Most soil in the Midwest is classified as "silty clay loam" which is absolutely fantastic for growing crops and planting gardens. This type of soil is rich in nutrients and well aerated, making it highly sought after by farmers from the 1800's until today.
Unfortunately, this type of soil can be tough on man-made structures. The high clay content in conjunction with weather patterns plus loosely packed soil combined with the freeze & thaw cycle cause a lot of trouble for anything built underground. If a foundation isn't built to withstand the natural cycle of the Midwest, you're going to see problems...it's just a matter of time.
What Clay Does:
Spring and fall are often very wet around Kansas City while summer usually has some long, hot, dry spells. In the spring, the clay in our soil will soak up a lot of water. In the summer, that clay will slowly lose the water it stored up...in long dry spells it can begin to pull away from a building which removes some of the foundation's support and can cause problems. Once fall (and the rain) returns, that clay is going to swell back up and push against foundations again, but often not in the same way as before.
What You Can Do:
Do your best to keep the level of moisture in your soil constant. This means watering around your foundation during extended dry spells. Simple? Yes. Important? Absolutely!
What Loose Soil Does:
Loose soil around a foundation can do damage two ways: Loss off support and disruption by the freeze/thaw cycle. Loose soil will naturally settle over time, which means what a foundation is built upon will drop away, taking necessary support with it. Water trickling into small cracks or under a slab then freezing can put tremendous amounts of pressure on a foundation. When the water keeps trickling in, with successive thaws and freezes (think typical late October weather!) a lot of damage can be done in a short period of time.
What you can do:
Keep an eye on foundation changes. Unfortunately, you can't do much about settling soil, but you can stop damage from getting worse if you have a professional out when problems begin.
Also, keep an eye on the grading around your foundation. If the ground is pointing water straight toward your foundation, there is a lot of opportunity for rainwater to cause problems when the cold weather comes!
While Midwestern soil can cause a lot of problems for foundations, it doesn't mean you need to pack up and move elsewhere. Some simple steps can keep a lot of problems at bay, and when having a foundation professional out to address concerns earlier is always better than later!
If you have any questions about soils, or what you are seeing, don't hesitate to give us a call!