Foundation problem vs Settling

Posted Mar 31, 2021 in Foundation Crack Repair, Waterproofing

Foundation settling

Your home is your num­ber one most valu­able invest­ment – so it makes sense that main­tain­ing your home’s struc­tur­al integri­ty is a high pri­or­i­ty. When the struc­tur­al integri­ty of a house has been com­pro­mised, a vari­ety of unpleas­ant prob­lems can occur. But how can you tell the dif­fer­ence between nor­mal wear and a prob­lem that needs imme­di­ate attention?

Your home’s foun­da­tion is, well, the foun­da­tion of your home’s over­all struc­tur­al integri­ty. Foun­da­tions are gen­er­al­ly con­struct­ed of con­crete poured over steel; as time pass­es and the ele­ments take their toll on the home, all con­crete will crack to some degree. (As we like to say, con­crete is made to do two things: hard­en and crack.) The steel rein­force­ment is in place to hold the foun­da­tion togeth­er when it cracks – and this is expect­ed, to some extent.

What is settling?

Set­tling is a term used to describe the nat­ur­al changes that will take place in a foun­da­tion due to time and weath­er. Over time, a new home will very grad­u­al­ly sink down fur­ther into the ground. Con­trac­tors take the cli­mate and soil into account when over­see­ing a home’s con­struc­tion, and they know to expect a bit of set­tling as time passes.

Even brand-new homes are in grave dan­ger; some of the worst dam­age we’ve seen has been on homes less than 5 years old. Dam­age can be caused by improp­er soil prepa­ra­tion when the home is built, or by extreme weath­er con­di­tions. For exam­ple, a home is built in the mid­dle of a rainy fall sea­son after a rel­a­tive­ly wet sum­mer; the expan­sive clay soil is as swollen as it can get. Over the next 3 years, the house expe­ri­ences nor­mal set­tle­ment; but when an extreme drought hits in year 4, the clay retracts and the house plum­mets 5 inch­es in the space of just a few months.

The biggest con­trib­u­tor to set­tling is soil expan­sion and con­trac­tion. As the soil los­es or gains mois­ture and is exposed to the ele­ments, it shifts beneath the weight of the struc­ture. Even though a bit of soil expan­sion is to be expect­ed, this nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring set­tle­ment of the foun­da­tion can lead to problems.

Foundation Problems

How to dis­tin­guish foun­da­tion prob­lems from settling

In order to diag­nose a true foun­da­tion prob­lem, you’ll need to look for more warn­ing signs than just vis­i­ble cracks in your foun­da­tion. Vis­i­ble cracks in the foun­da­tion can be the first sign of a prob­lem, but they can also be a sign of non-threat­en­ing set­tle­ment. A real foun­da­tion prob­lem will have a com­bi­na­tion of oth­er signs, some of which we’ve list­ed below. Old hous­es might be charm­ing, but advanced foun­da­tion prob­lems def­i­nite­ly are not.

Cracks in Walls: 

This is one of the pri­ma­ry indi­ca­tors that your foun­da­tion has been com­pro­mised. A jagged crack run­ning off at a forty-five-degree angle is a sure sign that your foun­da­tion is seri­ous­ly shift­ing and has result­ed in actu­al­ly tear­ing the sheetrock apart.

Stick­ing Doors or Windows: 

Inspect all of your doors and win­dows. If you have doors or win­dows that con­sis­tent­ly stick for no appar­ent rea­son, these can be a sign of your foun­da­tion shift­ing. This hap­pens because the door or win­dow frame twists out of bal­ance as the foun­da­tion moves.

Look Up:

You might assume that any foun­da­tion issues would be most obvi­ous near the ground – but the oppo­site is actu­al­ly true. When a foun­da­tion has been com­pro­mised, the most obvi­ous signs of dam­age will be near the top of your house rather than the bot­tom. Care­ful­ly inspect the top sto­ry of your home from the out­side using a lad­der. Look for cracks that appear above win­dow frames – this is the most com­mon­place for dam­age to become vis­i­ble. If you have a brick home, look for a stair-step­ping crack in the veneer of the brick.

Down Below:

Of course, dam­age can be vis­i­ble with­in the foun­da­tion itself as well. Look for hor­i­zon­tal cracks in the actu­al foun­da­tion. A hor­i­zon­tal crack is a sign of hydro­sta­t­ic pres­sure, or too much water pres­sure build­ing up behind the foundation.

Next Steps:

If you have found only hair­line cracks that are local­ized to the vis­i­ble foun­da­tion, mark the crack and take note of its size so that you can mon­i­tor whether or not it gets big­ger over time. If you have found cracks along with some of the oth­er inte­ri­or signs of a foun­da­tion prob­lem, con­tact the experts at Fam­i­ly Water­proof­ing Solu­tions and we’ll help you cor­rect the prob­lem before it gets worse.

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