The extreme heat experienced this summer and the drought that accompanied it damaged, like never before,
walls, doors and floors
of houses and buildings due to an increasingly common phenomenon that occurs on the surface of the ground
It affects buildings and causes cracks, deterioration and breakage.
For this reason there are numerous inquiries to specialists by neighbors who call concerned about the state of their homes.
Martín Hernández, senior construction foreman of the company Geo Construcciones, explained the cause behind this phenomenon.
"There is something called
. It is found under built-up areas. Those soils have the capacity to change volume when the humidity of the soil surface changes. When it rains a lot, that clay increases its volume. And when drought comes and it loses humidity, it contracts. This cyclical movement of expansion affects the constructions".
The expansive clay is
irregularly distributed in the soil
There are areas that have a large amount of this material, others that totally lack it.
The houses built on this type of floor are the ones that suffer the most from changes in humidity and
when there is a prolonged drought
"This clay causes the soil to move
up and down
. This produces alterations in the structures. When there is a prolonged drought like the one we are experiencing, and the clay therefore dehydrates, it causes the entire subfloor to sink. And there This is when you will see a difference in the base of the floor, which can be one centimeter. As a consequence of this movement, the floor breaks. The same happens with the walls (which crack) and the door frames, which they are out of square", explains the architect Germán Zuloaga, adviser to the Institute of Urban Studies of CAPBA-District 1.
Cracks in walls, a consequence of the movement of the ground.
Specialists say that there are areas where this expansive clay occurs in abundance.
"It's something superficial. He always works on the superficial level. If that same clay is
below five meters
, nothing happens. Because it is far from the surface, then the weather does not affect it. The soil moisture remains constant at meter deep. That's why it's not a problem with the groundwater, which is more than five meters deep," says Hernández.
The most affected houses
Not all constructions suffer equally when this type of soil is moved.
They are usually the
old or poorly built houses
, which end up damaged when there is extreme drought and the clay shrinks.
"In those houses that have an enclosure with bars in front, and does not have a lintel, in those the door moves, it opens and cannot be closed. Or they get stuck and cannot be opened," Zuloaga comments.
This phenomenon shows structural failures in some houses.
"In old-fashioned constructions, people made the foundations based on what the neighbor had done, so there are technical errors without having the correct soil composition," adds the architect.
An increasingly common phenomenon
Climate change is changing the dynamism of this type of soil, which is accentuated by extreme temperatures and prolonged drought.
"Now it is happening that in many areas there are cracks in the floors and fissures in the masonry. Especially in places where
an appropriate soil study was not carried out
, which can prevent this movement," says Zuloaga, who also ensures that type of damage to homes "clearly increased."
There are more and more queries due to this.
Claudio, who repairs breaks in walls and doors, says that "this year there was a lot of movement of structures in the street doors. Much more than other years."
"I received many calls from people who had this problem.
Doors that stuck or did not close
. I had a case of a door that due to movements in the foundation rose in such a way that it was nailed to the frame and could not be opened. I also saw many cracked walls and broken floors due to the movement of the ground itself. There were many cases due to the drought. In my house a crack appeared out of nowhere in the wall. With the drought it was much worse."
There are structural responses to mitigate this behavior of the soil.
Hernández explains that
appropriate soil studies must be carried out
and that "the foundation is supported below a meter and a half deep."
"We always recommend placing a
two-inch styrofoam sheet
, and making perimeter sidewalks. These are precautions and care when there is the presence of expansive clay."
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