The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 12, 2012

Waseca home owners dealing with sinking houses

WASECA — Last spring Pat and Howard Edwards suspected that something had gone awry with their home.

That sinking feeling turned out to be justified. Their house had sunk.

 The culprit: drought. The out-of-pocket cost to remedy the situation: $40,000.

Farm crops and lawns weren’t the only victims of this year’s extended dry spell. Some homes also have succumbed to arid soils.

For whatever reason, homes in and around Waseca have been particularly affected.

 Howard Edwards said he and his family have lived in their northwest Waseca home for 36 years and never had a similar problem until this year.

He said fissures in the ceiling, walls and foundation began to inexplicably appear, and doors and windows weren’t closing properly.

“We noticed a dramatic shift in everything ... everything cracked.”

Work to return the structure to level footing was completed a few days ago, and Edwards said he hopes the ordeal can serve as a cautionary tale to homeowners.

He said four other homes in his neighborhood were similarly afflicted, and he suspects the soils in the area, formerly a slough, may have exacerbated the situation.

That’s a reasonable assumption, said Victor Barke, owner of Complete Basement Systems of Mankato.

“As soil dries, it shrinks. And if you don’t have good, stable soil ...”

Barke said heavy clay soils are highly moisture-retentive and mitigate against damaging dryness caused by drought.

Other soils are more susceptible, and in a year of severe dryness a lack of moisture can cause the soil to contract. When that happens, a house can tilt down into the void.

“We’ve had a rash of foundation calls this year,” said Barke, who hasn’t seen the like since the extended drought conditions of the late 1980s.

Nate Proper of American Waterworks of Mankato, a basement repair and waterproofing company that worked on the Edwards home, said the firm has raised about 10 sunken homes in Waseca and he knows of about a dozen more there with similar problems.

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