Extreme drought shifting home foundations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It's day 83 of the drought in the heartland, and there's a warning for homeowners tonight.

In this extreme drought, contractors say foundations on homes are shifting and hundreds of homeowners are being forced to make thousands of dollars in repairs.

Contractors with Kansas City Master Companies and Pier Masters spent the day installing steel piers to keep one Overland Park home from sinking into the ground.

David Frey, president of Kansas City Master said the piers were necessary to bring up the home's elevation after part of it sank into the ground.

Keith Schwanz owns the Overland Park home and says it started with something small, a crack in his home's foundation. Then he noticed a crack inside one of the bedroom's.

And then the family had trouble opening and closing doors in their home.

The problems quickly escalated. Schwanz says the foundation shifted so gradually that half of his house started to sink.

"The north side of the house was moving in one direction, the south side was moving in another," he explained. "The middle was being pulled apart."

David Lindquist owns another home with foundation problems in Grandview. He started noticing cracks in the basement.

Within a week, those cracks split apart more than an inch, revealing drywall between the wall.

"We started seeing really big things," he said. "I was afraid...my house is going to fall down."

In both circumstances, Frey says you can blame it on the trees sucking up moisture 20 feet below the ground's surface.

Although a home may not have had any issues for decades, Frey says with this drought, the dry soil starts to shrink, like a sponge. The drier it gets, the more the ground compresses, causing walls to sag, drywall to crack and foundations to shift.

Frey recommends using a root feeder, available in most hardware stores. You simply push the root feeder into the ground a few feet from the base of the tree. The root feeder gets pushed down 1 foot, and can be used for 15 to 20 minutes one time per week.

Frey says this is preventative maintenance which could save you thousands of dollars in repairs.

Contractors warn homeowners to be observant, because in this extreme drought, walls can split in just a few days time.

Kansas City Master says they are responding to 200 homes a week for foundation problems. Some other Kansas City area contractors even have waiting lists.

If you notice your doors are sticking or any cracks in the interior walls of your home, contractors say you should get the problem checked out by a licensed and permitted contractor immediately.

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