South County family faces monumental home repairs due to drought

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by Mike Colombo / News 4 and KMOV.com staff

KMOV.com

Posted on November 12, 2012 at 6:20 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 12 at 6:29 PM

ST. LOUIS COUNT, Mo. (KMOV) -- A South County family’s dream home is falling apart, and their homeowner’s insurance will not cover the damage.

 

Heather Hemmelgarn says she loves her Mehlville home. After years on the move, she and her Army husband were ready to put down roots.

“We’re active-duty military and we didn’t want (our children) to be military brats anymore,” said Hemmelgarn. “We wanted them to have a stable home.”

But now their home is anything but stable. One year after moving in, they’re seeing cracks everywhere.

One wall’s separating, a door came off completely. Outside, it’s more of the same. The pool, siding, steps and foundations are all starting to crack.

Hemmelgarn says it all started a couple of months ago after crews hired by St. Louis County spent months busting up the streets outside her home.

“You can’t tell me that the vibrations from those huge machines cracking down on the streets didn’t cause this,” she said.

But a St. Louis county inspector says it’s not the county’s fault. And inspectors with two different insurance companies blame all of it on this past summer’s drought.

During extended periods of drought, dried-out dirt can shrink and pull away from the foundation, leading to settling and cracking.

Drought - related problems are becoming more common, especially in St. Louis where clay soil and brick homes add to the problem.

It made for a very busy summer for foundation repair companies.

“Our business is up about 60 percent compared to where we would normally be at this time of year because the problem is so extensive,” Helitech employee Matt Ford said during the summer.

Home owners’ policies do not cover drought-related settling. So, for now, it looks like the Hemmelgarns are facing a monumental repair bill.

“It’ll have to be little by little, whenever we can do it, and pray to God our house don’t fall down,” Heather Hemmelgarn said.

 

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