October 12, 2023

Drought and Expansive Soils: A Silent Threat to New Orleans House Foundations

  • Residential Services


The soul of New Orleans lies not just in its vibrant jazz music, spicy crawfish étouffée, or the historic French Quarter, but also in its unique geology.  

Floods and hurricanes are well-known dangers, but there are two lesser-known threats that silently harm homes in the city. That is drought and expansive soils.  

abry brothers silent threats to new orleans house foundations

The Drought Effect 

New Orleans, largely recognized for its abundant rainfall and humidity, isn’t immune to drought conditions. Surprisingly, droughts can have a profound effect on the region’s soil.  

As the soil loses its moisture content, it contracts, becoming compact and dense. This shift, though subtle, can create unevenness in the ground, leading to the potential destabilization of house foundations. Over time, small shifts cause big problems such as cracked foundations or misaligned walls. 

The Expansiveness of Clay 

The Big Easy’s soil is rich in clay, which characterizes it as expansive. This means that the soil swells when it’s wet and shrinks when it’s dry.  

This cyclical process, amplified by New Orleans’ fluctuating weather patterns, can be a constant source of stress for house foundations. Each cycle of expansion and contraction can act like a push and pull on the foundation, gradually weakening its integrity. 

Detecting the Signs 

For homeowners in New Orleans, understanding the signs of foundation damage due to drought and expansive soils is crucial.  

Telltale indicators include visible cracks in the foundation, doors or windows that no longer align or close properly, and uneven floors. Early detection can save homeowners significant repair costs and help maintain the safety of the residence. 

Mitigation and Forward Planning 

Fortunately, advanced geotechnical solutions and appropriate construction practices can mitigate these risks. 

Deep foundation systems, moisture barriers, and proper landscaping techniques can all help in counteracting the effects of drought and expansive soils. Furthermore, understanding the soil profile before constructing can guide builders in choosing the best foundation type for the specific conditions. 
New Orleans is charming, but we must acknowledge and respect the challenges of its special geology. Homeowners can keep their homes safe and strong by staying informed and acting against threats from drought and expansive soils. 

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