While it’s useful to know what can cause foundation problems so you can avoid them in the future, it’s even more important to watch for clues that a problem already exists. Here are some signs that you should bring in an expert to assess your foundation:
- Cracks around the house: Check the walls, floors, structural columns, and window and door openings for cracks. However, stair step cracks in masonry joints, a bulging wall or a crack bigger than ¼ inch are more problematic and may indicate moisture problems. Don’t fret over hairline cracks measuring 1/16-inch or less—these are quite common. After all, even the best-laid foundation isn’t impervious to settling.
- Spaces between wall and ceiling, or floor. When the foundation beneath your home begins to settle, it can cause the walls in the home to pull away from the floors or ceiling due to the lack of support. Foundation settlement or sinking often results from soil compaction and shrinkage, excess moisture.
- Home sinking into the soil: It’s common for one side of a house to sink more than the other due to uneven weight distribution throughout the building. This might result in a visibly sunken front porch or stoop. If the opposite side of the house heaves out of the soil, you could end up with sloping, sagging, dipping, or bowing floors.
- Water intrusion in the crawl space or basement: Cracks in the foundation provide a place for water to seep in. As a result, damp or outright flooded basements are more common in homes needing foundation repair. Signs of a wet basement include high humidity, musty odors, visible mold growth, and rotten wood.
- Cabinets and counters separating from the wall: Check the cabinetry in your kitchen and bathroom. If the cabinets appear to tilt away from the wall, or the countertops aren’t level, these are signs that you may need foundation repair.
- “Sticking” windows and doors: Doors and windows won’t open or close properly. When window and door frames are perfectly square, they open and close with ease. If you notice that they start sticking or having gaps around the edges when closed, this could mean the foundation is settling unevenly and causing the frame to twist.
- Bowing basement walls: The pressure of swollen soil pushing against the foundation could cause the walls to bow inward. This could put the structural integrity of your entire home in jeopardy.
Your best bet is to heed the signs of a damaged foundation and conduct repairs as soon as possible. The faster you act, the more likely you are to avoid high costs.