As Drought Causes Foundation Problems, Good Luck Getting Help

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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