Trees, foundations fight for water with hot streak on the way

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on July 26, 2012 at 7:37 PM

FORT WORTH - Another hot streak is on the way, with forecasted temperatures well over 100 degrees for several days. It's setting the stage for a showdown between your house and your trees.

They're both fighting for water, and the battle could put a serious drain on your wallet.

Foundation repair companies say when the heat tops 100, clay soil dries out quickly. The earth contracts, and homes settle deeper. Bricks and mortar split.

"It can happen over the course of a couple days or a couple weeks, depending on how much rainfall we're getting and how much we've gotten,” said Heath Jennings with GL Hunt Foundation Repair.

He said last summer's record heat dropped some homes as much as three inches. The winter rains lifted them closer to level, but the next hot streak could pull foundations down even further.

Large trees, desperate to survive, are sucking the soil dry.

"If your trees are really big and close to the foundation, you might need some type of root barrier or remove the tree altogether to keep it from pulling the moisture out of the ground excessively,” Jennings said.

Fort Worth City Forester Melinda Adams told News 8, trees are still parched from a year ago. She's marked 1,500 trees for removal in Fort Worth since January.

The Texas Forest Service estimates 10 percent of the state’s canopy is gone. It said the drought killed 5.6 million urban trees, and 500 million trees in rural areas.

Those still hanging on could be finished off with a short spell of extreme heat. Their roots are permanently damaged.

"They can't bring up enough water to keep the tree cool,” Adams explained. “They're running out of carbohydrate stores. Once the carbohydrates are gone, that's it. It's like starving to death."

Huge trees in Overton Park survived 150 Texas summers. House foundations are lucky to survive 25.

Adams said proper watering could prevent lagging trees from succumbing in August. She said soil should be saturated six inches deep. To check, she suggests plunging a screwdriver into the ground near a tree. If you can easily push it to the handle, the soil is fine.

Adams and Jennings said soaker hoses are the best options. They are usually allowed under water restrictions. They can run for 30 minutes to an hour per day to effectively feed trees and stabilize foundations.

Jennings said drywall cracks will be some of the first signs homeowners report, but they should concentrate on exterior cracks. Gaps in mortar or bricks, cracks on window frames, and splits are the house corners are sure signs of a sinking foundation.

Houses might return closer to level with fall rains, but they will continue to sink over time. Repairs are less expensive the earlier they are made.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com

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