The foundation is probably the one part of the home that I
know the least about. Just make sure that your builder has done
a soil study to know whether or not you will need piers.
Most foundation problems that I have heard about are a result
of poor maintenance, not poor construction. There have been
enough lawsuits over foundations that most builders are pretty
careful about hiring the right engineers.
Did you know that a large tree can remove as much as 150 gallons
of water from the soil a day? The recommendation I usually see
is that the distance from the home for a tree should be its
mature height. In other words, if a tree will grow to 20 feet
tall, it should be at least 20 feet from the home. That is because
the root systems for trees run parallel to the ground. Other
plants such as shrubs or bushes also drain water from the soil.
You can use a root barrier to protect your foundation from
trees. Root barriers can be either heavy plastic (PVC), copper,
or fabric and herbicide. I recommend against using any herbicides.
The barrier goes between the tree and the home. Read more about
Water trees on the side away from the foundation.
Removal or pruning
If the tree is close to the foundation, you need to be careful.
If you remove the tree, its roots might have been supporting
the foundation. Removing the tree might cause a void in the
soil under the foundation. In this instance, simply pruning
the tree can reduce its water intake.
Another solution is to build water reservoirs every three to
four feet around the perimeter of the tree. Dig holes about
18 inches in diameter and two feet deep. Fill the bottom two-thirds
with gravel and the top one-third with mulch and sod.
Use soaker hoses at least 18 inches from the foundation. Burying
the soaker about three inches deep is best, but you can just
place it on top if you want. If you are going to bury it, use
a porous pipe instead of a soaker hose.
I recommend two systems. One for the sunny side of your home
(west and south) and one for the shady side (east and north).
This will prevent over watering on the shady side.
The setup can be pretty simple. Use a "Y" so that
the faucet can be used for other things. On one side of the
"Y" use a pressure reducer. Next connect a vacuum
breaker (backflow valve). Next connect a timer or even better,
a moisture sensor. Then connect the soaker hose.
Start at 15 minutes per day twice daily. During the hot and
dry summer go up to four times a day for 30-60 minutes, and
during the winter, you can probably cut down to once daily.
You will have to use your own judgment.
Do not over water. It is not good for the plants,
grass, or foundation to over water.
Decisions before pouring
Before your foundation is poured, you will have some decisions
- Are you going to have any electrical or phone floor plugs
on the first floor? Often floor plugs are useful in the family
room, study, or formal living room. They allow you to have
lamps or phones away from a wall.
- Will you want any electrical, phone, or cable TV outlets
on your kitchen island? Electrical outlets on your kitchen
island are great for parties. You can plug in crock pots,
warming trays, and coffee makers.
Both of these items require a PVC pipe to be run to the correct
location that is big enough for the wiring. It is better to
have too big of a pipe than too small.