Signs of foundation problems

Posted Mar 31, 2021 in Foundation Crack Repair, Waterproofing, Window Wells and Covers, Sump Pump Solutions, Bowing Walls, Crawlspace Encapsulation, Drain Tile System

Home exterior

Home­own­ers often won­der how to iden­ti­fy the dif­fer­ent signs of foun­da­tion prob­lems. It’s def­i­nite­ly a good ques­tion to ask. Here’s why – the longer you wait to treat vis­i­ble signs of dam­age, the more severe the dam­age can become. Left untreat­ed, minor cracks and leaks can turn into seri­ous struc­tur­al issues that com­pro­mise the val­ue and over­all health of your home.

Your home’s struc­tur­al integri­ty depends on the strength of your foun­da­tion. It sup­ports every­thing else – walls, win­dows, floors, door­ways, roof – so when your foun­da­tion is dam­aged, it can cause seri­ous prob­lems through­out your home.

Like most things in life, your foun­da­tion is sub­ject to envi­ron­men­tal stress. Expand­ing and con­tract­ing soil, exces­sive mois­ture and inad­e­quate drainage are some of the most com­mon threats to your home’s foun­da­tion. Over time, envi­ron­men­tal stress can cause the foun­da­tion to shift, crack or set­tle uneven­ly. And home­own­ers can often miss the ear­ly warn­ing signs of foun­da­tion damage.

Foun­da­tion prob­lems can cre­ate sev­er­al issues through­out the home regard­less of the foun­da­tion type. This includes slab on grade foun­da­tions, base­ments and crawl­space homes like pier and beam foun­da­tions or block and base builds.

For­tu­nate­ly, most of these prob­lems are rarely invis­i­ble, but signs of foun­da­tion prob­lems need to be rec­og­nized as ear­ly as pos­si­ble to cor­rect (and some­times even pre­vent) prob­lems quickly.

Detect­ing warn­ing signs ear­ly is key

Usu­al­ly, the signs are obvi­ous – cracks in plas­ter walls, a base­ment wall crack that extends from floor to ceil­ing, doors that stick, sag­ging floors, pool­ing water near a slab foun­da­tion, or a wet crawl­space after pre­cip­i­ta­tion falls.

Some signs are less sub­tle, for exam­ple, strange smells com­ing from the base­ment or uncom­fort­able indoor humid­i­ty can sig­nal struc­tur­al prob­lems. How­ev­er, some­times signs of foun­da­tion prob­lems are not imme­di­ate­ly asso­ci­at­ed with foun­da­tion dam­age and go unno­ticed by the untrained eye.

Most foun­da­tion issues begin with the soil under and sur­round­ing the home. Every build­ing foun­da­tion is affect­ed by the soil under­neath and around it. Expan­sive soils con­tain min­er­als that absorb water. As the soil absorbs water, it increas­es in vol­ume. The more water it absorbs the more its vol­ume increases.

The process works like a sponge, the soil expands when wet and shrinks when it’s dry. Expan­sions of ten per­cent or more are not uncom­mon. This change in vol­ume can exert enough force on a build­ing or oth­er struc­ture to cause seri­ous dam­age. As signs of foun­da­tion prob­lems begin to man­i­fest they can often be found in all rooms of the home.

For base­ment and crawl space homes, poor drainage and hydro­sta­t­ic pres­sure is often the #1 cul­prit. As pres­sure builds beneath the sur­face around the base­ment or crawl­space, force is excret­ed on walls that lead to cracked and/​or bow­ing walls. These areas leave the base­ment vul­ner­a­ble to intru­sive sub­sur­face water and invite leaks and water prob­lems. Over time a damp base­ment will become humid and uncom­fort­able, invit­ing mold and aller­gens into the home.

How to iden­ti­fy the issue

To iden­ti­fy foun­da­tion prob­lems, start in the base­ment or crawl space. Is there a musty odor? A leak­ing base­ment or crawl space can reveal foun­da­tion cracks and a musty base­ment smell or crawl space odor is a red flag. Excess mois­ture invites insects to enter, and insects in base­ments or crawl­spaces often point to foun­da­tion issues.

Inspect each room of the house. Care­ful­ly look at the walls, in par­tic­u­lar where the wall meets the ceil­ing. House or slab foun­da­tion prob­lems can cause walls to sep­a­rate from the ceil­ing. Oth­er warn­ing signs include cracks splin­ter­ing up the walls, any wall that is bow­ing out­ward or mold­ing, and base­boards that are sep­a­rat­ing from their mitered corners.

Sim­ply put, the move­ment and shift­ing of the soil under­neath your home is often the root of foun­da­tion prob­lems. Signs and symp­toms of these prob­lems include:

Basement/​crawl space moisture:

A wet, leak­ing base­ment or crawl space mois­ture can con­tribute to sev­er­al home issues includ­ing musty smells, mold growth and sag­ging, uneven floors through­out the house. Water and mois­ture seep in through foun­da­tion cracks.

Bugs in the basement:

Bugs such as cen­tipedes, pill bugs, sil­ver­fish, ear­wigs, car­pen­ter ants, and roach­es are drawn to wet base­ments and often enter through cracks in the foundation.

Uneven and sag­ging floors:

Warped or sag­ging floor­ing can be relat­ed direct­ly to foun­da­tion prob­lems. Shift­ing soil, humid­i­ty from water seep­age and inad­e­quate foun­da­tion water­proof­ing can con­tribute to floor­ing issues.

Cracked and bowed walls:

Cracks and bow­ing in walls can be fixed. How­ev­er, there is often an under­ly­ing issue – soil move­ment under the foun­da­tion, hydro­sta­t­ic pres­sure, and poor water drainage are three com­mon culprits.

Crooked doors:

When a foun­da­tion set­tles, cracks or shifts, prob­lems such as crooked doors devel­op in the house. Like floor­ing and wall issues, crooked doors may occur because of mois­ture issues in the base­ment or crawl space.

Cracked chim­ney:

Poor exte­ri­or drainage or expand­ing soil can cause foun­da­tions to crack and set­tle, result­ing in a tilt­ing or cracked chim­ney. Pil­ings can be installed to rein­force an unsta­ble chimney.

Stand­ing water under the house:

Rain­wa­ter must divert away from the house via gut­ters, prop­er­ly direct­ed down­spouts, and drainage sys­tems. Improp­er drainage often caus­es water to col­lect under the house, result­ing in foun­da­tion problems.

What caus­es foun­da­tion damage?

Often in the spring and sum­mer, out­door humid­i­ty lev­els rise and may be blamed for the swelling of the wood­work with­in the home. This includes win­dow frames, cab­i­netry, and doors. How­ev­er, cracks in the foun­da­tion also allow mois­ture and humid­i­ty into the home. The mois­ture from leaky base­ments or damp crawl spaces can cause the win­dows, doors, and cab­i­nets to not close or open correctly.

Foun­da­tion prob­lems also can cause tiles to crack and hard­wood floor­ing to buck­le and warp. Warped hard­wood floors, espe­cial­ly in a home set on a slab foun­da­tion, can be a sign that some­thing is wrong with the con­crete foundation.

In addi­tion to expan­sive soil, many homes’ foun­da­tions are adverse­ly affect­ed by the fol­low­ing problems:

Improp­er drainage:

The most com­mon sign of poor drainage is water pool­ing and form­ing swampy areas near a home’s foun­da­tion; anoth­er indi­ca­tion is a damp or leaky base­ment. Poor drainage can occur as a result of clogged or dam­aged gut­ters, or because the land sur­round­ing a home isn’t prop­er­ly grad­ed away from the structure.

Water leaks under the slab:

Slab foun­da­tions con­ceal sew­er lines and water pipes; when a leak devel­ops in hid­den line, it can cause the slab to dete­ri­o­rate. This type of prob­lem may cause moist areas in inte­ri­or floors, or home­own­ers may notice a sud­den spike in their water bills – but more often than not a slab leak will go unno­ticed. Leak iso­la­tion test­ing is the pre­ferred method for detect­ing slab leaks.

Tree root intrusions:

Large trees can cause foun­da­tion prob­lems as roots grow through the soil under­neath the home. The intrud­ing roots can exert sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure on under-slab water pipes and base­ment foun­da­tions. They can also leech mois­ture from the ground, caus­ing the soil to con­tract away from the home.

Any signs of foun­da­tion prob­lems you dis­cov­er in your home should be tak­en seri­ous­ly, pro­fes­sion­al­ly inspect­ed and repaired so that you can ensure the struc­tur­al integri­ty of your home. Con­tact us today to learn more about main­tain­ing a healthy foun­da­tion for your home.

What our customers say

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

  • 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.