Foundation settlement guide

Posted Mar 31, 2021 in Foundation Crack Repair, Waterproofing, Bowing Walls

Cracked Brick

No mat­ter how beau­ti­ful your home may be, it will only ever be as strong as its foun­da­tion and foot­ings below. There are a num­ber of issues that may occur with foun­da­tions, from water seep­ing in through cracks to walls bow­ing or crum­bling. One of the more severe issues that could have detri­men­tal effects on your home is a set­tle­ment issue, oth­er­wise known as sinking.

Is your house settling?

What caus­es set­tle­ment? Foun­da­tions are placed on wider plat­forms below them called foot­ings. When the foot­ings break due to insuf­fi­cient sup­port, you get set­tle­ment. We’re not talk­ing about a sud­den sink­hole that will swal­low up your entire house — although tech­ni­cal­ly, this could hap­pen (let’s hope not!). Rather, set­tle­ment of a home may take place over the course of sev­er­al years, and the long-term effects can leave you scram­bling to save your home and invest­ment. Don’t let this hap­pen to you. Here are six ways to diag­nose foun­da­tion set­tle­ment, so you can get it fixed before it caus­es a major problem.

Mortar joints

Slant­ed mor­tar joints

The best and eas­i­est way to spot foun­da­tion set­tle­ment is to mea­sure off of mor­tar joints. If you watch a mason work, you’ll notice they are con­stant­ly using a lev­el. They are very par­tic­u­lar about their brick or block­work, and so you can count on their fin­ished prod­uct hav­ing straight lev­el lines.

Foun­da­tion spe­cial­ists will gen­er­al­ly check against any mor­tar joints using a laser line. If some­thing is out of place, it is safe to assume there has been some shift­ing below.

Visible cracks 300x225

Vis­i­ble cracks

Vis­i­ble cracks on the inte­ri­or or exte­ri­or of the home are also clear signs. If you have brick­work on your home, look for stair-step­ping cracks, or long hor­i­zon­tal cracks. Any ver­ti­cal crack­ing which seems to be get­ting wider also indi­cates that the wall is rotat­ing, which can point to a foun­da­tion issue.

Check for signs of crack­ing on the inside of the home as well, such as in the dry­wall, plas­ter, or even wood pan­el­ing in some cas­es. Also, keep an eye out for any cracks which may appear in your con­crete slab or base­ment floor. Keep in mind, any cracks in the slab may also be due to shrink­age or heav­ing of the con­crete (a slight­ly dif­fer­ent story).


Sus­pi­cious patch­es and repairs

Did you buy your home from a pre­vi­ous own­er? If so, look for any evi­dence of past repairs. As men­tioned above, set­tle­ment issues may lead to cracks in the walls. If you’re able to spot any signs of repair work to patch a crack, it could mean the own­ers before you were cov­er­ing up the evi­dence of settlement.

Window sill

Sticky doors and windows

Hav­ing trou­ble oper­at­ing your win­dows or doors? If your home is set­tling on one side, tip­ping your house up on an angle, you’ll find your win­dows and doors will tend to get stuck as they are no longer square and lev­el. Sim­i­lar to repair work hav­ing been done to patch any cracks, look for signs of latch­es or frame­work hav­ing been replaced or moved.

Uneven floors

Uneven floors

Slant­ed floors can also be an indi­ca­tor of set­tling. This can be checked using tape mea­sures, laser lines, and lev­els. Be sure the floors are checked in sev­er­al loca­tions, from along the walls in the inte­ri­or, to the mid­dle sec­tions, and then on to the exte­ri­or walls. This method is not always a sure sign of set­tling, as it may also be caused by sag­ging beams or joists. Either way, you will have an issue worth address­ing soon­er than later.


Unsta­ble chimney

Last­ly, if your home has a chim­ney that shows signs of crack­ing or lean­ing, this could also indi­cate set­tling. In some cas­es, the chim­ney is not actu­al­ly shar­ing a foun­da­tion or foot­ing with the house itself. It could be just the chim­ney foun­da­tion or slab is sink­ing and there is no imme­di­ate effect on the home. How­ev­er, in most cas­es, the chim­ney is installed at the same time as the house is built, and so there is a good chance they are shar­ing the same soil under­neath their foot­ings. When you repair the chim­ney, it’s worth tak­ing a look at the con­di­tion of the home’s foun­da­tion as well.

Should you see any of the above signs of set­tling, don’t always jump to con­clu­sions. It’s rec­om­mend­ed you look for a com­bi­na­tion of signs. If still uncer­tain, seek the opin­ion of your friends at Fam­i­ly Water­proof­ing Solu­tions; The top foun­da­tion and water­proof­ing com­pa­ny proud­ly ser­vic­ing the Indi­ana and Illi­nois areas. Once your foun­da­tion is secure and sol­id, you can safe­ly ren­o­vate oth­er parts of your home and keep your invest­ment in good shape.

What our customers say

  • You and your crew did a great job in our base­ment and crawl­space. You went the extra mile to insure that all of our water seep­age prob­lems are over. We would rec­om­mend you high­ly to oth­er peo­ple. Your qual­i­ty and time­ly work out­match­es all the others.

  • We con­tract­ed Fam­i­ly Water­proof­ing Solu­tions for exte­ri­or wall seal­ing and foun­da­tion crack repair ser­vices. Ken was very thor­ough in explain­ing the work that would be done, and his crew did a great job. This busi­ness was a plea­sure to work with.

    Stacie T.
  • Work­man­ship and ser­vice were excel­lent. Would rec­om­mend with­out reservation.