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Can a Drought Cause Damage to My Home, and Does Insurance Cover It?

Jul 1, 2021 | United Agencies Corporate Blog

California is no stranger to droughts. These conditions have plagued our state for many years. Yet, the damage created by droughts is much less obvious. Droughts can hurt crops and make wildfires more likely, but how do they impact you and your property directly?

Can a drought cause damage to the very foundation of your house? The short answer is YES, but here is what you can do about it!

Here are some insights into the causes and effects of droughts:

  • Droughts can be caused by a number of different factors and impact our communities, businesses, and lives in a number of ways. Fires, climate and weather changes are the biggest contributing factors.
  • Prolonged droughts can have devastating economic consequences, especially farming and agriculture, which affects the economy as a whole.

But beyond the large scale damage, droughts can have a much more personal and direct impact on California homeowners. The effects of a severe drought aren’t just limited to farmland – they can reach right up to your home’s door step, or more specifically, “beneath” your home!

How is soil affected by a drought?

Without getting into a soil history lesson, here is the scoop:  While the concrete slab beneath your home is referred to as the foundation for your home, what lies beneath that is just as important. By and large, houses are built on top of some kind of soil (as opposed to solid rock), but not all soil is the same and different varieties react differently to weather conditions and events.

You can divide soil into three basic categories: Sandsilt, and clay. There is a good chance your home’s soil is a some mixture of the three. As you might imagine, some types of soil are better suited for construction than others.

For example, when you have soil that is high in sand, rainwater easily drains through and out without causing any major changes. When you have a soil that is mostly clay, however, water tends to become trapped within the granules. The result is that clay-heavy soil can expand significantly as it fills up with rainwater. This is what is known as “expansive clay” and it can be a challenge to contend with.

How can a drought damage my home’s foundation?

Just as soil grows and expands when water is abundant, it can shrink when it is scarce, which can create a myriad of other issues.

How do I identify drought damage to my foundation?

The first step is start watching for cracks both inside and outside the exterior of your home. Your best best is to contact a professional soil/geological inspector who can inspect the property thoroughly. It’s a worthwhile move that can save you thousands of dollars down the road. Even without professional help, you can visually inspect your slab and your home for a number of signs and symptoms, such as:

  • Small cracks in the concrete foundation, steps, or even nearby sidewalks.
  • Cracks in the the exterior walls, bricks, or siding.
  • Cracks in the interior walls, crown molding, or plaster.
  • Doors and windows not seating properly in their frames.
  • Uneven floors.

The silver lining here is that major foundational damage does not take place overnight. If over time things begin to show heavy wear, shrinkage, shifting, or cracking you are aware of it and can take action before anything gets worse.

How do I avoid drought damage to my home?

Keep the soil around your house as hydrated as possible (barring drought issues, of course). Soaker hoses or drip hoses can be placed a few feet away from the foundation, allowing time in between for the water to thoroughly soak into the soil. You can contact your local water/power company for free assistance. They will be happy to offer you suggestions and guidance.

Does Homeowners Insurance cover foundation damage?

Homeowners insurance covers damage to your house caused by “covered losses,” which are specific causes of damage. Normally, this includes things such as fires, wind storms, vandalism, theft, hail, and so on. If your foundation is damaged by one of these sources, your homeowners insurance policy will likely cover it.

However, for most property and homeowners insurance policies, damage due to drought, natural shrinking, settling, and soil expansion may not be covered. However, your United Agencies representative can help assess your current homeowners policy and let you know what is and isn’t covered. Contact us with any questions or interest you may have about coverage.

Be well and stay safe!