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Construction Defects in Foundation

Your foundation should keep your home level. Any defects or damage within can result in expensive repairs. What causes construction defects within your foundation?

Boot pushing shovel into rocks

What Causes Construction Defects in Your Foundation?

The foundation is one of the most crucial units of your home’s infrastructure. It prevents your house from sinking into the soil around it and moisture from trickling into the basement. It also keeps your house level so it does not tilt or sway.

Should anything damage this all-too-important piece, the rest of your house will start to fall apart as well. What can cause construction defects in your foundation? Are these hidden defects something that can grow worse over time?

Catching Problem Signs Before They Worsen

The average homeowner will unfortunately not be able to detect issues with their foundation until the issue escalates and ruins other parts of the home. Catching small problem signs before this happens is key to saving both your home’s structure and your money. What are some common problem signs you need to look out for?

  • Leaks and Cracks

One of the main purposes of your foundation is to keep moisture out from under your home. If you see damp spots or puddles within your basement, then your foundation is faulty. These leaks could seep from the walls themselves. They can also spring from misaligned or cracked pipes broken from your shifting foundation.

Though seemingly innocuous, leaks heavily contribute to flooding and water damage, especially during heavy storms. You cannot take even the tiniest leaks lightly.

Cracks along your basement’s walls and floor are also indicative of far more serious issues. Water, pests, and other unwanted problems will sneak through to cause additional messes. If left to expand further, it can wreak havoc in other rooms above your basement level as well. They might also signal that moisture has caused the foundation to shift out of its original alignment, causing your house to tilt. 

  • Bowing Walls or Uneven Floor

You will know something is wrong with your foundation when you notice your walls tilting or floors dipping or sagging in places. The foundation should keep your house level on all fronts.

A swaying house might disorient you and your family or create dangerous tripping hazards. Unfortunately, however, many homeowners will not be able to detect a slight tilt in their wall or flooring. You must hire a foundation inspector to search for what is causing these issues in the first place before they grow worse.

  • Stuck Windowsills and Doorways 

When your foundation starts to lean or shift, it can cause your walls, windowsills, and doorways to tilt as well. This can trap the windows and doors since these are unaffected by a foundation’s influence. You may find it more difficult to open and close your windows and doors as a result.

Causes Behind Construction Defects in the Foundation

A construction defect in the foundation is oftentimes not the fault of the homeowner. Rather, these defects are simply natural consequences caused by a variety of different factors. What causes construction defects to occur within your foundation? 

  • Clay Bowl Effect

It is possible the overall construction method used to create foundations can contribute to defects later on. The foundation is one of the first components of a house to be made alongside the basement or crawl space. Construction workers will first dig a large hole in the earth where the house will be then fill in the foundation along with the basement or crawl space floor and walls.

They then backfill part of the previously dug-up soil into the extra space around it. This essentially creates the “clay bowl” around your foundation. This soil is not as compact as the soil lying underneath the foundation itself. It may absorb more water than it is capable of holding, which can create severe pressure against the concrete. This is commonly known as hydrostatic pressure.

If the pressure becomes too much, the concrete foundation may start to shift or even crack. Moisture from the soil may also seep through to the concrete’s pores. In the winter when that trapped moisture freezes, the ice will expand and destroy your foundation from within.

Homes within especially wet climates are more at risk for this type of deterioration. Some areas have humid climates along with dealing with snowfall during the winter and heavy rainfall during the springtime. All that moisture may seep through to your basement or crawl space and wreck your foundation over time.

Though this method of foundation construction is referred to as the “clay bowl,” the soil does not have to be comprised of mostly clay for it to affect your home. Any loose soil will demonstrate this effect on your home’s foundation, regardless of its composition.

  • Settling Foundation

The looser soil around your foundation may also wash out completely, taking additional support along with it. Once the water sitting underneath washes away or evaporates, the foundation will settle, resulting in shifting or cracking.

Your foundation may also settle over time. It is just natural for foundations even made from concrete to wear down over the years. You may still be able to salvage it if you manage to call for an expert’s help in time.

  • Shoddy Workmanship 

The most likely explanation as to why your foundation has defects is rushed construction by the contractors who built your house. This is not always the case, but if your house is relatively new and you are already experiencing these problems, it is likely due to shoddy workmanship.

Common Causes of Foundation Problems

How to Amend Construction Defects

Construction defects within your foundation can cause plenty of damage to other areas in your home. Knowing that it may be the fault of a lazy contractor can make it all the more frustrating when problems arise.

However, it is not recommended for any homeowner to try and repair these defects on their own. You run the risk of doing irreparable damage, especially if you are unfamiliar with their construction.

You need to hire a foundation expert to take a look at your foundation instead. They can assess what is causing your foundation to falter where it once stood tall. They can also offer you plenty of solutions to ensure that your foundation remains perfectly level and will not crack.

Construction Defects FAQs

Any leak or crack that goes completely through a concrete basement wall can contribute to flooding, no matter what size it is. However, there are a few things to remember about cracks in your foundation walls so that you can manage these cracks as effectively as possible.

  • Shrinkage Cracks

The only type of crack that you might not need to manage is a shrinkage crack. This type of crack only appears on the surface of a concrete slab and it happens because the concrete shrinks very slightly as it dries.

You can typically tell shrinkage cracks apart from others because they’re extremely tiny, nearly invisible, and also very shallow. However, if you’re worried, you can always talk to an expert.

  • Hairline Cracks

One type of crack that probably won’t cause structural damage is a hairline crack. A hairline crack typically measures less than 1/8 of an inch. They may allow small trickles or leaks to enter your home, but they won’t cause any real damage.

Even though this is a type of crack that you might be able to ignore, you probably shouldn’t. Ideally, you should call in an expert for any type of concrete cracking, regardless of how large it is.

  • Larger Cracks

Cracks that are larger than 3/8 of an inch need to be fixed as soon as possible, especially if they run from your basement floor up to your walls. This presents a major threat to not just your foundation, but your home as a whole.

Any cracks in your concrete that are large enough that you can easily notice them can become a problem quickly. Catching these cracks early on can help you avoid worsening problems.

Though a specific type of defect might be due in part to a contractor’s negligence, you definitely shouldn’t assume that all of your construction defects happened because the initial construction wasn’t effective. Here are a few things to think about before you assume that these construction defects happened because of the building crew.

  •  Other Reasons for Defects

Mother nature can play a huge part in the deterioration of your foundation’s structure. It won’t help if your home is located in an area that gets heavier rainfall or humidity than other parts of the nation. Poor soil in the area can also cause serious issues.

If you want to make sure that your foundation is as structurally sound as possible, you need to consider all potential reasons for defects. Calling in an expert to do an inspection can help you understand where your foundation is most likely to fail.

  • Water Damage Overall

Some water damage to your foundation over the years is unavoidable. This doesn’t mean you can’t prevent it, though. If you’re prepared, you can almost certainly avoid water damage to your home in the long term.

Seeking the help of foundation experts will increase your foundation’s longevity and effectiveness in blocking moisture out. They will also easily repair any other issues cracked or uneven concrete may cause as well.

Many homeowners who are good at DIY consider the possibility of repairing their foundation themselves. Repairing your foundation may certainly sound like a great option, especially because DIY fixes often cost less and are less invasive. However, when it comes to your foundation, a DIY fix may just exacerbate the problem.

  • Issues with DIY Fixes

The biggest problem with a DIY fix is that it’s not usually going to address the real problems with your foundation. A home’s foundation typically isn’t something most homeowners have the tools to repair on their own.

If you try to fix your foundation on your own, you may only worsen your existing problems. This can quickly spiral out of control and you may find that you end up with foundation problems that are more expensive and difficult to fix than the original problems.

  • Reasons to Get Help from an Expert

It’s best to leave foundation repair and its overarching damage to the professionals. They have the right tools for the job. They’ll also know how to quickly identify problem signs you might have missed and provide the best solution for your home.

The best solutions for foundation repair problems, regardless of what those problems are, will always come from an expert. You should talk to a Groundworks foundation repair expert to learn more about your options and decide on the right path forward.

Hire a Foundation Expert to Rectify Any Defects in Your Foundation

You might be upset upon discovering your foundation was constructed poorly. The foundation of your home is supposed to keep your home sturdy and upright, not lean or constantly flood during storms. Just know that construction defects are not always the fault of contractors. Heavy moisture or age can play a factor in defects as well.

Hiring a foundation expert to repair any defects you find is the best solution. Contact a Groundworks expert today to learn more about what is going wrong in your home and how you can fix the problem for good.

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