Small concerns can become big headaches. If your home has foundation problems, you might be in for some expensive repairs. If you’re aware of the early warning signals of foundation troubles, you might be able to avert problems that could later cost thousands of dollars for correction.
Here are some things to watch out for when it comes to the foundation of your home:
Warning Signs Indoors
It takes time for a house to settle and a bit of unevenness isn’t reason enough to panic. But if you come across the following warning signs, there might be more dramatic changes happening:
- Doors fail to latch or get jammed.
- There are cracks appearing in the walls, specifically in areas where ceilings and walls meet, and over doorways and windows.
- Ceramic or vinyl tiles over concrete floors display cracks.
- Previously smooth windows suddenly don’t shut completely or begin to get stuck.
Checking the Outside
From the outside, check whether the foundation is proper by sighting down your foundation wall length from all corners. Basically, the walls must be straight, both from side to side and from up and down.
If you see a curve or bulge in either poured concrete walls or a block foundation, it might be an indicator that there’s been a shift in the foundation. It could also mean that the soil surrounding your foundation is contracting and expanding, and exerting pressure on your walls.
Checking Concrete for Strength
If the poured perimeter foundation in your house shows flaking and chipping in the concrete, take a strong screwdriver and try to poke it in various places. If the concrete gets damaged, it could be deteriorating due to the original mix having contained salty or dirty sand, or excess water. Probably, the only remedy for this problem is a new foundation.
Testing Structural Elements
There’s more to a foundation than the surrounding foundation wall. Look for concrete supports, posts and piers in your basement. Posts should stand erect and firm underneath beams. Their bottoms should stand strongly on concrete piers.
If you see puddles or wet framing, it’s not a good sign. Check whether there’s rotting by using an awl or screwdriver to probe wood posts.
Signs of moisture could also indicate bad drainage in the perimeter foundation area. Ensure gutters aren’t blocked, and that there’s a provision for soil sloping away at a 6 inches per 10 horizontal feet rate.
Understanding Foundation Cracks
Typically, block and concrete foundations display a few cracks. Some are insignificant while others are serious.
Hairline cracks within the mortar between blocks of concrete are generally not worrisome.
Cracks at L-shape sections, for example, where the foundation slopes down a hillside, are not a structural problem. You might have to get them repaired to avoid getting the basement wet.
Stair-step cracks within masonry joints need attention, especially if there’s bulging in the wall or the cracks are more than ¼ inch wide. A moisture problem on the exterior may be the cause of pressure on that area.
Horizontal cracks are quite serious. The cause might be freezing and expansion of water-saturated soil which pushed in and broke the foundation. Or it could be that the soil is of the type that expands when wet and contracts when dry. To resolve this, you might probably require a completely new foundation.
In our opinion, getting a professional inspection is the best way to accurately determine whether or not the above signals are structural damages that require attention.
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