Soil types in Northeast Oklahoma are extremely susceptible to shrinking and swelling, causing conditions for potential damage to structures; wide variations in precipitation coupled with hot, dry seasons amplify this condition. Damage to structures due to shrinking and swelling soils can range from severe structural distress, to breakage of pipes, to cracked foundations.

Ground Water

Ground water (water contained in layers of rock or soil beneath the ground) and poor drainage around a building are contributing factors of swelling soils. Ground water level can be affected by precipitation, development and vegetation. Foundations or basements that are set in impermeable soil or extended too near the ground water level will accumulate water.


These problems can be addressed by following good landscaping practices. Three major landscaping issues to help eliminate problems associated with swelling soils are slope, drainage and vegetation. The most critical aspects of landscaping are properly designed slopes and swales around the building to direct all water flow away from a home. Another key to moisture control is drainage, both above and bellow ground. The use of guttering, downspouts and splashblocks play a vital role in surface drainage.

"French Drains" and Interceptor Drains are two common types of subsurface drainage systems. Vegetation also addresses a critical aspect of moisture control. Poorly planned lawn and shrub watering is a direct cause of some damage sustained by houses resting on swelling soils. In contrast, carefully selected vegetation and its proper placement can help stabilize moisture content of soil.  

Regular and timely maintenance can prevent many common problems, minimize costly repairs and increase the life of a structure. It is recommended that property owners conduct thorough and complete inspections of their property and make repairs as needed.

Annually or semi-annually:

  • Inspect all concrete flatwork (sidewalks, driveways, slabs).
  • Clean gutters and downspouts.
  • Inspect splashblocks to ensure all water is being carried away from the foundation.
  • Cut back tree limbs that are near or touch the roof.
  • Inspect roof attachments (antennas, etc.) for leaks.
  • Inspect and clean chimneys.
  • Check for missing or damaged shingles.
  • Check all flashings and metal valleys.
General Tips:
  • Avoid over saurating foundation soils and excessive watering.
  • Water the yard during extended hot and dry months
  • Avoid planting trees, shrubs and flowers close to the foundation. Maintain slopes away from the building for good drainage.
  • Consult a professional when constructing patios, fences or other obstructions near a home.