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New Jersey Earthquake: Check for These 5 Signs of Damage

large gaping crack in floor

At around 10:25am the morning of April 5, 2024, a 4.7 magnitude earthquake hit the East Coast of the U.S. across areas of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania (especially around Philadelphia), and Delaware.

After this significant geological event, homeowners might be rightly concerned about the structural integrity of their homes. While severe earthquakes can cause major structural problems, even mild earthquakes can have a negative impact on your foundation. 

Here’s what you need to look out for. 

After the Earthquake, Here’s the Most Common Signs of Damage

If you find any of these signs of a damage in your home after the earthquake, it’s important to contact a professional for an inspection. Remember, early detection can prevent further damage and costly repairs down the line. 

1. Interior Cracks

cracks in drywall indicative of foundation damage, similar to those caused by earthquakes in new jersey, pennsylvania, and delaware

Cracks in your home’s interior are the most common and easily identifiable form of damage caused by mild earthquakes. Cracks can appear in many places in your home including: 

Interior cracks indicate that the earthquake has shaken or shifted your home’s foundation putting its structural integrity at great risk. If the cracks are wide enough, they will provide an avenue for water and pest intrusion. 

Get immediate professional help in repairing them because they’ll only get worse over time. 

2. Exterior Cracks

Cracks around your home’s exterior are the second most common form of damage caused by earthquakes. From most to least worrying, here are all the types of cracks that can appear outside your home: 

These cracks could range from simple hairline fractures to noticeable gaps. Large, uneven cracks might suggest serious structural damage or, if around exterior concrete, pose a hazard for vehicle damage or for tripping. 

Call a foundation or concrete expert near you immediately if you see any of these cracks outside your home. 

3. Sticking Doors and Windows

a doorframe that is skewed by foundation damage

Sticking doors and windows may seem like minor nuisances, but they can actually be indicative of serious foundation issues. 

Because the earthquake may have shaken and shifted your home’s foundation, it may settle unevenly, warping and twisting the structure of doors and windows to either fling wide open (a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “ghost doors”) or to stick and jam. 

As previously mentioned, you may even see visible cracks or gaps around the doors or windows that are a good indication that this is happening to them. 

These are signs of foundation settlement caused by the earthquake, so take them seriously and get help immediately 

4. Sagging or Uneven Floors

image depicting uneven, saggin floors by focusing on a gap where the floor meets the wall

Sagging floors after an earthquake could be due to failing supports, water damage, or unstable soil. The issue often links back to the supporting structure beneath your home. They might have been a problem before the earthquake, but the earthquake made them worse. 

If your home has a crawl space, the floor supports and joists might be damaged. Solutions include using crawl space jacks for stability or encapsulation to prevent moisture issues. In some instances, floor joist repair might be necessary. 

If your home is on a concrete slab, the foundation might have shifted during the earthquake. Solutions often involve foundation piering, using steel pipe pilings to provide additional support. 

These issues need immediate attention to prevent further structural damage. 

5. Basement Walls that Are Bowing or Shearing Inward

Earthquake’s hydrostatic pressure can cause significant structural damage to basement walls, leading to two distinct phenomena: bowing and shearing. 

bowing basement wall
  • Bowing: This happens when the wall leans in from the middle due to pressure from saturated soil, often resulting in a large horizontal crack. If not addressed, a bowing wall can collapse. 
shearing basement wall
  • Shearing: This occurs when the wall is pushed in from the top or bottom due to shifting soil or frost heaving. It can cause the wall to tilt or shift, creating serious structural problems. 

Both issues can lead to water leakage, causing dampness. If you notice these signs in your basement walls, seek immediate professional help to avoid further damage. 

How to Do a Thorough Check for Damage

By taking the time to thoroughly inspect your home after an earthquake, you can identify potential problems early and take steps to address them before they become major issues. 

To perform a comprehensive check on your home for possible damage signs, follow these steps: 

1. Start with an Interior Check

To start checking for signs of damage, begin inside. If you have a basement, start there and work your way up through the rest of your home. Look for cracks in the walls, floor, ceiling, and around window and door frames. 

a. Check Your Basement Walls and Floors

In your basement, look for any signs of bowing or pushing inward. This could be caused by a sudden increase in hydrostatic pressure due to the earthquake. Also, check for any leaks or damp spots, as these could be the result of foundation damage. 

b. Examine walls, Ceilings, and Other Areas

Throughout the rest of your home, the most common areas you’ll find cracks are where one section of a wall or ceiling meets another (ie. where surfaces are weakest). Inspect the areas where your walls meet with the ceiling, floor, windows, or doors. Pay special attention to any patterns of cracks, as these can indicate foundation damage. 

c. Look Over Your Floors

Your likely to find cracks in the floor if yours is made of concrete slab (as in the case of an attached garage) or tiles (as in the case of your kitchen or bathrooms), but cracks in hardwood are not uncommon. 

Examine your floors for any signs of sagging or unevenness. It sounds strange, but a good way to test your floors is either by bouncing up and down over them while feeling and listening for any springiness, by using a water level on suspicious-looking sections to gauge any changes, or (if you don’t have a level) by rolling a ball around the floor and watching for any out-of-the-ordinary movements. 

d. Test Doors and Windows

Open and close all doors and windows in your home. If you notice any sticking or difficulty operating them, this could point to post-earthquake foundation settlement. 

2. Next, Step Outside

Walk around the outside of your home and examine any surfaces and structures along the outside walls, near your foundation, and around your home. 

a. Check Your Home’s Exterior Walls

Look for cracks in the bricks or siding. Note the size and location of any fractures you find. 

b. Check Your Chimney

If you have a chimney, check to see if it’s leaning or pulling away from your house, or if there are cracks in the structure. This could be due to shifting soil underneath the chimney. 

c. Look Over Exterior Concrete

Look for any new cracks or uneven surfaces in your exterior concrete. Your driveway is going to be the most common area of damage, but be sure to check your porch, patio, and any concrete stairs. If you have a pool, check both the deck and the walls for any new signs of a growing problems. 

Call Groundworks If You Find Signs of Damage

A Groundworks CFI serving pennsylvania, new jersey, and delaware with floor level standing in front of a Groundworks branded vehicle on a street in front of houses

If you find any of these signs of damage, schedule an inspection with Groundworks immediately. 

With us, you can get a FREE inspection of your home to find out exactly what has happened to your foundation due to the earthquake. And we’ll help you repair every single issue that could spell disaster for your home. 

We serve 33 states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware with decades of experience handling the unique conditions of your home. 

FAQs About Earthquake Foundation Damage

Not all foundation problems are an immediate concern. Usually, they don’t pose an immediate risk, but they can become problematic over time. As foundation issues worsen, the associated risks increase. If you’ve been dealing with foundation problems for a while, your home might be unsafe. Contact a professional for expert advice.

If you observe any cracks in your home, contact a foundation repair expert for an inspection. Foundation issues worsen over time, so the sooner you address them, the less expensive the repairs will be.

Major foundation repairs should be entrusted to professionals, given their experience, equipment, and knowledge of safety protocols. Unless it’s a minor issue, relying on experts ensures the job is done effectively. While cost may be a consideration, hiring a foundation professional is a wise investment that can save money in the long run. 

Michael Wilcher

Michael Wilcher

Michael Wilcher is the Content Lead at Groundworks, helping us to answer all of our customers biggest questions about foundation repair, basement waterproofing, crawl space encapsulation, and concrete lifting. In his free time, Michael enjoys collecting vinyl records, watching Formula 1 Racing, and reading philosophy. He holds an MPhil from the University of Cambridge.