Sinking Foundation? Here are some causes

Sinking Foundation? Here are some causes

Foundation problems are not new for most of us when it comes to home renovation and remodeling. It's the truth that every homeowner will face foundation problems at some point during their lifetime. The problem is they can be quite costly, time-consuming, and difficult to diagnose and solve. There are several reasons why your home might sink or settle. This article covers the basic causes of foundation problems and how you can address them with a few simple fixes.

  1. Moisture Issues: Moisture is one of the leading issues causing foundation problems in homes. Most common is water seepage into foundations from cracks in concrete slab floors under basements and crawl spaces. When this happens, there is usually nothing you can do about it other than repair the damage.

The other moisture issue is where excessive groundwater gets trapped in the soil beneath the slab. You should see a professional if you think there has been significant water penetration in the soil around your home.

  1. Faulty Construction: If you have old foundation walls built on unstable soil, these walls can shift under pressure and cause the house above to collapse. Suppose you live in an area prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, coastal areas, or mudslides. In that case, you might want to buy a building permit before moving in. Many municipalities require pre-existing foundation work to be inspected after any major earthquake or storm. There is no way to predict when an earthquake will hit, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

  1. Poorly Built Foundation Walls: Old foundation walls can expand or contract due to temperature changes. They can become cracked through normal wear and tear over time or due to faulty construction materials used. These cracked walls tend to move or break away from the foundation until the entire wall eventually crumbles away and collapses.

If you suspect your foundation walls are deteriorating but need further confirmation, here are a couple of tests you can do to check out what may be happening. Place a level against your foundation walls, measure off along the baseboard, and mark each half-inch increment. After one week, keep doing this and add a second line perpendicular to the first. If your measurements change, you will know your foundation walls are shifting.

  1. Cracks in Concrete Slab Floor: Many homeowners don't realize that their foundation walls can crack if the ground underneath them settles. That doesn't mean all cracks in foundations must necessarily lead to settling, though. Most cracking is caused by high compressive stress in your foundation. High humidity, frost heaves, expansion joints, and settling soil or rocks are all factors that can contribute to foundation cracks.

  1. Water Damage: Any water leakage into the foundation below the basement floor can cause serious structural issues. Basement flooding is probably the worst foundation problem since it goes directly to your main living space. While it can happen unexpectedly, you almost always should contact a licensed contractor to come to evaluate your situation. The best thing to do is seal up all cracks around your foundation walls to prevent future leaks. Depending on the water problem's severity, you may need to reinforce or support the floor above with piers or beams or even raise the floor and replace it. It also helps elevate the walls above the basement floor to help prevent leaking.

  1. Poor Drainage is most likely caused by low-quality soils, improper grading outside the foundation, lack of proper landscaping or design practices, etc. Drainage issues can easily be solved with minor modifications like sodding slopes, installing French drains, using permeable pavers/roof tiles, and draining swales.

Warning Signs of a Sinking Foundation:

Several warning signs of a sinking foundation include sunken crawl spaces/basements that create a depression in the yard and the home itself. If your crawl space/basement sits lower than the rest of the soil and has developed large depressions around the structure's perimeter, this could indicate a foundation issue. This type of sinking tends to occur during periods when heavy rain or excessive snow melt, and it can only be determined by having a professional inspect your property. You would want your home inspector to have experience evaluating sunken crawl space.

Many things can damage the integrity of both exterior and interior foundation walls. If a wall begins to deteriorate, you'll start noticing some changes in the form of cracks or other indications that something is wrong. These symptoms point to larger structural problems with the surrounding soil, which we discussed above.