A firm foundation truly is the most important part of any home. It supports the weight of your house, and is a vital component to its overall integrity. If the foundation fails, you can be sure there will be damage to the rest of your home in some way or another — it’s just a question of how serious that damage will be.
You should begin a foundation fix at the first signs of disrepair to prevent the damage from spreading to walls, ceilings and other areas of your home. Not only will this help to preserve your investment, but it also will limit bigger, more costly repairs in the future.
Identifying the signs of a foundation problem is crucial to minimizing the damage. Most warning signs are obvious, but others can be more difficult to identify. The following list includes the most common signs of foundation damage. One of these symptoms alone may not be related to your foundation, but if you’re experiencing several of them simultaneously, it’s a definite red flag.
- Sticking windows
- Doors that stick or fail to close properly
- Unlevel, cracked or sagging floors
- Hairline cracks in drywall or masonry walls both inside and outside of your home
- Bulging, bowing or “out of plumb” interior or exterior walls
- Separation between the sill plate and foundation wall
- Running cracks through brick, block or masonry walls in a stair-step pattern
- Larger-than-normal gaps around windows and doors
- Separation between additions, chimneys and fascia boards
The most common type of foundation damage — settling from soil compaction or desiccation — is unfortunately the most expensive to repair. This type of damage usually results from the ground settling or sink hole activity — common in areas with limestone bedrock — where the ground beneath the structure begins to drop or give way. Lateral pressure from swollen or settling soils can also destabilize walls, causing them to bow or bulge. Another common culprit leading to foundation damage is excessive water accumulation around the structure.
Repairing a foundation requires specialized equipment and knowledge that should be left to the professionals. Severe foundation damage requires underpinning to raise and support the structure with steel hydraulic push piers, drilled concrete piers or pressed concrete pilings.
Hydraulic push piers are regarded as the most cost-effective method to repair the foundation permanently. The columns rest on the load-bearing stratum underground and attach to the foundation of your home, providing permanent support for the structure.
Before the foundation repair begins, homeowners can help limit the potential damage to other areas of their home:
- Verify that the ground around your foundation is sloped properly and that water is not collecting around the base of the foundation.
- Seal all exterior cracks with a high-grade sealant or epoxy to lock out water and moisture.
- Clean all gutters and downspouts. Make an effort to direct the runoff away from your home.
Although these repairs might seem minor when compared to the overall scope of the problem, they will help to prevent further damage to your home. These are also excellent upkeep techniques to reduce foundation problems in the first place. However, as noted above, most foundation issues are created by external factors well out of a homeowner’s control.
The best thing a homeowner can do in the event of a failing foundation is to contact a professional immediately. The problem will not go away and will only grow larger over time.