Every house experiences some form of movement after it is built. These movements happen in the wooden structures of the building, its foundation, or the soil beneath the home. Environmental changes, known as settling, cause these movements.
Settling is entirely normal. It happens because the wood and concrete that make up a building contain moisture, which is released slowly over time. After completing your house, you should be okay if you see gaps and cracks in different parts of the structure.
That being said, gaps or cracks in the structures of a building may also be a sign of more significant issues. They could be evidence of issues with the building’s foundation. Although similar in appearance to house settling, foundation damage is a very different kind of problem.
Causes and signs of foundation damage
Cracks in the concrete, if wider than 16th of an inch or longer than 12”, often indicate foundation issues. If a home has major cracks in its walls, especially at the corners or doorways, it is usually because of an issue with the foundation.
What causes foundation damage in a building?
Most foundation issues are caused by water intrusion, soil movement, or poor construction. Foundation damage can happen due to an act of nature, the negligence of builders, or a home’s occupants.
- Foundation damage caused by water
If water is allowed to seep into the foundation – because of a plumbing leak or improper drainage – it can undermine the foundation.
- Foundation damage caused by soil movement
Movements in the soil beneath the home – every day in areas with expansive clay soils – can also affect the foundation.
- Foundation damage caused by improper construction
A builder must do proper soil tests, preparation, and compaction to maintain the foundation.
If you see the following signs in your home or a home you want to buy, you may want to have the foundation inspected for possible damage:
- Leaning chimney: Due to its weight, a chimney will lean if the foundation is unstable.
- Diagonal cracks in bricks if they are wider than 16th of an inch.
- Uneven floors: spilled water flows to one side of the room and settles there.
- Walls that are visibly leaning or bowing.
- Drywall cracks or gaps between the walls and floor if they are wider than 16th of an inch.
- Cabinets that are separating from walls, especially if the gaps grow wider consistently.
What to do if you think you have foundation damage
Issues with a building’s foundation can make the home unlivable and affect its market value. But this will only happen if the problem is not addressed quickly. Minor issues with a foundation, if left untreated, can progress to a point where the foundation fails completely.
But prompt action can prevent the foundation issues from:
- Getting worse and costing you more money in the future
- It affects the operation of the home’s features; windows/doors that jam
- Damaging the home’s aesthetics
- Diminishing the home’s resale value
- Endangering the lives of occupants and visitors
How to fix a damaged foundation
The first step is to verify that your home has a foundation problem and identify the cause and extent of the issue. To do this, you need a licensed structural engineer to inspect the foundation. It is important to use a licensed structural engineer for this process.
Some lenders and insurers will only accept a report on the status of your home’s foundation if a licensed structural engineer or a foundation inspection expert did the inspection and the report bears the structural engineer’s seal. Failing to use a licensed professional could cost you later.
The foundation inspection will do the following for you:
- Determine if you have a foundation issue and identify the causes of the problem.
- Tell you how far the issue has gone and if you need to do anything about it.
- Explain if the foundation problem is stable, active, or about to become active.
- Recommend remedial steps for the foundation issue, if needed.
Get a foundation repair company to give you an estimate for the job. Most foundation repair companies are willing to provide a free estimate; they will send an expert to evaluate the foundation. It is best to get estimates from three companies and compare their quotations.
The actual steps for fixing the damage depend on the type of foundation your home has, the climate in your area, the soil type, the extent of damage, and other existing issues. Standard foundation repair methods include:
- Application of waterproof masonry sealants for minor repairs.
- Slab jacking is mainly used for homes with a slab foundation.
- Piling with piers; In the long term, this method is better than slab jacking.
After the work is completed, you will want to get the same structural engineer who inspected the foundation initially to inspect the finished repair. You should not consider your foundation fixed until the structural engineer signs off on the project.
If you’re looking to buy or sell a house with foundation issues, contact us today to see how we can help you.