For most people, a home is the most valuable asset they possess. So, it makes sense that maintaining your home’s structural integrity is a top priority. A house’s foundation is its most crucial structural element and has to be built right.
When a foundation is properly tailored to a house and its surroundings, it can last for generations. On the other hand, without a proper foundation, a variety of structural problems can plague your home, that could end up costing you loads of cash to fix.
A house’s foundation is made of concrete that is poured on steel. Over time, the concrete may begin cracking as a result of settling. Generally, buildings tend to settle over a period of time after construction. When this occurs, the settling exerts huge loads on rigidly connected elements of a building resulting in foundation settling or foundation problems.
Foundation Problems vs. Settling:
What is foundation settling?
Settling refers to your home “sinking into” its surroundings by lowering into the soil. Generally speaking, settling isn’t a problem. However, too much settling should be a cause for concern.
Foundation settling is caused by the soil beneath your home moving and shifting. This is why it’s important to have the soil type of the building area analyzed by contractors.
Soil can expand and contract depending on the levels of moisture. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, soil expansion affects the foundations of about 25% of all homes in America.
Foundation settling can cause many problems. For example, water intrusion, jammed windows and doors, cracking of masonry work, and many others. However, if the homeowner acts quickly, the resulting damage from foundation settling can be drastically reduced.
To do this, you’ll need to look for warning signs that your foundation is settling. Here are common signs that a foundation is settling:
- Water is seeping into the basement. Although this can occur even in a structurally sound foundation, seepage is almost always guaranteed to occur in a seriously damaged foundation.
- The foundation walls are no longer aligned with the framing of the aboveground structure.
- If the walls are of concrete blocks, they have bowed or bulged near the center, with cracks running through mortar joints.
- Cracks have appeared in poured concrete walls in the basement.
- The chimney has cracked, is tilted, or leaning off plumb.
- Stone, brick, or siding has pulled away from exterior doors and/or windows, leaving gaps.
- “Step cracks” have appeared in exterior brick or stonework.
- Window and door trims or fascia boards pull away from exterior walls.
- Inside doors won’t open or close easily and/or show gaps around the jamb, especially at the top.
- Interior trim or moldings pop off the walls or separate around doors or windows.
- Windows stick in position, open or shut, and are difficult to move.
What are foundation problems?
Foundation problems occur when foundation settling becomes extreme. Foundation issues, in most cases, lead to a compromise of the building affected.
Here are eight warning signs of foundation problems:
- Cabinets and counters separating from the wall. When cabinets, walls and other things cease to be level, it may be a sign of foundation problem. At first, it may seem that they’ve moved just a bit.
But before long, you may start to notice the gap between your cabinets and the wall expanding further.
- A damp crawl space in a pier and beam house. A damp crawl space can be a sign of foundation problems. Typically, when you have a wet crawl space, mold and mildew become a real problem.
- Floors that are uneven or sagging. You could have a serious foundation problem if your floors appear to be dipping, bowing, or sagging. Floors have a tendency to sag and squeak when foundation issues impact pier and beam foundations.
Sagging, bowing or dipping floors, in addition to being unsightly, may be a serious safety issue for elderly individuals and children.
- Gaps around exterior doors or window frames. Your home could have serious foundation issues if you notice gaps around your window frames or exterior doors. Frames of doors may become warped and prevent all types of doors from functioning properly.
- Doors start to stick or fail to open or close properly. French doors may not hang or meet in the middle correctly. Other doors may hang down at the top and appear uneven or drag at the threshold. Sticky doors are frequently an indication there is some sort of problem with your foundation.
- Foundation upheaval. This is a serious problem. It could eventually cause your home to be unsafe to inhabit. Your home could be experiencing foundation upheaval if its slab foundation has moved in an upward direction.
Upheaval may be caused by under-slab plumbing leaks. Upheaval could also be caused by an abundance of moisture under slab foundation. Another common cause of foundation upheaval is stagnant water near the house’s foundation.
- Foundation sinking. This is also called foundation settling. Excessive settling, as mentioned, is a sign of a foundation problem. The vast majority of gaps resulting from foundation settlement are vertical. If your house seems to be settling, have it checked out. If you ignore it, your foundation could sink into the earth up to four inches.
- Foundation fractures such as cracks in walls or floors. It’s perfectly okay for the foundation to crack or sink during the initial years after its construction. Hairline cracks measuring 1/16” are typical. However, when cracks in the concrete block walls or in brick exteriors of your basement occur horizontally, it could signal a potentially serious foundation problem including settlement cracks.
Inclement weather, as well as contracting and expanding soils, are often the cause of the problem. When checking these cracks, particularly those in interior walls, determine whether they are horizontal or vertical.
Usually, foundation related issues occur in two major types of shrinkage: foundation expansion and foundation shrinkage. Foundation shrinkage occurs when there’s loss of water from concrete over time as a result of chemical reactions. Foundation expansion, on the other hand, is dominant in houses that use bricks. Over time, these bricks’ sizes increase and, as such, leave the bricks exposed to moisture.
Should homeowners worry about foundation settling or foundation problems?
By and large, foundation problems should be threatening. Foundation related problems are serious and are oftentimes demonstrated by serious warning signs. That being said, cracks on the wall’s surface may not automatically mean that there’s a problem with your foundation.
On the other hand, foundation settling should not be threatening. Some settling is normal. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, soil expansion accounts for most settling. Generally, settling should be minor and not have a big impact on your home’s appearance.
Foundation settling is more common in older homes. New homes, especially those in extreme weather conditions or those on sites that were not properly prepared, could also experience foundation settling.
How much does foundation repair cost?
No doubt, this is one of the most frequently asked questions by homeowners looking to have their foundation repaired. The answer to this question is – it depends.
There are many variables that need to be taken into account. As such, quantifying the cost of foundation repair can be daunting. Some factors that affect how much you’ll pay to have your foundation problems fixed include the size of your house, the stability of the soil, the type of foundation, the contractor chosen, and the amount of foundation settlement.
Other variables that can impact the amount you pay include:
- Dealing with hidden obstacles in the ground, such as tree roots, extra-deep footings, or old repair methods.
- Obtaining a local building permit, if required.
- Getting a soil report prepared by a geotechnical engineer, if needed.
- Hiring a structural engineer to assess the damage.
Foundation settlement often costs more. Experts often address this problem by leveling the foundation. This leveling requires piers and mudjacking. According to Homeadvisor.com, mudjacking costs between $500 and $1,300. A pier or pile will cost you between $1,000 and $3,000 per unit.
But generally speaking, the typical homeowner will pay between $1,849 and $6,344 to repair normal foundation problems.
Since your home is probably the most expensive investment you’ll ever make, it pays to protect it. However, to protect it, you need to understand the problem first. Hopefully, this guide on foundation settling versus foundation problems will help you make the right diagnosis.
If you’re looking for a reputable concrete contracting company in the Dallas or Ft. Worth area, contact Granite Foundation Repair today! Our team of qualified professionals will dedicate their time to provide you with outstanding customer service and make the repair process an easy one.