As Drought Causes Foundation Problems, Good Luck Getting Help

Barry Sigman
Hello, foundation problems.
Now that we're nine months into the drought, we called a foundation company to see if someone could diagnose whether the ghastly cracks our ceiling had sprouted recently needed official repair.

Vanessa Hutcherson at Olshan (the renowned foundation repair company in H-town) said there have been many such calls. Plus, she said, she had just spoken with a woman who said she'd tried everywhere to get soaker hoses -- the recommended prevention if you don't have an automatic sprinkler system -- to no avail. "Lowe's, Home Depot..." Vanessa said, "she said everyone is sold out."

If you're looking for a good sprinkler system installer, remember, they're not exactly incented to cut their rates: Their business is booming these days. If you haven't yet even scheduled an appointment for a sprinkler system installation, you're also SOL -- most companies are booked through August, if not September. And other companies simply laugh at us Johnny-come-latelies.

There's also hassle involved in getting such a system in such a way as to get a lower bill on the water it uses. You can arrange it so you don't pay sewer fees on the water used, but it's not easy.

The City of Houston raised water rates at least 23 percent last spring, but those who want to save on their water bills can have a separate meter installed. The trick here is to get the City of Houston to actually share a list of approved plumbers to do the work, and there's a ton of paperwork involved -- some say the dance could take nine months; others suck it up and have an irrigation company that works with the approved plumbers do all the footwork. Then they charge a fee for being the middleman, and the whole affair could cost you $2,000.

But at least you're not charged sewer fees for the water used on the yard or in the pool or outdoor hot tub. Residents are charged the same amount for sewer as for the water usage in a regular bill, so proponents say you can make your money back in a year or two -- your mileage may vary.

You may have luck seeking soaker hoses with specialty hardware stores -- Bering's was kind enough to hold some till we could pick 'em up.

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Brian Gilchriest
Brian Gilchriest

You can get soaker hoses at several places online.  To be honest, they need to be used in conjunction with a lawn sprinkler system for them to fully be effective.  A soaker hose alone won't save your foundation despite the rumors.

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Thank you for posting this information to us. This is very useful and helpful to us.


The City of Houston seems to make getting a separate water meter installed near impossible.  After paying $300 in sewer fees one month for lawn water, I decided that when my water bill is larger than my electric bill, I needed to do something.  If you call the City, you get an answering machine and NEVER a call back despite repeated messages.  You may send email, which will not be returned either.  The City website of approved contractors states:   THIS LIST SHALL BE REVISED EVERY THIRTY (30) DAYS,  REVISED:  12/02/2006.  Your tax dollars at work people.  After calling every plumber's number on the 2006 list, I either got a FAX number, wrong number, out of business, or the plumber does not do this work due to liability concerns and increased liability insurance rates for tapping into city water mains.  I feel like I live in a third world country where my City government is inept and not meeting its obligations to its citizenry.  At this point, I figure it is less expensive to just let my lawn die and replace it after the drought.


Drive to their office:

Department of Public Works and Engineering

611 Walker

Houston, TX 77002

Leaving messages and sending emails sometimes, sorry to say, is futile.

Lee Riner
Lee Riner

Raindead,I called the city for the list and they said they'd fax it right away. After waiting an hour, I called again because I'd been forewarned. That time, they did fax it right away! The first number I called was quite responsive (not the first on the list, btw) and helpfully outlined how to go through the permitting process myself and save probably $1,000 quoted by  another turnkey offer from an irrigation company JUST TO GO THROUGH THE PERMITTING PROCESS (yikes).

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

I hear you pain yet we've been around the bend before in Texas with the business community not supporting any branch of government creating any list of approved business who do any kind of work.

Perhaps the Better Business Bureau can help.


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