A solid foundation is essential for every home. The integrity of the entire structure depends on a strong, uncompromised base. If a section is crumbling, cracked, or bowed, you will need to consider foundation repair before it causes significant problems. Signs of foundation problems can include very noticeable issues — such as your entire house leaning slightly to one side — or very small cracks in basement walls or floors that could easily escape notice.
Luckily, there are early signs of foundation problems that can help you spot the issue before it compromises the structural integrity of your home. Here is a look at the most common issues, along with foundation repair steps you can take to ensure proper restoration.
Identifying Foundation Problems
There are several signs of foundation problems. You can often spot visual symptoms, such as cracked or crumbling cement or bricks. However, sometimes these elements are hidden. For example, if you have drywall or panels in your basement, you might not see cracks. In these cases, you might first notice moisture in your basement, misaligned door frames, or deep cracks in floors or walls, all of which could signal the need for foundation repair.
At the same time, homeowners often get tricked by false signs of foundation problems. These are typically cosmetic issues that do not actually signal structural flaws that require foundation repair.
Here is an in-depth look at the common signs of foundation problems and examples of those issues that often trick homeowners into thinking they need foundation repair.
Common Signs of Foundation Problems
Here are some common signs that you have foundation problems and need to call in an expert who can perform an inspection and suggest steps for foundation repair.
- Bowing basement walls: A significant sign of a foundation problem includes the bowing of basement walls. “Bowing” is when the wall bulges inward in some areas. This occurs when too much pressure is on a specific part of the foundation. It can happen because of structural weakness or shifting ground outside the wall.
- Leaks or dampness in the basement: Poor exterior drainage or water damage from a flooded basement can cause weakness in the foundation. You may notice water getting into the basement each time it rains. In addition to necessitating foundation repair, water intrusions can cause mold problems.
- Sagging floors: Floors can visibly sag if the foundation does not properly support them. You may first notice that the surface feels unstable (some homeowners describe the feeling as “spongy”) when you walk on it.
- Cracks in walls or floor: The most noticeable signs of foundation problems are cracks on the interior walls and floors. Usually, foundation issues cause diagonal cracks in the drywall or cement. These can occur near door or window frames as the pressure shifts to these elements.
- Misaligned doors and windows: Doors and windows that do not fit with their frames or that stick when opening or closing can be a sign that you need foundation repair. This problem occurs when the foundation shifts extra pressure onto the frame, causing it to bend out of alignment with the window or door.
- Gaps between walls, windows, or doors: The separation of wood door and window frames from the adjacent wall also indicate a foundation problem. The exterior wall movement resulting from foundation adjustment will eventually cause the interior trim, doors, and window frames to lose their original placements. Gaps will start to appear, and drywall or paint could begin to crack around the edges.
- Leaning external elements: If exterior walls, a chimney, or outside steps are visibly leaning in one direction, you likely have foundation issues. Ideally, you will see other signs of foundation issues before you reach this point, but if you are looking at an older home from the outside, it is a signal that you should inspect the concrete slab or basement, too.
These signs often mean that you need foundation repair services. The first step in fixing foundation problems is to hire a trustworthy expert to inspect your foundation.
False Signs of Foundation Problems
Here are some common home issues that might trick you into thinking you need foundation repair. These problems are usually cosmetic (and easy to fix) instead of structural.
- Seam breaks: Seam breaks are visible cracking or flaking at edges and seams in drywall or panels. These will have a vertical or horizontal pattern instead of a diagonal one.
- Ceiling cracks: Ceiling cracks can happen because of roof leaks, poorly placed interior panels, or issues with framing above the ceiling. Foundation problems are more likely to cause cracks in the walls or basement before the ceiling.
- Brick expansion joints: Brick expansion joints, which are purpose-built gaps filled with flexible foam, are often mistaken for signs of foundation problems. However, these gaps are a normal part of masonry construction projects and are put in place to allow for thermal expansion and contraction due to temperature changes.
- Sticking doors: While sticking doors can signify a foundation problem, many instances are caused by aging knobs, poorly lubricated hinges, or loose screws. You will need to first look for these problems before considering foundation issues.
- Nail pops: Interior walls will sometimes show circular nail pop bumps in straight vertical or horizontal patterns. These usually occur on edges or near studs. Though very noticeable, these flaws are not necessarily a sign of a foundation problem. Instead, it could indicate an old house with deficiencies in its plaster or drywall. You can re-pound the nails and cover them with plaster and paint to solve the issue.
- Hairline cracks in concrete floors or flaws in concrete surfaces: Hairline cracks, flaking, and spalling on concrete floors may also be mistaken for signs of foundation problems. However, hairline cracks on concrete floors are expected as the material dries and do not indicate movement or settlement of the foundation. These flaws are usually due to work quality issues and not structural problems.
If you are unsure of the condition of your foundation, you can always call an expert to inspect it to see if it needs repairs.
Fixing the Problems
In the past, foundation repair involved different techniques, some of which proved effective and others that made things better temporarily but did not solve the underlying problem.
Today, there are two common methods for foundation repair. Both are effective because they seek to solve the underlying issue causing the foundation’s weakness.
Here is a closer look at these two foundation repair methods.
- Slab jacking: Slab jacking, which is also referred to as concrete lifting, is an effective foundation repair technique for homes constructed on concrete slabs rather than below-grade basements. In a slab jacking operation, holes are drilled into the area requiring repair. The technicians then inject a synthetic lifting solution, such as grout, into the slab to fill the void and produce a lifting force. This technique lifts the slab back to its original elevation (when handled by experts). The technicians then patch up the drill holes using a concrete mix. Why opt for slab jacking? It is a quick and relatively low-cost solution compared to other foundation repair methods, such as piering.
- Piering: Piering is a foundation repair method that uses metal or concrete posts to bolster a failing foundation. During a piering operation, steel posts get driven through unstable soil. The technicians use hydraulic jacks to raise or stabilize failing concrete slabs and foundations affected by changes in the underlying soil. This foundation repair provides a low-cost solution compared to complete excavation, which requires heavy equipment.
Excavation is only necessary if you have significant foundation problems. Ideally, you will see the signs early enough that one of the two most common non-invasive methods can restore your foundation to full functionality.
Finding a Foundation Repair Expert
Because foundation repair is so important, you should only work with a proven expert when you suspect foundation problems. This is not a job where you can simply find the cheapest service or opt for the first repair person who happens to return your call. You need a professional who can provide an honest assessment, define the problem, and offer a solution that will repair your foundation to 100% integrity.
Whether there are cracks in the concrete, issues with a basement wall, or problems caused by a settling foundation, Moisture Loc has the experience to properly assess the situation and provide permanent solutions. Our foundation repair pros can fully restore the base of your home so that you no longer have to worry about structural integrity.
If you notice the signs of foundation problems, contact Moisture Loc for a free assessment and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from working with an expert who understands the importance of proper foundation repair.