The foundation of any house is the most essential component. Every other element, from the windows to the rooftop, adds considerably to a home’s completeness and comfort, but without a solid foundation, everything else will crack, move and decay at a rapid pace. However, not all types of foundations are the same, especially when it come to those built on clay-rich soil.
Foundation problems are a homeowner’s nightmare. Not only do they cause cosmetic issues, but they can also be a sign of much bigger issues with the structure of your home. If you’re experiencing foundation problems, don’t panic – there are things you can do to correct them.
In this article, we’ll show you how to stop foundation problems in their tracks. We’ll cover the most common types of foundation problems, what causes them, how to prevent them from happening in the first place, and what to do if the problems are already critical.
There are two main types of foundations: slab and pier and beam
- Slab foundations: The most common type of foundation in the United States is the slab, which is a concrete slab that’s poured directly on the ground.
- Pier and beam foundations: These foundations are typically used in older homes and historical areas. They’re built by placing concrete piers into the ground and then suspending the beams that support the floor joists from those piers.
What are the most common foundation issues?
There are two different types of foundation problems that are relatively common. Both of these types of settlements feel very similar, you will see cracks, uneven floors, and doors that don’t close. The only way to determine exactly what is going on is to take measurements around the home and figure out what the home is doing.
Settlement is the most common type of foundation problem. It occurs when the soil under the foundation contracts or erodes, causing the foundation to sink. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including poor drainage, compacted soil, or changes in the moisture content of the soil.
The first sign of settlement usually cracks in the foundation or walls. These cracks can be small and hairline, or they can be large and visible. If you see any cracks, it’s important to have them evaluated by a professional as soon as possible.
Heaving is another common type of foundation problem. It occurs when the soil around the foundation expands, causing the foundation to rise. This can be caused by a number of factors, including changes in moisture content, freezing and thawing cycles, and the overuse of irrigation systems. When the soil around the foundation expands, it puts pressure on the foundation and raises it.
What are the most common causes of foundation issues?
1) Drainage problems
Drainage problems is the leading cause of foundation problems. When rainwater doesn’t drain away from the foundation, it can seep into the soil and cause the ground to become saturated. This can lead to a number of problems, including settlement and heaving.
It is important to make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clean and in good working condition. But it is even more important to make sure that the gutters are extended away, otherwise, you can actually accelerate problems due to moisture, by focusing all of that water into one area.
You should also check the grading around your foundation to make sure that water is draining away from the house. Make sure that there are no areas where water can backfill against the home and make sure that the soil is raised
2) Plumbing Leaks
Plumbing leaks are another frequent cause of damage to foundations. When water leaks from pipes, it can seep into the soil and cause the ground to become saturated. This can lead to a number of problems, including settlement and heaving.
If you have any plumbing leaks, it’s important to have them fixed as soon as possible. You should also check the grading around your foundation to make sure that water is draining away from the house. Luckily, if your foundation is damaged due to a plumbing issue, your insurance may cover the repairs.
3) Poor Construction
Construction is also very vital to a foundation’s stability. If the foundation is not built properly, it can lead to foundation problems. This is rare but it does occur. Some homes can be constructed without a concrete footing, not enough interior footings, or could have been constructed on a large amount of uncompacted soil.
These issues can cause the load of the home to settle rapidly into the soil. Many times the construction issues we see occur more often in home additions or enclosed patios.
4) Large Tree Roots
Tree roots growing too close to the home can cause serious problems with your foundation. Roots from trees can grow under your house, causing cracks in the foundation or seeping moisture from the soil, causing the foundation to settle. If there are large roots near your house, you may need to install a root barrier to prevent root intrusion below your home.
5) Poor Soil Compaction
The soil beneath a building must be tightly packed during construction. If the ground isn’t ready correctly, the foundation could settle irregularly. Clay soil is notorious for being unstable and growing in many areas because of the climate.
We most often see this in new homes where lots of soil was brought in during construction to raise the elevation level of the home, usually for aesthetics.
There are a few key signs that you may have foundation problems. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to have your foundation inspected by a professional as soon as possible. Inspections are free by the way.
One of the most common signs of foundation problems is cracks in the walls. These cracks can be small and barely noticeable or large and easily seen. Cracks can also be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.
The cracks may be caused by a number of different things, including settlement, poor construction, or age.
Another common sign of foundation problems is gaps between the floor and the wall. These gaps are usually caused by the foundation settling. As the foundation settles, it can cause the floor to sink and pull away from the wall.
Gaps between the floor and the wall can also be caused by poor drainage around the foundation. Especially in piers and beam homes. If water is not draining properly from around the foundation, it can seep into the soil and cause the foundation to settle.
3) Mold and Mildew in Beams
The wood used to construct the beams of your home may also be susceptible to moisture and rot. If there is a lot of moisture in the air, it can seep into the wood and cause mold and mildew to grow.
This mold and mildew can weaken the beams, causing them to sag or break.
4) Sagging Floors
One of the most serious signs of foundation problems is sagging floors. This is usually caused by a problem with the beams or trusses that support the floor. If the beams are weakened by mold or mildew, they may sag, causing the floor to sag with them.
In some cases, sagging floors can be caused by soil erosion. If the soil around the foundation is not compacted properly, it can wash away over time. This can cause the foundation to settle and the floor to sag.
5) Expansion Joint Separation
If you have a concrete slab foundation, you may notice that the expansion joints have separated. These expansion joints are put in place to allow the concrete to expand and contract without cracking.
However, over time, the house can settle further and further and seperate the the two walls connected by the expansion joint.
6) Walls pull away from the home
If you notice that your walls are pulling away from the rest of the house, this is a sign of foundation problems. This can be caused by a number of different things, including settlement and poor construction.
This sign is especially serious because it can cause the walls to collapse. If you notice this sign, it’s important to have your foundation inspected by a professional as soon as possible. Many walls that have seperated like this require foundation repairs and anchoring
7) Windows and doors don’t close properly
If your windows and doors are not closing properly, this might be a sign that you have foundation problems. This happens because the house settles and shifts, causing the frames to become out of alignment.
In some cases, you may be able to fix this problem by shimming the door or window frame. However, if the problem is severe, you may need to repair your foundation and contact a carpenter. It signifies that your house foundation has shifted and is no longer level.
How To Prevent Foundation Problems
If you’re dealing with foundation problems, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the worse the problem will get. There are a few different ways that you can fix foundation problems, depending on the severity of the issue. Some minor foundation issues can be solved with maintenance.
1) Gently Sloped Landscaping
If your foundation is constantly inundated with water, you may need to re-grade the landscaping around your home. This involves creating a gentle slope away from the foundation to encourage water to drain away from the house.
You can do this yourself with a shovel and some time, or you can hire a professional landscaper to do it for you. Either way, it’s important to make sure that the landscaping around your home is sloped correctly to prevent water damage.
2) Install Drains Where Needed
The installation of drains is another way to prevent water from pooling around your foundation and causing damage. This can be done yourself or by a professional, depending on your skills and abilities.
Drains can be installed in a variety of different ways, but they all serve the same purpose: to redirect water away from your foundation. By installing drains, you can help to prevent water damage and keep your foundation in good condition.
3) Keep Root Plants Away From the House
If you have trees or other plants near your foundation, it’s important to keep their roots away from the house. Roots can cause a lot of damage to foundation, so it’s best to keep them at a safe distance.
If any tree is too close to the home, the roots can absorb all the moisture from the soil and cause your home to settle. To prevent this we highly reccomend installing a root barrier in areas where trees are against the home. Generally, trees should not be planted within, 15′ of the home.
4) Install Gutters and Downspouts
One of the best solutions to protect your home’s foundation is to install gutters.
You can do this yourself or hire a professional to do it for you. Either way, it’s important to make sure that your gutters and downspouts are extended at least 5 feet away from your foundation to prevent water damage.
5) Regular Maintenance
The absolute best way to prevent foundation problems is to regularly maintain your home. This means keeping an eye on the condition of your foundation and making adjustments as needed.
This regular maintenance includes a two things: Monitoring soil levels and moisture control.
When it comes to monitoring your soil levels you want to make sure that the soil is graded away from the home so that water drains away from the home. You also want to make sure that there are no areas where water can pool such as holes caused by dogs, flower beds against the home, compaction of soil in holes from foundation repair, holes caused by erosion. In any of these areas, bring in soil and backfill. You may need to do this multiple times expecially after a rain.
The second aspect of foundation maintenance is managing moisture. If you live in a dry area, you need to water your foundation regularly. Otherwise the soil will contract and cause your house to sink. Then when it does rain the soil expands and pushes your house back up. As your soil repeatedly expands and contracts your house will crack, shift, and sink, causing foundation issues.
Soil is going to move there is no getting around it. But you can control how much it moves. This means keeping your soil at a consistent moisture level so that when it gets dry it doesn’t contract all the way. And when it expands it doesn’t expand as much. To do this, install a soaker hose or drip line around the perimeter of the foundation. We reccomend running your soaker hose 3-4 days a week on average for approximately 30 minutes. During the wet season you may not need it at all. Be aware, in especially dry and hot periods, you may need to run your soaker hose/drip line all day everyday.
How To Repair A Foundation
1) Installing Piers
Piering is the very effective way to stabilize a foundation, but it can be expensive. The goal of this approach is to address long-term foundation issues that are beyond the scope of a maintenance issue.
The piering or piling technique is often used to stabilize foundations that have declined, close cracks, and stabilize an area of the home.
2) Polyurethane Injection
For minor issues in slab foudnations, polyurethane injection is a very viable option. The whole proccess is simple, unintrusive, fast and relatively inexpensive. However, it has been our experience that this solution does not last as long as piering.
Many pier and beam foundations may not need complete foundation repairs, it may just need to be reshimmed. This means that the piers may have tilted, they may not be touching the beams, or they may have settled into the ground. If you are looking to save money, ask if the company can just reshim your home. This is however, a temporary solution as your foundation will still be unstable, continue to move and will have issues again in a few years.
4) New Footing Construction
Houses that are nearly a century old may have a serious issue that is rarely addreseed, even by major foundation companies. Many engineers aren’t even aware that this is an option, and if they are, they don’t know that here is a company that can do it.
That is replacing the concrete footing around the entire structure. This involves breaking out the existing broken footing, placing the strcuture on temporary steel supports, placing forms, and pouring a new concrete footing.
Foundation problems can be a major headache for any homeowner. However, by taking some preventative measures and being aware of the signs of foundation problems, you can avoid many potential issues.
If you do experience foundation problems, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for help. With the right care, your foundation can be repaired and will last for many years to come.
Call Brothers Foundation Repair for a free estimate , 817-320-2556