Foundation Repair: Problem Signs You Need to Notice
There are a variety of problem signs that may clue you in to the fact that your home needs foundation repair. Most people won’t notice foundation concerns the moment they pop up and will instead find out about them through secondary problem signs and symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to know what these problem signs are.
If you’re well educated about the problem signs that typically go along with foundation repair, you stand a much higher chance of discovering your foundation problems when they first start. Here’s everything you need to know about common foundation problems, their underlying causes, and how you can catch them early.
Most Common Foundation Problem Signs
There are many common foundation problem signs. Although foundation concerns can manifest in different ways, these are some of the most common manifestations of these problems.
Nail pops occur when a nail head pushes too close to the edge of the drywall and comes through, resulting in a crack where the nail head sits. This often occurs because of foundation settlement, which causes the nail head to move closer to the drywall because of the movement of the foundation.
When one side of the foundation starts to sink, it will often create uneven weight distribution across the entire home. This can turn into a gap between the wall and the floor. Specifically, one side of the floor might be higher than the other, which can lift the walls and create a gap between the two.
There are multiple potential reasons for uneven floors, and none of them are good. Foundation problems can cause uneven floors, especially if one side of your foundation sinks substantially more than the other side – otherwise known as differential settlement. However, unsteady floor joists can also cause uneven floors in individual rooms. This can occur due to foundation concerns, lack of support, or infestations like wood rot.
If you’ve noticed cracks throughout your drywall, especially if they’re extending from the corners of doors and windows, they are probably coming from specific foundation concerns. When the foundation shifts in such a way that the weight no longer distributes evenly, it can cause one side of the wall to bear more weight, leading to the drywall cracking along stress lines.
Flooding can cause serious damage throughout your home, especially across your foundation. Although you’re probably thinking mostly about water damage when you think about floods, it’s important to remember the soil around the flooded area as well. If the water swept away any of the soil under or around the foundation, you could have sinking and shifting problems.
It’s common for the chimney to have a different foundation than the rest of the house. That means the chimney and home foundations can settle in different ways, or one can settle while the other doesn’t. If that happens, the chimney will often have cracks that separate it from the rest of the home.
When your foundation starts to settle into the ground, you may have a sinking foundation. Typically, experts use this term to describe what happens when the foundation starts to move down into the ground too far. It’s common for a sinking foundation not to have enough support underneath it, causing the foundation to have structural problems.
A little bit of settling in your foundation can be normal, especially in the first few years. However, eventually, the foundation is supposed to find its perfect space. If it continues to settle past that, you could have a variety of problems.
When one side of a door or window frame sinks farther than the other, you could end up with “sticking” on your doors and windows. This problem can also occur if the frame becomes warped due to waterlogging. Regardless of the reason for it, “sticking” doors and windows typically indicate an overarching problem.
- Vertical Basement Cracks
If a basement wall has vertical cracks, that typically means there’s pressure from soil shifting underneath the basement. These cracks can also go along with stair-step cracks because the wall often cracks along the path of least resistance. This path will vary depending on the wall structure and pressure.
When you go into the basement, you should see straight walls. If the walls appear as though they’re bending inward, that’s a very serious problem. Because basement walls form the structure of your home’s foundation, caving in can lead to a lack of structure for your whole home.
- Horizontal Basement Cracks
These horizontal cracks can indicate that water and soil are pushing in from the outside of the basement walls. Most commonly, they occur after you’ve started to see bowed basement walls and haven’t done anything for some time. This is an indication of severe foundation problems and it’s important to talk to an expert as soon as possible.
Bricks also crack across the path of least resistance, which is typically where you’ll get the stair-step pattern of cracked bricks. It’s common for cracked bricks to occur when one side of the foundation has settled and the other side has remained steady, as the weight difference pulls apart the brick walls.
Among the different types of foundations are block foundations. These foundations have different problems than many other foundation types, especially because they often develop stair-step cracks. These cracks typically indicate too much weight on one side of the foundation.
- Concrete Cracks
Concrete can crack anywhere in and around your home. Even if you see concrete cracks in a structure outside your home, like the driveway, it could indicate a problem with your home’s foundation or the soil on the property as a whole.
Why Do These Foundation Problems Occur?
So, what causes foundation problems like this? Most of the time, one of these elements is the direct reason for the concerns:
When soil absorbs water, it expands. Therefore, when a flood comes around, that water sinks into the soil and causes it to significantly expand. Plus, the water from the flood exerts a lot of pressure, causing issues underground. Floods can generally create serious concerns with the soil and the area around your foundation.
The opposite of flooding is evaporation; once the soil has expanded because of moisture, the hot sun causes water to move out of the soil, making it shrink. This shrinking can cause your foundation not to have enough support anymore. Plus, the back and forth of the shrinking and expanding can cause foundation settling.
- Poor Soil Preparation
Before a construction crew can lay down a foundation, they need to prepare the soil. The process of soil preparation is an important one, but there are a lot of ways a crew could cut corners and not prepare things well enough. Poor soil preparation sets your foundation up for failure before the crew has even poured it.
- Large Trees Near Your Foundation
It might not be something you think much about, but that beautiful oak tree next to your home could have an impact on your foundation’s health. Trees can suck the moisture from the ground, shrinking the soil due to the removal of moisture, and tree roots are so strong that they can disrupt the concrete.
Different types of soil grow different amounts when you expose them to large quantities of water. Expansive soils grow much more than other types of soil. That includes all sorts of soils that have clay minerals. Certain types of clay can expand up to 15 times their volume when dry, creating a truly dangerous situation around your foundation.
- Consolidating Soil
The opposite of expansive soil is consolidating soil. Where an expansive soil significantly expands when water touches it, a consolidating soil significantly constricts when the water evaporates. Clay is both expansive and consolidating, which can cause a push-and-pull problem where the foundation continuously has too much pressure and then not enough support.
FAQs About Foundation Repair Problem Signs
Although the list of potential foundation problems here is certainly an extensive one, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a complete one. It also doesn’t mean that every foundation with problems will have all of them. Here’s what you need to know about these problem signs.
- Foundations with Seemingly Few Problems
If your foundation only checks one or two of the problem signs on this list, you might wonder whether your foundation has an underlying concern. After all, is it as serious as it might seem? It’s just as important to pay attention to your foundation when you only have a few problems.
Just because you have fewer problems doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not dealing with concerns. Even just seeing issues with something like sticking doors and windows can be indicative of a root issue. When you notice just about any foundation concerns, the underlying cause may be very serious, which is why you need to address them all.
- Other Problem Signs
What about if you’re noticing issues with your foundation that you don’t see here? There are all sorts of foundation problems out there. Just because it’s not on this list, doesn’t make it okay to ignore. Depending on when your home was built, the soil underneath it, the weather you encounter, and any add-ons that have been made to your home, you may run into even more unique warning signs.
If you’ve inspected your foundation and you feel like there might be a problem, you should go with your gut. This is true even if the problem doesn’t fall into one of these warning signs. Scheduling a foundation expert to come out and take a look is a much better choice. It could end up saving your foundation.
Most experts will advise you to handle your foundation repair problems as soon as you notice the potential problem signs. However, if you’re looking to save money, you may consider handling foundation repair later on. Here’s what might happen in both situations.
- Waiting for More Information
There are a few foundation warning signs, such as nail pops, that don’t inherently indicate a foundation problem. In small doses, they might just be an indication that there’s a local concern, such as a construction problem where nails didn’t get hammered in appropriately. These tend to indicate a foundation problem if they’re widespread.
In very few cases, waiting for more information can be beneficial because there might not be a problem. However, if you misjudge the case, you could end up having serious issues down the line. It’s typically safer just to handle even aesthetic problems early; the worst that could happen is you learn that there’s not a concern.
- Acting More Quickly
In almost every case, it’s better to act quickly and request help from a foundation repair expert as early as possible. Even if you’re wrong, the only thing that will happen is an expert will come in, assess the potential damage, and let you know that everything is okay.
It’s always better to err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to something this important. You may also have an expert check out your unique situation and point out a collection of small warning signs that seemed minor or disconnected. This allows you to get small problems solved in one visit and ensure the home remains stable and safe for the future.
Of course, prevention is better than a cure. Luckily, you can not only have professional systems installed to safeguard your home from future damage; you can also use small daily measures to keep your foundation and your home’s overall structure prepared for the worse.
- Taking Steps Toward Avoiding Foundation Problems
For example, you can commit to yearly assessments that can help you catch problems while they’re still in their infancy. When you check for foundation problems every year, you’re more likely to have an expert notice them as early as possible. This can ensure that small-scale repairs are done regularly, costing only a minor amount, instead of needing a several-hundred-thousand-dollar replacement once every five to 10 years.
You can also maintain the area around your home’s foundation, invest in basement waterproofing, and do inspections to note foundation issues early. These measures will all be more beneficial for your foundation. When you contact a foundation expert, they can also typically give you ways to avoid foundation problems in the future.
- Unavoidable Causes of Potential Foundation Problems
Of course, if it were possible to avoid foundation problems completely, these methods would probably be more widespread. There are some things that you won’t be able to avoid. The best way to ensure that these unavoidable causes don’t turn into extremely serious concerns is to tackle them as soon as they show up.
For example, some amount of soil erosion is almost always going to be a problem. However, if you invest in polyurethane foam injections when you first start noticing an uneven sidewalk, you’ll manage them more easily. This is the best way to avoid long-term foundation concerns in your home.
Getting an expert to help you with your foundation problems is a crucial element of actually fixing them. However, many people are loath to get an expert’s help for their foundation problems. Could you just DIY your foundation fixes and still end up with a fix?
- The Dangers of DIY
Many issues can arise with DIY foundation fixes. For the most part, this problem arises with the fact that it’s just not possible to fix many foundational issues on your own. The foundation of your home is the most important part of it. Any weakening, cracks, or sinking in the foundation can impact the entirety of the home.
A DIY fix won’t repair this kind of serious damage for good. More often than not, a DIY “fix” will just repair the surface of the problem and not getting down to the underlying causes. That makes it more of a bandage that can harm the home at the end of the day. It’s not a good option, especially long-term.
- The Benefits of Expert Fixes
An expert knows what they’re doing and can fix your foundation for good. That makes it a much better option than just applying a bandage over the worst problems you’re seeing. When you trust an expert to fix your home, you’re ensuring that your home is not only repaired of any damage, but safeguarded for the future.
Instead of trying a DIY fix, rely on the experts at Groundworks to help you fix your foundation problems permanently. An expert’s help will be extremely beneficial in discovering what’s wrong and fixing it. You can schedule an appointment today to find out what might be wrong and how you can address it.
You Should Always Go with a Pro the First Time
Remember, these problem signs all signify potential issues with your foundation. The foundation is one of the most important elements of your home’s health. If you’re going to repair foundation problems, you need to make sure the fix is all-encompassing and effective.
This is exactly why a foundation repair expert in your area is your best option for these problems. When you’re having foundation problems, regardless of how significant those problems are, it’s a good idea to schedule a free inspection with these professionals. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to the safety and stability of your home’s foundation.