Identifying Symptoms of Foundation Problems in your Home
- Blocks are a common foundation construction material. They generally sit on a footing to provide the level base to build up from. If the load on the blocks is too high, or if they "settle" unevenly, they can crack or show gaps between the grouting. Usually, this is an indicator that other structural problems exist and need to be investigated further.
- Homebuilders often finish the exterior walls with solid or decorative brick. These materials do not handle "movement" well. Some degree of "settling" is expected in new homes. However, excessive cracks or cracking following a pattern indicates that there are problems with your foundation.
- If your home has a basement, it is likely to have a poured concrete or masonry reinforced wall. A properly constructed wall should be water proof and plumb. If you notice cracks, seeping water, or earth (dirt) "seeping" through the walls, something is wrong. If not addressed, erosion will continue to eat away at your homes foundation and it will lead to much more expensive repairs in the future and potential health risks caused by mold and insect infestations.
- Chimneys are usually constructed with a brick or rock fascia (exterior). The mortar that holds these materials together is very good when in compression (under pressure) but very week when in tension (resisting pulling or twisting forces). The appearance of a crack indicates your chimney is experiencing movement due to foundation problems.
Similarly, if your chimney "leans" away from your home or starts to show gaps where there previously weren't any, this is also an indication that foundation problems exist.
- The ground immediately surrounding your home should be well compacted, dry, and drain properly.
Indications that your home may have foundation problems is when notice standing water around the perimeter of your home, irregular locations of soft or wet dirt without an obvious cause, slope movement or cracking in the ground around your home. Even if you don't see other signs of foundation problems, it's worth getting a second opinion earlier rather than later.
- Uneven floors is a good indicator that your home is experiencing a foundation problem. Things to look for include warping of hard-wood, tiles lifting or cracking, bulging or sagging sections, and uneven wear-marks on the carpet.
Unfortunately, it's extremely difficult to see uneven floors until it becomes a big problem - especially when carpeted. If you suspect any problems, it's easy to get a second opinion.
- Doors and windows are excellent indicators of foundation problems. When your doors and windows were installed, the contractor made sure they were plumb and operated correctly. Any changes immediately effect their operation.
If you notice that your doors swing open if not latched, show gaps at the top or bottom, scrape parts or all of your floor, the walls are cracked at the corners of the frame, or if it simple won't shut, you likely have some kind of foundation problem.
Windows act similarly when you have foundation problem. They will start to stick, be hard to operate, and show cracks at the corners.
- Cracks in sheetrock are never a good thing. Random cracks are not necessarily an indication of foundation problems. But, when you notice cracks adjacent to doors and windows, it's a strong indicator that you do have a foundation problem.
- Your walls were installed with a small gap (1/2" to 3/4") between the bottom of the sheetrock and the top of floor. Often, you don't see any gaps because a decorative floorboard is commonly installed to hide this gap. But if you can see the gap, it shouldn't be even across the entire length of the wall. Its easier to check basement walls for gaps.
- The entire weight of your house, its contents, and your family are sitting on the basement walls. Bowing, sagging, or leaning basement walls is a sure sign that you have a foundation problem. Act immediately to ensure the safety of your family and to minimize the costs of your foundation repair project.
- If your home was not constructed with a basement, it is sitting on a concrete pad or slab-on-grade. Cracks in floor slabs are a clear indication of foundation problems. But they are also the most difficult to find because most homes have some kind of decorative floor covering. Short of pulling up the carpet, hard wood floor, or tile, there is no way to "see" these cracks. However, here are some things you can check for.
Do you constantly have bugs in your home when their shouldn't be. Especially odd bugs like earwigs, centipedes, slugs, or creepy-crawly's. Is there an "earthy" or dirt odor after heavy rainfall? Does your hardwood floor creek or have cracks? Does your tile get cracked easily or have cracks?
- Water (moisture) is the leading cause of foundation problems. The amount of moisture in the soil underneath your home can cause the ground to shrink or expand. Normally, this occurs evenly. But when it doesn't, it may lead to foundation problems.
If you notice areas around your home that have standing water when other areas are dry, areas that are always moist, or areas that are regularly flooded, you should take proactive measures to prevent potential foundation problems.