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Expansive Soils

Your foundation depends on the state of its soil. If this soil expands due to too much moisture, this can easily lead to your foundation shifting, heaving or cracking apart.

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Your foundation is one of the most important structures in your home. Without it, your house would likely collapse or at the very least sink deeper into the soils around it. Protecting your foundation from moisture damage as well as other threats that might attack it is therefore crucial to its overall maintenance.

However, some homeowners might neglect to protect the supporting soils around the foundation too. This soil is just as important to your home’s structural integrity as the foundation itself. If you do not take measures to waterproof it in some way or protect it from any other threats, it will likely expand and cause the very foundation to heave up and crack.

Let’s take a closer look into how expansive soils can cause foundation damage, what smaller problem signs of foundation damage there are to look out for, and how AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists’ foundation repair solutions can help below.

expansive soil

Common Causes Behind Foundation Damage

The average homeowner might want to understand what exactly causes their foundation to be damaged in the first place in order to enact measures to better protect it. Here are some of the most common causes of foundation damage in Huntsville, Alabama, and surrounding areas.

Expansive Soils

The soils supporting your foundation will very likely absorb plenty of moisture over the years. Depending on the type of soil you have, however, this soil may expand and cause the foundation itself to heave. Heaving is when moisture or expanding ice pushes the soil upward and thus damages your foundation from below. Essentially, it can cause your foundation to cave up, causing it to shift out of place or break apart. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, moist soils can exert as much as 5,500 pounds per square foot of pressure against your foundation.

Certain types of soil are more prone to expanding than others. Though clay soils tend to be the most compact, and thus the best soil to build on, they are also the most expansive type of soil too. Soil does not even have to contain a lot of clay content to expand in this way, either. A soil mixture can have as little as five percent clay content for this expansion to occur.

Alabama and Tennessee both tend to have sandier soils or soil mainly composed of loose silt. These types of soils are far less likely to expand out and cause heaving issues. That does not mean they will not have their own cons, however. Sandy and silty soils tend to be much looser and less compact than clay soils. This makes it far easier for storms and melted snow to wash these soils away, leaving your foundation without the proper support it needs to stay aloft.

Hydrostatic Pressure

Similarly, with expanding soils taking on plenty of moisture, you can bet this will create immense pressure against the foundation. This is especially true during a storm or when a lot of snow starts to melt again in the spring.

It is possible that the pressure may be so great that it will actually cause the foundation to shift out of its original placement or even cause it to break apart. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as hydrostatic pressure and affects homes all over the world.

Hydrostatic pressure can take on another form as well. Should any water droplets become trapped in your concrete foundation’s pores, this can prove to become a problem in the winter. When that trapped water inevitably freezes over, the expanding ice can cause the foundation to crack from within.

The Clay Bowl Effect

It is possible that your foundation has become damaged due to a common construction error. When contractors first go about building a new home in Nashville, Tennessee, they will first dig up a large hole where they plan to lay down your foundation and either a basement or crawl space. Once each component is placed, there will likely still be some extra space left around it.

The contractors will backfill the soil around these structures. This creates a “clay bowl” of sorts around the foundation and basement or crawl space. This bowl does not technically have to be made up of a majority of clay for this effect to take place, either. Any soil type will suffice.

The backfilled soil will obviously make the soil much looser than it once was. With sandy and silty soils already being a looser type of soil, you can bet it will now be much more susceptible to washing out at even a mild rainstorm or two. This can leave the foundation without the proper support and thus cause it to shift along with the washed-out soils or settle further into the remaining soils and break apart.

Soil Shrinkage and Compaction

If the soil is constantly washing out and subsequently drying, it is possible that your soil has shrunk. The remaining soil that has not washed out after a storm will begin to shrink or settle once all that moisture has drained away or evaporated in time. This dried-out soil will be even more susceptible to expanding at even the slightest bit of moisture and cause expansion issues all over again.

This is commonly referred to as a soil’s shrink-swell capacity. Again, clay soils are far more susceptible to this compared to sandy or silt loam soils. Really, any soil with a significant amount of clay will begin to swell once any moisture seeps through. Because water travels fairly slowly, it can take a while before it drains away. This only leaves room for more moisture to be absorbed in this soil to cause heaving, shifting, or hydrostatic pressure issues.

Once that water does eventually evaporate or drain out, however, your soil will start to shrink in on itself and start to compact together. This leaves your foundation with an uneven surface area of support, which can cause it to shift or settle.

Foundation Damage Problem Signs

Knowing the causes behind foundation damage can certainly be helpful. However, the average homeowner might not know how to tell if their foundation is even damaged at all. That is why it is important to keep an eye out for these smaller problem signs so you can catch this damage before it gets out of hand.


If you notice your basement or crawl space leaking, there is a very good chance that your foundation has been damaged somehow. It is possible that all the water that has been absorbed in the surrounding soil has pushed up against your basement or crawl space and thus leaked through to these spaces. A broken foundation can make these leaks easily turn into floods if it allows this groundwater to seep up from below as well.


Cracks are the most obvious sign of concrete foundation damage. These can be found in your basement or crawl space, or even around your surrounding concrete sidewalk, driveway, walkway, and backyard patio. They often indicate that your foundation has taken substantial damage and you will need to set up an appointment with a foundation expert as soon as possible to repair it.

Not every homeowner will have the time to deal with every issue that crops up around their home. Therefore, it is important for you to know which cracks can be left alone for a short period of time and which must be treated as soon as possible.

Any cracks that measure less than 1/8 inches wide are typically referred to as hairline cracks and will not pose much of a threat to your home. The same can be said for any cracks that measure anywhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inches wide. It is not wise to ignore these cracks for too long should they expand outward and cause even more damage.

Any cracks that measure more than 1/4 inches wide, however, cannot be ignored whatsoever. These larger cracks are significant signs of foundation damage that must be repaired by an expert immediately.

Sagging Floor

If you notice your floor sagging or bouncing in places, you will know that the foundation damage has begun to affect other structures around your home. It is possible that your floor’s support beams may have rotted or worn down on their own, but it is always a good idea to call a foundation expert to take a look just in case. If your foundation has cracked and caused the floor support beams to shift or crack in turn, our expert will at least be able to solve two problems at once.

Stuck Doorways and Windowsills

Many homeowners tend to think that sticking doorways and windowsills are all a natural part of their home aging. This might be true for some homes, but you should still not ignore the possibility that a damaged foundation might have caused this too.

When your foundation cracks, it can cause the other structures around your home to tilt or sway. This includes your doorways and windowsills. Unfortunately, because the doors and windows themselves are unaffected by this shift, that means they will become trapped in their tilted frames and thus harder to open and close.

Tilting Walls

If your walls have begun to lean or tilt, you will need to call the foundation experts at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists right away. This is a sign that your home may be on the verge of collapse and that the foundation needs to be repaired as soon as possible.

Expansive Soils


Some homeowners might want to take measures into their own hands and waterproof their soil themselves. However, when it comes to foundation repairs and protection, it is always best to leave these methods to the experts.

Artificial Soil Layers

Adding layers of gravel carefully all around your yard can help at least slow down the flow of moisture into your soil. It is especially important for you to backfill this gravel around your foundation so that moisture damage is less likely to attack it.

DIY methods are not often recommended for the average homeowner to undertake. This is because there is always the possibility that you might miss a part of the soil around your foundation, which makes it far more susceptible to moisture absorption. The soil might swell up due to having been dry for so long, and it may even target your foundation. This is why you should always leave any repairs you may need to the foundation experts instead.

Downspouts and Gutters

Another great waterproofing method our experts can install around your foundation or yard is a downspout or gutter. These systems can easily collect the water that gathers around your foundation and redirect it to some far-away point from your home.

Installing a complex network of pipes without disrupting the ones you already have can be tricky. It is best to leave such an installation to the foundation experts at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists instead. We can offer your home a couple of different drainage and gutter options that will easily protect your foundation from moisture damage.

The average homeowner will at least attempt to repair any damage they see around their home by themselves. When it comes to a structure as tricky as your foundation, however, it is far better to leave any necessary repairs to the experts instead.

Why DIY Repairs Are Not Recommended

The foundation is not a structure that just anyone can repair on their own. You may accidentally damage it without knowing and create even more issues you will need to have fixed in the future. This does not stop home improvement stores from trying to sell you foundation repair solutions, however. These DIY repairs may offer your home temporary relief from this damage.

Similarly, these solutions do not waterproof or protect the soils around your foundation at all, which just means that you will face the same foundation issues over and over again. Rather than waste all your hard-earned money on the same solution for the same problem, invest in a one-time repair instead. This is where the foundation experts at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists come in.

Calling the Foundation Experts

The foundation experts at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists are trained to deal with any foundation damage your home is likely to face. We will have all the right tools and equipment for a tough job like this, giving us the edge over any DIY repair solutions. Our solutions are also not available to the public, which means that your home could greatly benefit from these powerful solutions you would not normally be able to find.

Our foundation experts can also inspect your foundation and the soils around it every year to ensure that our solutions are still holding up. These inspections are completely free, so you will benefit from our expertise without paying a cent. Our foundation experts are readily available to make an appointment with you whenever it is most convenient for your schedule. Give us a call today.

The astute homeowner will research all the kinds of foundation repair solutions that their home can get before deciding on one. AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists also offers two other repair solutions that you might prefer instead.

Carbon Fiber Wall Straps

Carbon fiber wall straps might look like flimsy cloth that is incapable of repairing your bowed-in basement wall. However, carbon fiber is one of the toughest man-made materials ever. It is at least 10 times stronger than steel and is used to create race cars and aircraft. When attached to your basement wall with our equally powerful epoxy resin, these straps become that much stronger.

These straps will effectively brace your basement wall against any damage that might threaten to bow it inward even more, all while slowly repairing the damage already present. This means that over time, you will notice your basement walls slowly straightening out again. These straps are also powerful enough to close up any cracks that have spread along your basement wall as well.

IntelliBrace™ I-Beam System

You may also prefer the look of our IntelliBrace™ I-beams over our carbon fiber wall straps. These galvanized steel beams are guaranteed never to rust nor to give in. You can rest easy knowing that these powerful beams will push back against any outside damage that could cause your foundation walls to bow inward. The beams themselves are powerful enough to even close up any cracks that might have sprouted along your walls too.

Each beam is attached to your basement wall through two braces at the top and bottom of the beam. These braces are slowly tightened over time to straighten out your basement and foundation walls. Any tightening should be routinely done by our experts. Repairing your foundation is a precise process, and tightening the beams too much or too little may accidentally cause further damage that will need to be repaired.

Foundation Repair Solutions by AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists

You might think that the foundation is too difficult to repair. Fortunately, the foundation experts at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists have just the powerful solutions for your home.

Wall Anchors

Wall anchors are basically steady anchors buried in the more stable soil around your yard. These anchors connect to your foundation via heavy steel rods. Essentially, the inherent strength of these deeper, more compact layers of soil transfers over to your foundation. This effectively repairs any shifting, sinking, and cracks the foundation has already endured over time.

Piers Systems

Similar to the wall anchor system, our piers systems will also lift and repair your foundation again but from directly below. We can offer your home two different piers: helical piers and push piers.

Helical piers have a spiral-like attachment to the end that allows our experts to easily drill the pier through the tougher soils below your foundation. Once it finds purchase in more compact soils, our experts will attach this pier to the bottom of your foundation with a secure bracket. If your foundation has settled, these piers will easily lift and level it back out to its original position again.

Push piers, on the other hand, are pushed directly into the soil underneath your foundation. These piers are installed in much the same way as helical piers are, with the only difference being in how they are placed into the soil below.

Contact the Foundation Experts at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists Today

The soil surrounding your foundation is more crucial to its overall health than you might think. Therefore, it is always a good idea to waterproof it. If you do not take measures to protect this soil, you may very well face heaving issues, expansive soils cracking your foundation apart, or even worse damage in the future. This is why you should call the foundation experts when you notice any damage around your property to ensure that it does not spread down to this crucial structure.

Contact the foundation experts at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists for a free foundation inspection today. We can also offer you free quotes on all our powerful foundation repair systems while we are there, too. We serve clients in Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile, Alabama, as well as Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, Tennessee.


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Birmingham, AL

130 Interstate Commerce Crt. Bldg. 100 & 200
Alabaster, AL 35007

Chattanooga, TN

214 Industrial Park Dr.
Soddy-Daisy, TN 37379

Columbus, GA

2701 Opelika Road
Phenix City, AL 36870

Huntsville, AL

2415 Jordan Road
Huntsville, AL 35811

Knoxville, TN

3028 E Governor John Sevier Highway
Knoxville, TN 37914

Mobile, AL / Biloxi, MS

3131 Hamilton Blvd.
Theodore, AL 36582

Montgomery, AL

445 Dexter Avenue, Suite 4050
Montgomery, AL 36104

Nashville, TN

1519 Heil Quaker Blvd.
LaVergne, TN 37086

Pensacola, FL

89 W. Hood Dr.
Pensacola, FL 32534