How to Spot Foundation Problems Before It’s Too Late

Foundations
By Contractors.com Team April 29, 2021

A house is a big investment in many respects, so it’s natural for homeowners to worry about the things that could go wrong. And when it comes to things that could go wrong, foundation problems are nothing to scoff at. If ignored, they can grow quickly, and what started as a few small cracks can lead to your entire house becoming damaged beyond repair.

Fortunately, there are several signs of foundation issues as they develop. We’re here to share with you what those signs could be, what they might mean, and what you should do if you see them. Home foundation problems are scary, but they are not unheard of, and they don’t need to cause worry if they’re stopped before it’s too late. First, let’s understand why they happen.

What Causes Foundation Damage?

Foundation problems can be caused either by excessive settling or upheaval. Both of these issues in turn are usually caused by moisture levels in the soil. If the moisture levels are different on different ends of your house’s foundation, this can cause your house to sink. An affected house can sink by as much as 4”, with 1-½” of sinking enough to cause foundation failure.  

Alternatively, if soil moisture greatly increases due to inclement weather or plumbing leaks, this can cause the soil to expand. This expanding soil in turn exerts a lot of upward pressure which pushes your foundation slab upwards by 2” or more. If you think that you’re having one of these foundation issues there will be some common signs.   

Warning Signs: Cracks, Fractures, and Gaps

Warning Signs of Foundation Problems

Warning Signs of Foundation Problems

In the first few years after a house is built, it’s normal for vertical hairline 1/16’’ settlement cracks to appear in the foundation. Foundation settlement of this kind is a normal part of a house settling in reaction to changing temperatures, and this will often show up as vertical foundation cracks. If a crack begins to grow much larger than this, it becomes something to worry about. This is especially true if cracks start forming horizontally as these may be a sign of foundation damage. Cracks measuring .6” or longer are considered serious and should be watched closely. Cracks on a foundation can grow quickly, reaching 1-2 inches in length. When a house gets a cracked foundation, much of the weight that was supported by the foundation now has to be held up by the house’s frame. This puts a lot of stress on every part of the house, from walls to floors to brickwork. 

That stress will start showing up in the form of cracks and gaps in floors, in ceilings, and on walls. If stairstep cracks appear on your house’s exterior brick cladding, this could also be a sign of foundation trouble, especially for an older house. Cracks in the basement floor will also appear. If you have a chimney, it can also crack, shift, and even collapse due to a sinking or rising foundation. If you notice that your chimney is not stable, it is important to hire a licensed contractor to take a look at it as soon as possible. 

Water Everywhere: Moisture and Mold 

If you have large cracks this can cause significant water ingress into various parts of your house. If your home has a crawl space or a basement, and these areas begin to experience heavy moisture, this should be considered a warning sign. A basement water leak can cause several problems. For one, it will cause your basement or crawl space to become a hub for mildew and mold, both of which pose a health and safety risk. This will also cause a strong odor that can permeate throughout your home. Moisture can accelerate the deterioration of metals and concrete, and therefore worsen structural problems. 

Mold and Moisture Can Lead to More Serious Problems

Mold and Moisture Can Lead to More Serious Problems

To make matters worse, a high amount of moisture tends to attract pests such as termites and roaches, which will get into your walls and worsen your foundation issues. If you live in a more humid part of the world, you may also see mildew develop on the walls of your home near windows and doorways. This can happen due to doors and windows not sealing properly. 

Moisture problems can also be a sign that your foundation drainage is clogged. If you live in an area with heavy rainfall, keeping these drainage systems working is a must, especially when you consider that as much as 4” of standing water can accumulate under a foundation slab. However, if you don’t live in an area with heavy rainfall, leaky plumbing can also be the culprit. Since water ingress can also be a direct cause of foundation issues rather than just a symptom, it is important to properly diagnose this problem. If in doubt, a plumber can help pinpoint potential leaks in pipes, and a foundation repair contractor can check the condition of your foundation drainage.  

Is My House Sinking?

As home foundation problems become especially serious, bigger symptoms like bowing, rising, and sagging will also reveal themselves. As a result of the uneven forces caused by sinking or upheaval, the walls of your house can begin to bow due to excessive pressure. Floors might also begin to bow, rise, or sag. Your home’s flooring can become crooked as a result, and this will become noticeable in several parts of your house, especially in hallways and doorways. Additional side effects will appear as bowing, rising, and sinking worsen. 

How to Know If Your House Is Sinking

How to Know If Your House Is Sinking

One such side effect to look out for is that doors and windows in your house might become increasingly difficult to open and close as the bowing walls distort window frames and door frames. Doors and windows will sit unevenly in their frames and eventually start to jam. On top of this problem, you will notice that countertops, cabinets, and other large fixtures in your house will begin to come away from the wall. Because the floor and walls are no longer level, these fixtures can no longer sit evenly. In the case of foundation upheaval, you may also notice garage walls pushing upwards as the problem worsens. 

Are you noticing nails in your walls start to pull away? This can be another side effect of bowing walls as they start to affect your drywall as well, further weakening your home’s structure. All these signs could indicate foundation failure and should be an immediate cause for action. 

When To Take Action

What to Do If Your Home Has Foundation Problems

What to Do If Your Home Has Foundation Problems

If your home is showing any of these telltale symptoms, it is important to move quickly and contact a foundation repair contractor because your home’s structural integrity could be at stake. On their own, these problems don’t necessarily point to foundation trouble. Rather, it is a combination of some of these factors which give us a clear warning sign of structural issues. If your house is experiencing some of these problems and you suspect that your house is having foundation problems, the best way to be sure is to call a foundation repair contractor and schedule a foundation inspection.

Inspections range between $300 and $1000, and the cost to repair a foundation is a bit on the higher end, averaging over $4,000. If your foundation was heavily damaged, this can easily lead to costs totaling over $10,000, so it’s better not to wait for things to add up. However, it is hard to put a price on peace of mind. After all, if foundation issues are ignored, they can easily hurt your home’s value and make it much harder to sell the house in the future.   

How to Fix Foundation Issues

How to Fix Foundation Issues

A foundation repair contractor will have several options for repairing foundation issues if they are detected early enough. However, the speed and complexity of the fix will also depend on the type of house, the type of foundation problem, and its severity. For an affected house with a concrete slab foundation, sinking can be rectified using pier and beam foundation repair. This refers to when piers made of steel or concrete are designed to punch through the existing concrete slab and penetrate the soil below until they hit bedrock. These foundation piers hold up the structure so that crack repairs can be made and also stop it from sinking. 

When You Should Get a Foundation Contractor Involved

When You Should Get a Foundation Contractor Involved

The number of piers required to fix a foundation depends on the size of your home and the severity of the foundation settlement problem and must be determined by the contractor. They must also determine whether to use concrete or steel since more expensive steel piers are used for areas where bedrock is deeper. Usually, a home suffering from sinking will need anywhere between six to twenty-five foundation piers. 

To repair upheaval, you will first need a licensed plumber to pinpoint the source of the moisture. With the help of a $300 hydrostatic plumbing test, a plumber can determine whether pipes under your foundation are the cause of upheaval and if so, complete basement leak repair. If plumbing is not the cause of the moisture, foundation repair contractors can repair the foundation slab and then waterproof it using a waterproofing membrane. 

Foundation problems can often be quite serious. But when you know what to look for, they can be found out and fixed before it’s too late.

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team