Updated: Feb 22
Buildings, especially if they’re old, can have foundation problems for multiple reasons – whether it’s caused by soil erosion over the years, poor or organic soil, moisture content changes, freeze thaw cycles, or something else. Whatever the case, it’s important to understand the hints when a building may be moving, so as to avoid an even costlier/dangerous situation. Below are some signs that your building’s foundation may need to be repaired:
Sign #1: The inside flooring is no longer level and has fallen below the bottom of the wall This issue is usually the result of complications in the soil below. Maybe the structure was built atop expansive soil or is suffering due to other soil compaction problems. An experienced foundation contractor will be able to assess the situation and let you know whether you are seeing cosmetic cracks that can be easily sealed up to prevent moisture migration, or whether there is a serious settlement issue that should be corrected before some significant damage to the house structure occurs.
Sign #2: Windows and doors do not open and shut correctly If you notice that windows and doors work well except in one area of the house, check the foundation wall for cracking or other signs of movement. Usually, this is one of the first signs of foundation settlement. Again, an experienced foundation contractor can tell you whether this is something that should be addressed quickly to prevent serious problems.
Sign #3: Crown molding and drywall cracks/separates from wall & ceiling Issues with crown molding can be indicative of larger settlement problems. A thorough building inspection by a professional should be able to diagnose exactly what the cause is. An experienced foundation contractor sometimes has to treat your minor house issues like a mystery. They have to piece together all the clues and use their experience and education to “solve the mystery.” This allows him to let you know whether this is a serious problem that should be addressed quickly, or if it is relatively minor. He can also tell you what the repair should consist of and what the magnitude of the cost would be.
Sign #4: Water damage is noticeable. Water draining around a building can cause soil to shift – threatening the building’s foundation. A gutter down spout that is not directed away from the foundation can cause serious settlement issues. A gutter down spout that drains directly toward the house foundation can cause that area of the building to settle up to two inches with respect to the rest of the house. Water damage affecting the foundation is often noticeable when the basement’s wall appears wet, or other walls in the home appear wet and/or begin to crack. In areas with freezing temperatures, the frozen water expands. This can work into cracks and cause those cracks to expand. As freeze/thaw cycles continue, the cracks keep expanding and lead to serious problems, such as differential settlement, as well as moisture infiltration.
Sign #5: Cracks/buckling on the exterior and/or interior. All foundations settle to an extent. However, if your foundation is sinking into the ground in a way that differential settlement is the result or the settlement results in the excessive cracking/buckling of walls, it’s a big problem. Such foundation issues can be addressed through the installation of helical piers. An installation crew will drive helical piers into the ground and connect them to brackets that underpin the foundation. The brackets will then be raised – pushing your building back up and into place.
Stair step cracking, as shown in the picture above, is a good indication that a portion of the foundation is settling. An experienced foundation contractor can “read” that stair step cracking as an indication as to which part of the structure is settling and how much. That helps him to assess the magnitude of the differential settlement and how it should be repaired.
If you notice any of the aforementioned problems, consult an experienced foundation contractor as soon as possible.