Cracked walls, bulging floors, and doors that won’t close are some of the signs of foundation issues. The sooner you pinpoint these foundation problems, the easier and less costly the solution will be.
Here are a few examples of any of the early warning signs of foundation problems. Click on each picture for an enlarged view.
Here are 8 common warning signs of foundation issues:
1. Sagging floor structure
Are the floors in your home sloping or conspicuously uneven? If yes, you may have a serious foundation problem. Often, sagging or uneven floors are accompanied by other foundation problems. For example, jammed doors and cracks in the drywall.
Here are some telltale signs that your sagging floors are a sign of a foundation problem:
- Floor cracks
- Interior doors jamming
- A floor that sags towards the center of the house
- Sinking or heaving concrete slabs
Sagging floors can be unsightly. They can also be dangerous. As such, have your foundation fixed as soon as possible to avoid hazards.
2. Gaps around doors or window frames
Gaps around the exterior doors and window frames could be potential signs of foundation problems. Luckily, gaps are easily identifiable.
Double doors, for example, don’t align as they should. This misalignment makes them particularly difficult to close. What’s more, doorframes may become crooked. When this happens, they impair all types of doors from operating normally.
Seek professional help as soon as you notice this problem.
3. Tilting chimney
A tilting chimney isn’t an optical illusion. It’s a serious foundation problem that should be dealt with as soon as possible. These tilting chimneys are a very common problem in residential construction.
Common signs of a tilting chimney:
- A noticeable lean or bow in the chimney
- A gap developing between the house and chimney, usually larger at the top than the bottom
Usually, chimneys are built on a separate foundation away from the main structure. There are many reasons why a chimney may tilt. Most obvious ones include:
- Poor drainage/water management
- Poor or unsuitable soils to handle a concentrated load
- Shallow footings
- Uncompacted fill material
To remedy a tilting chimney, foundation experts usually use a helical or resistance pier. This helps transfer the weight of the chimney deeper into the earth to provide the necessary support.
4. Sinking or settling foundation
Common symptoms of foundation sinking or settlement include:
- Leaning or bowing walls
- Gaps developing around exterior doors and windows
- Cracks in your exterior
If your house has any of these signs, have it checked by a professional. A sinking or settling foundation can cause severe structural damage to your home. A foundation can sink or settle due to various reasons. For instance, ground movement, bad drainage, or poor construction.
Foundation sinking or settling can also be caused by uneven soil beneath the structure. Soil is arranged in a sequence of layers. This means that anything placed on it will settle according to its stratified layers. Most structures that sink or settle are usually built on uneven ground.
In most cases, gaps resulting from foundation settlement are vertical. Keep this in mind when inspecting your foundation. This is because, aside from your home’s foundation trouble getting worse, extensive settling could also cause many safety issues. As such, contact a foundation repair professional as soon as you notice foundation settling or sinking.
5. Cracks in foundation, wall, or floor
Not all foundation cracks are created equal. Some can be pretty normal, but others can signal a foundation problem. If you’ve noticed the brick exterior of your house or your foundation has gaps, it could signal trouble.
Moreover, a broken chimney, wall fissures and floor cracks can also signal a foundation problem. With time, your home’s foundation could move. When that happens, the cracks on the exterior could turn out to be a very serious issue.
Typically, unstable soil causes the foundation problem. In some cases, it could be as a result of inclement weather conditions.
Normally, wall and foundation cracks measure 5-15mm in length. Anything above 15mm is serious. Fractures can either be angular or horizontal. If horizontal, it most likely means that your foundation is being impacted by an excessive amount of water.
If angular, it could mean that the cracks are being caused by a brick that’s in contact with a slab foundation. In most cases, these cracks tend to be around 10”-15” long. When brick expands, the edges of the brick are forced outward.
While it’s typical for a foundation to sink and develop tiny cracks within the first couple of years (two to three years), horizontal cracks in concrete block walls or in brick exteriors could signal a serious foundation problem. A gap of even ¼” thickness should be worrying.
When examining these gaps, it’s important to check whether they are horizontal or vertical. Generally, vertical cracks aren’t a sign of serious trouble since dry walls run in the same direction. But if you notice cracks that are positioned at a 45-degree angle that could mean severe foundation movement has occurred.
Besides, fissures that appear near the corner of exteriors and run up and down could signal a serious foundation problem. These fissures are generally known as stair-step cracks.
6. Foundation Upheaval
Common symptoms of foundation upheaval include:
- Doors and windows that bind
- Uneven surfaces
- Bowed Walls
- Large cracks in the floor
Foundation upheaval can lift an entire structure, but more often it forces parts of a foundation or slab upwards, creating cracks and uneven floors. Foundation settlement and foundation upheaval are two different foundation problems.
Unlike foundation settling, foundation upheaval is a very serious structural issue. It may look similar to settlement, but it’s a much more serious problem. The most common cause of foundation upheaval is too much moisture in the soil.
Causes of foundation upheaval include:
- High levels of precipitation that lead to flooding
- Stagnant water near a home’s foundation
- Plumbing leaks in your crawl space
- Expanding and contracting soil
To remedy a foundation upheaval, you need to know the cause. If the exact cause isn’t identified, the problem could re-occur later. In most cases, foundation experts often inject a chemical solution in the soil underneath your home.
Potassium ions and ammonium salts make up the chemical solution. Other solutions include underpinning to extend the foundation or digging tunnels to allow better drainage.
7. Stuck windows and doors
Stuck, hard-to-open doors and windows can be a pain to live with. They could signal foundation damage. Telltale signs of stuck windows and/or doors include:
- Doors don’t open or close properly
- Cracks forming in windows
- Door and window openings are out of square
- Floors are uneven or dip and sag
- Diagonal cracks that start at top corners of windows and door openings
- Windows need extra force to open or close
Needless to say, windows and doors are important parts of a house. They provide security, ventilation, and aesthetic appeal to our homes. When not functioning as they should, it means something has to be done quickly.
Unlike most foundation problems, stuck windows and doors tend to fall into the less noticeable category. In some cases, windows and doors that stick don’t have anything to do with your foundation. It only becomes so when the problem becomes constant.
Why do windows stick? Windows stick for many different reasons. Some of the common reasons include expansion from high humidity, worn hinges and hardware, loose hinge, and warping wood. But if the sticking persists, then the problem could be because of a foundation problem.
Why do doors stick? Doors often stick for the same reasons that windows do. In many cases, humidity or wood that’s warping is often the problem. Start with the simplest solutions. Replace the hinges or hardware. Sand some of the width or height. But if the problem doesn’t go away even after doing that, you may be looking at a foundation problem.
Other causes of stuck doors and windows include:
- The roots may absorb water in the soil around the foundation causing it to dry out and shrink. This is especially common in dry periods.
- Poorly compacted soil.
- Soil shrinkage. During extremely dry, drought-like conditions, the soil loses moisture and shrinks.
- Besides hydrostatic pressure, erosion also causes excess moisture in the ground.
8. Bowing Walls
Water pressure is one of the most common causes for bowing walls. Bowing walls make your home very unsafe and could allow water to seep into the basement. Common signs of bowing walls include:
- Uneven door frames
- Furniture or cabinet not sitting flush with a wall
- Pictures not hanging on a wall correctly
Both steel and carbon fiber can repair bowing walls that have resulted from a foundation problem.
A home’s foundation is as essential as it sounds. As such, constant inspection is necessary. If you notice more than a few of these signs of foundation problems, get in touch with a qualified repair specialist as soon as possible. If you’re in need of a Dallas foundation repair company call 214-865-8609.