and exceptional", the worst categories in the drought conditions index.

While there's been attention on the condition of the nation's withering crops and parched rivers, a new problem is facing homeowners in the driest areas: cracking house foundations.

Dry soil pulls away from foundations and houses settle further into the ground. But then cracks can appear or even big gaps; some soils can turn into "powdery crumbles", as USA Today notes. Worried homeowners are calling contractors for help, but they often have to wait in line.

Work has been so busy that repair companies can't get to everyone quickly, notes the Kansas City Star. And when repair crews do arrive, the price for labor and materials ranges from expensive to painful. Contractor Mike Bromley told the Star "Every situation is different, but depending on the house and the damage, the cost can range from a couple of thousand dollars to $20,000."

People know it's getting bad when they can't open or close their outside doors. The Omaha World-Herald interviewed one man whose house started to tip. He ended up spending $16,000 for underground piers to stabilize his home.

For those who are waiting for home repair work, take a few preventative steps, advises AP: water the ground near a house foundation to keep it as moist as possible. Consumers can also plant mulch around shrubs near foundations to retain moisture.

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