Houses settle over time and cracks often appear, but recognizing the signs of foundation problems is important. Knowing the early signs that something may be wrong can ultimately save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run. The sooner you can identify the potential problems the easier and cheaper it is to fix them!
Inside Your Home
Like we said, homes can settle over time, and a little unevenness isn’t a cause for a panic session. On the other hand, you’ll want to be alert to these warning signs that more changes are taking place.
- A door begins to jam or will no longer latch.
- Cracks appear in walls, especially over doorways, windows, or where walls meet ceilings.
- Cracks open in vinyl or ceramic tile over a concrete floor.
- Window that used to be easy to open and close start to stick or won’t close completely.
Outside Your Home
Walk outside your home. Check to see if your foundation is straight by sighting down the length of your foundation wall from each corner. These should be pretty much straight both up and down as well as side to side. You can check for any leaning walls with a level.
Probe Concrete for Weakness
If your house has a poured perimeter foundation and the concrete appears to be chipping and flaking, poke it in a few places with a sturdy screwdriver. The concrete should be so hard that you can’t damage it.
If you manage to chip or break a piece off, the concrete could be deteriorating because the mix contained dirty or salty sand, or too much water. This problem, common in home built in the early 1900s in some part of the country, has no remedy short of a new foundation.
Check the Structure
Besides the perimeter foundation wall, look for posts or concrete supports. Posts should stand straight and be firmly planted underneath the beams they support. Bottom of posts should rest firmly. You shouldn’t find puddles or see framing that’s wet. Check for rot by probing wood posts with that sturdy screwdriver! Puddles and other signs of moisture in a space may indicate poor drainage around the perimeter foundation. Be sure that you’re gutters are clogged and that the soil slopes AWAY from the foundation.
Reading Between the Lines
As concrete cures, it shrinks slightly. If the concrete is unable to shrink evenly, it tends to crack. Concrete and block foundations usually have at least a few cracks. The trick is to recognize which are insignificant and which are serious. Here’s a list of least serious to most serious:
Hairline cracks in the mortar between concrete blocks are rarely worth worrying about.
Cracks at an L-shape section, such as where the foundation steps down to follow a hillside, are probably shrinkage cracks. These aren’t a structural issue, although they may need to be plugged.
Stair-step cracks in masonry joints are a bigger concern, especially if the wall is bulging or the crack is wider than a quarter of an inch. A clogged gutter or a moisture problem outside is probably exerting pressure on that part of the wall.
Horizontal cracks are serious. It may be that water-saturated soil froze and expanded, pushing in and breaking the foundation. Or you may have soil that expands when damp and shrink when dry. The bad news is that you may need a whole new foundation.
It’s important to stay alert. Timing is everything, that’s why we’re available 24/7! If you have questions about your foundation, or would like to know more, give us a call at 1-800-349-4357.