Your home’s foundation is the crucial basis for all other elements in your home. A strong, solid foundation built to last ensures your home can retain its integrity and structure for years to come. Unfortunately, many external factors exist that can endanger even the most well built of foundations. There are a number of trees and pests that endanger your home’s foundation, but before getting into that, it is important to establish a foundational understanding of the most common types of foundations.
Common Types of Home Foundations
A slab foundation is solid through and through: it consists of solid poured concrete. The concrete is usually poured on top of a layer of crushed gravel in order to improve drainage.
Crawlspace foundations have some headroom, and there is a gap in the foundation structure. Unlike other foundations, crawlspaces elevate the house. This can reduce the risk of water damage in damp areas. Crawlspace foundations also provide easy access for any utility running underneath the house (cable and plumbing, for example).
A basement foundation typically consists of footings placed deep into the soil with high walls attached and concrete slab poured to finish. A basement is really an underground room which separates the rest of the house from the natural ground below, but nowadays basements are being modified into new living areas.
Pests that are a Real Pest
All three foundations are usually made of concrete, so it seems unlikely that pests can really endanger any of them. However, there are two reasons why insects can actually do a lot of harm. First, concrete cracks over time, so although the pest may not be able to eat concrete as part of their daily diet, they can easily bring their friends and push through cracks using force alone.
Second, foundations themselves may be made of concrete, but house frames often aren’t. House frames are usually wooden, and this is where the pests carry out their best work. Many pests eat wood, and eating through the framing can put extra pressure on the foundations. Not only this, but the pests travel via the wood to the cracks in the foundation. Therefore, it’s best to find out what pests can potentially do such damage.
The most common type of termite is known as the subterranean termite. This nuisance of a creature is responsible for 95% of all termite damage across North America. They are more prevalent the further south you go, because they love moisture and heat. Consistently warm, humid climates like Florida are a termite’s paradise.
Termites are known as a wood-destroying insect (WDI). They eat anything that contains cellulose, including paper, cardboard, and wood. Subterranean termites are usually underground (hence the name) but they do come out in the spring to mate and start new colonies. The termites that come out during this time will have wings and swarm, so keep an eye out for discarded wings: this is a sure sign your home is infested.
Termites endanger your home’s foundation because they can squeeze through minute gaps in concrete and they use it as a mode of travel to the wooden structure of your home. The damage they cause is cyclic: they eat the wood, which becomes weakened, which puts extra pressure on the foundation, which then cracks over time, allowing the termites to weaken it even further.
Like termites, ants can wreak havoc to your home. Carpenter ants, for example, love to destroy wood, but not in the same way as termites. Carpenter ants don’t eat wood: they make nests in it! They particularly like damp or decaying wood, so if you have an issue with damp in your house they might come-a-calling!
Similar to termites, carpenter ants endanger your home’s foundation by tunneling through cracks in the concrete when they’re going back and forth to their colony. Again, the primary damage is caused to wood structures, which then impacts the concrete foundations.
Ants aren’t the only carpenters around, it seems. Yes, there’s even a type of bee that likes to cause destruction to your home. They too, like to make nests in wood; but their favorite type of wood is unfinished wood instead of damp or decaying wood.
Of the three pests who indirectly endanger the foundations of your house, carpenter bees are the least destructive. However, the entry holes they make in order to create a tunnel in which to lay their eggs can allow moisture to enter the wood. The entry holes themselves are about one to two inches in diameter, but weakening the wooden structure in this way can lead to more serious problems down the road.
Tree can also endanger your home’s foundation, particularly through their root structures. Roots are the real cause of damage to people’s property, and they have been known to grow to more than 20 feet deep! They may be aesthetically pleasing, but it’s best to be aware of trees that can damage the foundation of a house:
These trees like the damp and it can extract up to 1000 liters a day from the surrounding soil. The roots spread out wide in order to find moisture, and have been known to infiltrate pipes and drains.
Poplars look beautiful swaying in the wind, but their roots can spread up to 40 meters, wreaking havoc with the structure and foundation of your home.
The roots of an oak tree are shallow but spread very far, and can cause severe damage if grown anywhere near your house.
Like the willow, the roots of the ash will spread out far and wide in order to find water, making them largely unsuitable for placement near houses.
Residential Foundation Repairs
Residential foundation repairs can be time and capital intensive, so it’s best to be informed about things in nature that can cause damage to them. Now that you’ve learned about trees and pests that can endanger your house foundation, it’s time to get your thinking cap on and figure out how to rid your house of potential danger.