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Climate Change: How It Affects Your Older Home and What You Can Do About It

I moved to the Bay Area in 1978 to go to school at Cal. The weather back in those days was very different. Summers were foggy days until the afternoon when the sun popped out. The fog went away in the Fall and we had Indian Summers and that was usually our hottest weather. Winter started in October and lasted until March or April with off and on rain with mild temperatures.

Since then the weather has been a lot more erratic (most likely due to climate change, say experts). Less fog, warmer weather in general, and periods of drought interspersed with periods of extended rainfall.

And anyone who lives near the Bay Area in California knows that when it does rain, it rains a lot. Sometimes and inch or two in an hour, or more. The normal yearly cycles are extended out so that we can have several years of dry weather before getting substantial rainfall.


How is this affecting your home?

Most of our local soils consist of a lot of clay below the topsoil.  This clay will expand and contract seasonally, causing doors to stick and then not stick, cracks to appear and disappear around doors and windows, most of which were seasonal and fairly limited. Until now.

Because the wet and dry cycles are becoming more dramatic, their effects on your home are increasing. The primary issue is the lack of drainage in most of our older homes–both downspout drainage and sub drains (French Drains), combined with the age of our foundations systems.  Intermittent rain in reasonable amounts will often not cause issues, but in larger quantities we are seeing settlement which can be more dramatic, leading to more interior cracks, larger cracks, more water in basements and crawlspaces, and more deterioration and failure in older foundations.  Since most homeowners do not monitor the areas under their homes, these issues do not come to their attention until they see cracks or water inside the living spaces.  

And homeowners are seeing a lot more of this. When the issue is primarily surface water, the problems may pop up right away, seemingly out of nowhere, during rain events. The subterranean water issues will often increase as the rainy season goes on and the soil becomes saturated and the water table rises. Earlier this year during a particularly rainy month, I received about 50 calls in one day regarding basements that had flooded where homeowners had lived there for 30 years or more with no water in their basements.

So what can you do about it?

The answer is nothing new other than what I have been preaching all along–there just is an increased urgency based upon the changes in weather.  

Old foundations need to be repaired or replaced so that you have proper reinforced concrete of appropriate dimensions that is in good condition so that your building will be properly supported and settlement will be minimized. And proper drainage needs to be correctly installed so that water will not affect the foundations and lead to settlement.

Once this work is completed your home should weather the storm and give you peace of mind down the road. If you live in our service area of Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont, or Alameda and are having foundation or drainage issues, fill out our estimate form and we’ll come out and take a look for you and help you make sure you get the job done right the first time. 

Ready to find out the estimated costs?

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