Several primary factors cause foundation problems in Naples. Water damage from hurricanes, floods, and loose, sandy soils all cause significant foundation problems in this area. We’ll discuss each one in detail below.
Loose surface soils
The soils along the gulf coast of Florida mostly consist of loose sand, clay, and organic matter. Because of the high sand content and changing composition of organic matter, these soils tend to shift over time. Erosion from wind, floods, and heavy rains cause the sand to erode from the base of the house, changing the pressure on foundations.
A slab foundation helps to stabilize the soils, but it isn’t perfect. Erosion causes foundations to settle and crack. For some buildings, contractors compact the soil before construction or use pilings to connect the building to bedrock. No matter how well a home is built, Naples’ proximity to the ocean makes it difficult to ensure perfect foundation stability. Over time, many homes in Naples will need foundation repair.
Adding to the difficulty for foundation stability, the USDA Soil Survey reports that the soils in and around Naples are sandy, but often poorly drained. This is unusual for soils with high sand content, and it can cause the relatively small amounts of clay in the soil to expand and contract rapidly with heat and rain. These cycles of expansion and contraction can cause the foundation to bow or crack.
Hurricanes and flooding
Nowhere on the coast is safe from hurricanes, and Naples is no exception. With any hurricane or tropical storm, homes are at risk of flood damage. When it rains heavily over a short period of time, as it does during a tropical storm, the forces of water and erosion put more stress on a home’s foundation than normal. This can quickly lead to cracks, sinking, and water damage to a foundation.
Some areas of Naples are in a flood-prone area, so it’s especially important for property managers to know how to identify damage to their foundation and prevent further damage in their home. Although homes near the shoreline are designed to withstand the power of erosion, hurricanes, and flooding for decades, no home in a coastal area is expected to withstand these forces and remain completely undamaged for its entire lifetime, according to FEMA. It’s important to carefully inspect your foundation for any signs of damage as soon as possible after a major weather event. In our experience, many homeowners notice changes in their foundations shortly after a major storm.
Even under normal weather conditions, Naples receives an average of 55 inches of rain per year, nearly double the national average. As the soil particles expand to hold all that water, they put additional pressure on concrete foundations. This can cause foundations to crack or sink. When the soils contract during the dry season, they can pull away from the foundation, creating uneven pressures that decrease the life of the foundation and increase the risk of damage.
Radon occurs naturally in the soil around Naples as uranium decays, releasing radioactive gases into the atmosphere. It can seep into homes through cracks in the foundation, and if it becomes concentrated in a home, it becomes dangerous. Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, so it’s important to ensure your home is protected. Since Naples and Florida in general have higher rates of radon than most of the US, it’s important to ensure this toxic gas does not enter your home through small cracks in the foundation. Residential homes in Naples are 24% more likely to have elevated levels of radon than average U.S. resident, so it’s important to ensure your foundation is secure to protect your home from this health hazard.
Fortunately, since 1 in 5 Florida residences test positive for elevated radon levels, Florida has developed some of the best consumer protection laws to protect citizens from radon. Most businesses and schools require radon testing and certification, and it’s easy to test for radon in your home as well. Many homeowners choose to seal their foundations to prevent gases from entering homes through the porous concrete. Since slab foundations also need a seal to protect from water damage, it makes sense to protect your home from radon as well. However, cracks in the foundation can still occur and allow this gas to enter your home. Check regularly for signs of foundation damage to prevent exposure to this harmful substance.