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The Clay Bowl Effect

The clay bowl effect plagues homeowners living on loose soil. You can work with contractors to protect your home from its related damage.

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All homes built on loose soil can fall victim to the clay bowl effect, and no matter where you live, your home is likely built on loose soil.

Consider this: To lay your foundation and build your basement, the construction team that built your home first had to dig your basement out to your preferred dimensions. Then, after laying the concrete and walls, they had to fill that dirt back in to prevent gaps from forming between your home and your property.

Even with that soil in place, there are going to be more gaps between particles than there were before you moved onto the property. The loosened dirt is going to let more water run down toward your basement and perimeter. It is also going to be more prone to shifting when trees and animals move through it. As such, your home is going to be somewhat vulnerable to moisture damage from the get-go.

The good news is that your home doesn’t have to fall victim to that kind of damage. Instead, you can work with professional contractors in Kansas City, Moberly, St. Louis, and Springfield, MO, to waterproof your home. If you can get ahead of the clay bowl effect, you can ensure that your home retains its security and value as the soil starts to settle.

Assessing Your Home For Signs of Clay Bowl Damage

As mentioned, the clay bowl effect allows moisture to more easily come into contact with your foundation and basement. The silver lining to this situation is that moisture, upon getting too close to your structural supports, gives itself away. Some of the clearest signs that you’re dealing with moisture damage related to the clay bowl effect include:

Running or Eroding Soil

One of the clearest signs of loose soil around your home will be streams of dirt traveling along the grading of your property. These trails will not only indicate that high levels of moisture are at work around your home’s perimeter but that your soil may be too loose to adequately provide your house with the support it needs.

Unpleasant Smells

Moisture damage near or within your home tends to beget mold. The one good thing about all types of mold is that they tend to give off an unpleasant smell. In short, you have the opportunity to follow your nose toward a problem with your home—but that doesn’t always mean you should.

Mold clusters can start to form around the joints of your basement when the humidity levels in your home have grown especially high. All types of molds—allergenic, pathogenic, and toxigenic—can cause respiratory problems in residents who are exposed to them for an extended period of time. Even if you do want to follow your nose to the source of your problems, you may instead want to leave your property as soon as you can. Professionals can remove mold from your property while also addressing the clay bowl damage that allowed said moisture into your space in the first place.

Cracks Near Your Joints

You’ll also want to keep an eye out for more visual damage throughout your basement. If you see cracks starting to appear near your door frames, windowsills, or joints, moisture may have begun to make its way into your space. Cracks that are smaller in size may not indicate structural damage, but the longer you let them grow, the more severe the damage in question may become.

Standing or Pooling Water

Ideally, if water is standing near the joints of your home, it isn’t running down toward your basement, right? Not necessarily. Water that isn’t actively being absorbed by your soil may, in fact, indicate that your soil is already oversaturated.

Both mineral-rich soil and the concrete that supports your home absorb moisture at a quick pace under normal circumstances. Soil and concrete that are oversaturated will let that water sit closer to your joints, allowing it to put those materials under increased amounts of hydrostatic pressure. At the same time, the moisture that’s already made its way down toward your basement and foundation will be applying similar pressure to your structural supports. In short, standing water is a sign that your basement may have already taken on significant structural damage. If you notice severe puddling of this type, you’ll want to reach out to area professionals as soon as possible.

Repairing a Home Impacted by the Clay Bowl Effect

There are times when the erosion of the soil around your home may be contributing to some of the problems you’ve been having with your pool deck’s stability. In these cases, don’t hesitate to discuss mudjacking or polyurethane injections with your local contractors. Both processes solidify the soil around your pool deck while also lifting it back into its original position.

The difference between these two processes can be attributed to the material used when lifting your home back into place. The mudjacking process uses a slurry of concrete, whereas polyurethane foam injections are made of polyurethane foam. The concrete slurry used in mudjacking can wear away over time, as the slurry is vulnerable to hydrostatic pressure, but it still serves a valuable purpose. If you believe this process may best suit your home, discuss which material might suit your yard and pool deck best with the contractors in your area.

Clay Bowl Effect


Most homeowners don’t hear the term “clay bowl effect” until they start to notice things going wrong throughout their basement or the rest of their home. What does the effect entail, and is there a way to prevent it from impacting the structural integrity of your basement?

Defining the Clay Bowl Effect

The term “clay bowl effect” refers not to the shape of your foundation or basement but rather to the state of the earth beneath your home after you’ve excavated and backfilled said foundation. Unfortunately, there’s no way to establish your home’s foundation without first digging it out and then backfilling the space that’s left behind.

When a construction team replaces that soil, it will be looser than it was prior to your home’s construction. As such, your foundation and basement are going to be more vulnerable to water damage simply because the soil beneath your home will be more porous. If you don’t have gutters or a downspout on hand, rainwater or snowmelt can rush straight for your foundation and basement, where it can wreak havoc on your home’s newly installed structural supports.

Avoiding the Clay Bowl Effect

The effect that the clay bowl effect will have on your home will vary based on the composition of the soil in your area. That said, it’s all but impossible to avoid the effect entirely. No matter what, a construction team has to dig out a hole into which they can pour your foundation and basement.

That said, there are steps you can take early on in a home’s construction that can help you get ahead of the damage that the clay bowl effect can cause. If you choose to waterproof your home shortly after it is built and to stay on top of any structural changes, it’s unlikely you’ll have to contend with any unwanted seepage or damage outside of extraordinary circumstances.

If you’re the type of person who likes to take matters into their own hands, you may be tempted to try and repair any damage caused by the clay bowl effect on your own. While DIY efforts can work well in other parts of your home, they’re not always the best solutions to work with when the structural integrity of your house is at risk. DIY repairs also tend to be more costly than professional repairs, especially if you’ve never worked with the structural supports in your basement before.

DIY Expenses

As mentioned, DIY work can get expensive quickly. To get started, you’ll need to go about purchasing the tools and the materials you need to stabilize the soil around your home, then repair any damage done to your foundation, basement, or crawl space. If you’re able to find these tools—and some are more specialized than others, especially if you want to mudjack your soil—then many of them will be of one-time use. You may need to calculate the cost of extra material, as you can make several mistakes during the DIY repair process.

If you choose to work with professionals, you can avoid several of these start-up costs. Professionals already have access to the tools they need to stabilize the soil around your home. Similarly, many professionals can secure discounts on the materials you need to repair any damage done to your basement.

The Trouble With DIY Mistakes

Unless you have extensive experience repairing your own basement and foundation, you’re probably going to make mistakes while attempting DIY repairs. While, under other circumstances and on other jobs, mistakes aren’t the end of the world, they can cause a whole mess of problems for an unprepared homeowner.

If you think you’ve repaired the damage that’s been done to your basement, you may let the space go for an extended period of time without having it inspected. In these situations, the damage you’ve let sit can worsen. You may even find yourself contending with damage that extends down into your foundation, depending on what kind of DIY repairs you tried to implement. Professionals, comparatively, can see to it that the damage that’s been done to your basement is rectified without putting the overall stability of your property at greater risk.

Even if you don’t choose to DIY your basement repair, you may be tempted to let your leak or affiliated problem resolve itself. After all, doesn’t time heal all wounds? Not when those wounds are based in your basement. If you let this kind of damage go untreated, the damage that your basement is experiencing may rapidly worsen. Before you know it, the repairs you need to bring your home back into its original condition may be even more expensive than you initially imagined. With that in mind, what kind of work can professionals do inside and outside of your basement that can help eliminate the damage in question while also protecting your home from future shifts?

Piering and Stabilization

There are two different ways you can go about securing your basement as well as the soil around your home. You can invest in piers or in soil stabilization. Piers are usually buried at least 10 feet below the foundation of your home. Most of the time, they’re meant to lift your home back into its original position after it’s started to sink. If you’re facing the clay bowl effect, piers can take the weight of your home off of the nearby soil, ensuring that it’s more likely to remain stable in the future. Some of the most common types of piers include:

  • Helical piers
  • Slab piers
  • Push piers

You can also choose to inject the soil around your home with different kinds of materials to better stabilize it. Both mudjacking and polyurethane injections can fill in the gaps between nearby soil particles, making it more difficult for these particles to shift in place.

Unique Home Waterproofing Measures

It’s never a bad idea to invest in home waterproofing measures. If you’ve found yourself dealing with interior leaks in addition to floor sinkage, then these measures can keep that damage from spreading to the rest of your home.

The waterproofing measures that suit you best will vary based on the age of your home, the size of your basement, and the work you want your basement to do. Basements meant for entertaining, for example, may benefit from wall supports and waterproof insulation more so than full-space encapsulations. Note that you always have the option of combining waterproofing measures, or stacking them, to keep unwanted moisture damage at bay.

Waterproofing Your Home

After you and the professionals in Kansas City, Moberly, St. Louis, and Springfield, MO, have repaired the damage that hydrostatic pressure, the clay bowl effect, or both have done to your home, it’s time to get on waterproofing your basement. There are a few different tools you can use to waterproof your home. These include but are not limited to:

Vapor Barriers

Vapor barriers are seen in crawl spaces more often than they are in your basement. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t use a vapor barrier to protect certain walls within your basement. These barriers are made of super-dense plastic that’s designed to keep not just water but also gas out of your home. While these barriers don’t last forever, they can withstand exposure to seepage or other forms of water damage for up to three years.

Waterproof Insulation

You’ve likely already installed or seen insulation throughout the rest of your home. Don’t leave your basement without this extra protection. Basement insulation performs two tasks. For starters, it helps maintain the temperature in your basement, preventing the concrete therein or below from contracting as often as it might otherwise. This eliminates some of the hydrostatic pressure and related negative effects that might otherwise speed up the damage your basement may suffer from.

Secondly, waterproof insulation creates a hydrophobic barrier between your basement and the outside world. This barrier will drive moisture away from your home, preventing it from getting indoors where it can damage your belongings and compromise the structural integrity of your exposed supports.

Of course, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your insulation. Waterproof insulation, despite its role, can become easily damaged if it is overwhelmed by the amount of moisture in your area. You’ll want to replace your waterproof insulation on a regular basis, especially if it seems like it’s taken on damage. The longer you leave damaged insulation in place, the more likely it is that it may become a haven for mold spores.

Space Encapsulation

Professional contractors often leave encapsulation as a waterproofing measure for your crawl space. However, if you’ve been dealing with severe flooding in the past, and you don’t intend to use your basement to entertain guests, you may have the option of encapsulating small portions of it.

The encapsulation process sees professionals install both insulation and a thick plastic-like barrier around the whole of a section of your basement. These two materials, like vapor barriers and insulation separately, will create a physical barrier between your home and the moisture that might otherwise damage it. You will want to schedule annual home inspections to ensure that your encapsulation is doing its job. Once you’ve connected with a team of area professionals, however, you can often rely on them to keep a close eye on their own handiwork.

Sump Pumps and Interior Drains

Sump pumps and interior drains are essentially waterproofing cousins. These two waterproofing means perform the same tasks through different means. Sump pumps, for example, physically remove unwanted water from your home. However, these pumps require electricity to do their job and tend to only address seepage in a concentrated part of your basement.

Interior drains, comparatively, require no electricity to do their job. These drains instead rely on a series of pipes that can be installed around the perimeter of your home. You can trust this system to cover the whole of your basement, eliminating seepage throughout. However, sump pumps tend to address flooding more effectively than interior drains do.

When determining which of these systems to use, consider how much moisture you’ve seen in your home previously. While the repairs that local contractors complete should keep unwanted water out of your home, you’ll want to be prepared to deal with anything from mild seepage to severe flooding. Keep your expectations realistic and consider stacking these solutions together. More often than not, sump pumps and interior drains can work in tandem just as well as they can work separately.

Vent Covers

If you’ve installed a sump pump or interior drain in your home before, or if you have vents designed to keep water flowing in and out of your basement, you’ll benefit from a vent cover. These covers are designed to allow water in and out of your home safely, but they also work to protect your structural supports from excessive moisture. In short, vent liners are one-part movement aid, one part barrier. You can learn more about the vent covers available to you by talking to the professional contractors in your area.

Window Well Liners

If you have windows leading into your basement, then you’ve likely had to deal with flooded window wells in the past. While window well flooding isn’t immediately dangerous, long-term exposure to that concentrated moisture can put your window seals at risk. One way to eliminate that risk and better protect your basement is to install a window well liner. Window well liners come in various forms and thicknesses. You can work with area professionals to determine which of those immediately available to you might suit your window wells and drive unwanted water away from your home.

Working With Professionals In Your Area

Your basement is more vulnerable to damage than you might imagine, especially if it’s been built relatively recently. With that in mind, keep a wary eye out for signs of damage throughout your home, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The professionals serving Kansas City, Moberly, St. Louis, and Springfield, MO, can walk through your home with you and help you identify any troubling symptoms of damage you might have otherwise have missed. After your initial consultation, you can look over your provided free quote to determine what kind of repairs your home may need and what waterproofing measures might suit your home best.

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