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How to Identify 8 Common Signs of Foundation Problems in Houses or Commercial Buildings


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Title: How to Identify 8 Common Signs of Foundation Problems in Houses or Commercial Buildings

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Introduction Your house is probably the most
expensive investment youll ever make. Thats why
it pays to protect it. If you suspect that
somethings wrong with your foundation, its wise
to learn how to identify the 8 most common signs
of foundation problems in houses or commercial
structures in most areas of the United States.
Concrete slabs and pier and beam foundations can
develop severe issues. Basements can also become
severely damaged. Because deterioration can be
caused by a variety of things including soil,
climate, plumbing leaks, poor soil compaction
and inadequate foundation drainage, its always a
good idea to be on the lookout for signs of
trouble. To help you identify potential
problems, weve compiled a list of the things
that may indicate that you require foundation
repair service. Properties in some parts of the
United States are adversely affected by ice and
snow, while properties in subtropical regions
frequently develop complications due to excessive
heat (over 90100 degrees), rain, extensive
flooding (45 or more in a relatively short
period) and droughts. Fortunately, foundation
issues in residential and commercial buildings,
as well as apartment complexes, can be resolved
relatively quickly. If youre concerned about
foundation damage, its advisable to contact a
good foundation repair contractor and have them
inspect your concrete slab, pier and beam
foundation or basement. An experienced
professional should be able to pinpoint the
source of your problem and stop the
deterioration. Remember Identifying the cause of
the trouble is the first step in finding the
best solution. In some instances, the contractor
may recommend that a structural engineer be
enlisted to evaluate your foundation and prepare
a formal engineer's report. This generally
costs about 350500 for a home, and 500750
per building for commercial building and
apartment complexes. Prices are generally the
same in all US cities. Fact is, the larger the
structure, the higher the cost. Obtaining a
structural engineers report may be beneficial,
depending upon the severity of the damage. To
prevent the need for extensive repairs, take a
few minutes to learn to recognize the signs that
might mean that something is wrong with your
foundation. After all, problems are very common
and can prove costly. While foundation repair
costs for slab and pier and beam foundations
generally range from 4,0008,500 for an
averagesized house, the price can be much
higher if your property damage is extensive, or
if you own a large structure such as an
apartment complex, church, school, warehouse or
commercial property. When reading the
information below, please keep in mind that the
following is an abbreviated list of things that
frequently signal foundation trouble, and that
many other conditions can indicate
complications, too.
The 8 Most Common Signs of Foundation Problems
Include Foundation Cracks, Wall/Floor Cracks and
Other Types Of Fractures
If youve noticed gaps in your foundation or on
the brick exterior of your house or commercial
property, it could most definitely indicate that
you have at least one of the many conditions
that signal a foundation problem. Floor cracks,
wall fissures and a broken chimney can also mean
trouble. Over time your structure may experience
foundation movement due to a variety of
conditions. When that happens, your foundation
can shift and gaps may become a very serious
concern. Expanding and contracting soils, as
well as inclement weather, are often the cause of
the problem. While its normal for a foundation
to sink and develop tiny cracks in the first 23
years following construction, (1/16 hairline
fissures are exceedingly common), horizontal
cracks in brick exteriors or the concrete block
walls of your basement could indicate that your
house may be experiencing more than an acceptable
amount of settling. Even a ¼ gap can warrant
concern. These types of fractures are regarded as
being more serious than vertical cracks because
they can indicate that the perimeter of your
house foundation is under a lot of pressure.
Cracks that run in a vertical direction arent
generally a sign of trouble since dry walls run
in that same direction. Moderate wall and
foundation cracks are typically 515mm in length,
which equates to a width of .2. 6. More
serious cracks are generally above 15mm (.6) or
less. If you discover that fractures are
horizontal, this may mean that an excessive
amount of water pressure is impacting your
foundation. Of course, some foundation cracks can
be huge and grow to be 12 wide or larger. When
insects or water invade these cracks, they can
weaken an already damaged foundation. When
examining your gaps, especially those in interior
walls, youll want to determine if you have a
vertical crack or one that is horizontal. If you
notice that some of the fractures are positioned
at a 45degree angle, this could indicate that
severe foundation movement has occurred. If
thats the case, sheetrock in your walls will
slowly rip and develop large tears over
time. Brick that makes contact with a slab
foundation can cause angular cracks in the
foundation. It is not unusual for these fractures
to be 1015 long. When brick expands, it
forces the edges of the brick outward. This is
generally nothing to be concerned about and is
not commonly regarded to be a sign of a serious
foundation problem.
Other types of fractures that warrant closer
examination are stairstep cracks in brick
exteriors. These fissures typically appear near
the corner of exteriors and run up and
down. While fractures can indicate trouble,
dont assume your foundation is damaged. Its
important to keep in mind that many cracks are
cosmetic in nature and absolutely nothing to be
concerned about. 2. Foundation Settling Or
Sinking If your house or other structure appears
to be sinking or having settlement issues, have
it checked out. Thats because settling is
another ordinary sign that you may have a
foundation dilemma. Over time, you may notice
that one side of your house is lower than the
other, or you may observe that the center of your
commercial building is sinking. If so, your
foundation may need to be lifted and require the
installation of interior or exterior foundation
piers. These are placed around the perimeter of
your foundation in order to raise it, or else
installed in the interior of your structure. As
many property owners who have concrete slab
foundations have discovered, installing interior
foundation piers involves cracking the concrete
slab and creating a bit of a mess. Gaps
resulting from foundation settlement are vertical
the vast majority of the time. When inspecting
your foundation it pays to keep this in mind
What begins as a small ½ dip in one area of
your house can grow to become a very large
problem. Left unattended, it is entirely
possible for a foundation to settle into the
earth 2 4. Even less than 11/2is extremely
severe! The longer you ignore the problem, the
worse your foundation trouble becomes. Whats
more, when extensive settling occurs, a multitude
of safety issues can develop quickly. By
enlisting a foundation repair contractor when you
first notice complications, you can avoid
foundation failure, while minimizing costs and
danger. As the years go by, other areas of your
foundation will begin to settle. While
homeowners generally notice that one side of the
house appears to be sinking first, the others
sides will inevitably begin to move in a downward
direction and your foundation will become
increasingly out of level. Even though the load
bearing weight of a house is equal on all four
sides, the differential moisture content on each
side of the foundation can vary. Thats why some
parts of a foundation settle before other
sections do. Contractors often refer to this as
differential movement. Once this occurs,
major structural changes take place. Before long,
youll become aware of all sorts of strange
issues, including extensive cracking on the
inside and outside of your house. Cracks
resulting from foundation settlement are
generally vertical. Fortunately, foundation
repair service will resolve the
problem. Foundation movement leads to settling
and impacts houses and commercials buildings
differently, depending upon what type of
foundation you have, and how well it was
constructed. Slab foundations do not react to
foundation movement in exactly the same manner
that pier and beam foundations do. And, of
course, houses with basements are a different
matter altogether. Regardless of which kind of
foundation you have, the volume of the soil it
was built on can definitely impact how stable it
is. Unfortunately, some builders utilize poor
construction techniques and have even been known
to construct foundations on poorly compacted
soils. Problems develop when the ground under
the house, apartment or business center collapses
under the weight of the structure. If youre
building a new home, you may want to enlist a
soil engineer to perform a soil site analysis of
the earth and make sure it has been properly
compacted. Bear in mind that a single vertical
crack can mean that your foundation is moving
upwards. In the event you notice that your
foundation is suddenly sinking or settling, its
possible that your house was build on a sinkhole.
While this is most uncommon, it does occur from
time to time and warrants immediate attention. If
you think this is a possibility, do not delay in
contacting a foundation repair contractor. 3.
Foundation Upheaval If your slab foundation has
moved in an upward direction, it is experiencing
foundation upheaval. This is frequently an
indication of foundation problems and may signal
that your structure is experiencing the opposite
of foundation settling. Heaving generally
affects the perimeter area of a concrete slab
foundation, but it can impact your homes
interior, including hallways, doorways and other
areas. Outside garage walls are almost always
pushed upwards, too. There are many causes of
foundation upheaval in slab foundations including
soil that expands and contracts, excessive
moisture due to rain or underslab plumbing leaks
and frost heave. Clay soils are most often
affected by moisture because this type of soil
expands and gains volume when it becomes
wet. Moisture is the 1 thing that contributes
to upheaval in slab foundations. Heavy rains as
well as plumbing problems resulting from
underslab plumbing leaks can lead to an
abundance of trapped moisture beneath your slab.
You could be losing 1050 gallons of water per
day, and maybe even more. Check your water bill
if you suspect that is could be happening. When
soil gets wet it becomes heavy. The weight of the
soil can be great enough to force your
foundation upwards. It is when this occurs that
homeowners most often notice that doors are
sticking and that fireplaces, as well as steel
columns, have moved upwards, too. Frost heave
commonly causes foundation trouble. Thats
because when water gets below 32 degrees and
freezes, it increases in volume by 9. This puts
added pressure on your
foundation and can result in foundation movement.
When the foundation shifts, slab foundation
cracks may soon become visible. Slab foundations
can move quite a lot, and it is not uncommon for
them to be forced upwards by as much as
11/221/2. It requires far less movement than
that to severely damage all types of
foundations, including house foundations,
commercial buildings, apartments, schools,
shopping centers and other structures. 4. Doors
That Stick Or Dont Open And Close Properly If
youve noticed that your doors are sticking,
thats frequently an indication there is some
sort of problem with your foundation. When
interior doors are affected, they tend to stick
or drag at the top. Exterior doors with
foundation issues are more likely to drag at the
threshold or hang down at the top and appear
uneven. For example, the top left side of the
door may be higher than the top right side of it
is. It could be off by as little as ¼, but the
difference come become ½ or larger. French doors
or other kinds of double doors may not meet in
the middle or hang correctly. This is an issue
that is commonly affects all kinds of slab and
pier and beam foundations, regardless of whether
it's on a house or commercial structure. No
property is immune from this form of
trouble. Sometimes doors stick and dont open
and close properly due to humidity (75100).
This is often the case during the 23 day period
immediately following a heavy rain or severe
flooding. Of course, if you also notice
foundation cracks or other sorts of fractures in
and around your home or commercial property, it
can be a sign of settling in your foundation.
When foundation damage has occurred, end
escalating problems quickly by contacting a
qualified contractor. If a professional
evaluates your foundation and suspects that water
leaks are causing the problem, a licensed
plumber should be enlisted to perform a
hydrostatic plumbing test. If you dont know who
to call, a good contractor can help you locate
one. This test can determine if you have leaks
and if so, where they are. Of course, the problem
could be that drought conditions or
exceptionally warm weather could be causing the
soil around your foundation to shrink and move.
(Many parts of the United States experience
temperatures ranging from 20 degrees to well over
105 degrees. Heat sometimes exceeds 120.
) Theres no way of knowing exactly what the
trouble is until it is thoroughly examined.
Since a foundation evaluation doesnt take long
to do, typically 45 minutes to one hour, its
always wise to have things checked out. An
experienced foundation repair contractor should
be able to let you know more about the signs of
trouble and whether or not your property
requires repair.
5. Gaps Around Window Frames Or Exterior Doors
  • Homeowners often notice gaps around their
    exterior window frames, as well as spaces around
    their exterior doors. They may even become aware
    that their doors no longer latch. This is a sign
    of a problem that could be affecting the
  • When something is amiss, double doors frequently
    do not align properly, which makes them very
    difficult to close. Whats more, doorframes may
    become crooked and impair all types of doors
    from operating properly. If you notice something
    like this, perform a visual inspection on your
    house or other property.
  • Sagging Or Uneven Floors
  • If youve noticed that your floors are out of
    level or appear to be sagging, bowing or
    dipping, this could indicate trouble. When
    foundation issues impact pier and beam
    foundations, floors have a tendency to sag and
    squeak. Where concrete slabs are concerned,
    floors are prone to be uneven or out of level.
    Since slab foundations are positioned directly
    on the ground and pier and beam foundations are
    not, they are affected differently. While both
    may have flooring issues, the signs of damage
    dont look the same.
  • In addition to being unsightly, sagging or uneven
    floors are dangerous, especially for small
    children, elderly individuals or people who are
    physically impaired. Over time, floors that
    initially appear to be out of level by ½ or so,
    may become uneven by 11/22. To avoid
    hazards like this, have your foundation fixed as
    soon as possible.
  • A Damp Crawl Space In A Pier And Beam House
  • Heavy moisture in the crawl space can be a sign
    that the foundation has problems or will soon be
    developing them. Its imperative to determine why
    the crawl space is wet and then take steps to
    minimize moisture.
  • Always keep in mind that an abundance of moisture
    can attract terminates and also cause the wooden
    beams beneath your house or building to rot. Damp
    crawl spaces can omit a foul, musty odor, which
    you may smell even when youre inside the house.
    Mold and mildew is a real problem when you have
    a wet crawl space.
  • If you live in an area where it rains frequently
    or flooding commonly occurs, its important to
    have an effective foundation drainage system. You
    may require the installation of a surface drain,
    which moves vast amounts of water quickly, or a
    French drain, which redirects smaller amounts
    of water that are slowly seeping beneath your

house. Standing water around your foundation
(even amounts less than 1/8deep) can damage
your foundation and lead to the need for
expensive repairs. If theres a noticeable
amount of moisture at all, its a problem. If
you notice lots of moisture, you may benefit from
having a polyethylene vapor barrier installed in
your crawl space. This barrier prevents water
from evaporating from the soil and making the
crawl space damp. Contractors who commonly deal
with pier and beam foundations can certainly be
of help. There are several other things that can
be done to deal with these types of issues. If
the space beneath your pier and beam foundation
shows signs of problems, consult with a
contractor that has experience repairing
foundations on these specific types of
residential and commercial structures right
away. 8. Counters And Cabinets Separating From
The Wall Have you ever noticed that your kitchen
cabinets or countertops seem to be tilting and
pulling away from the wall? At first it may look
like theyve moved a tiny bit, and then the next
thing you know the gap is 1/8 wide. Before long,
your cabinets or countertops appear to be 1/2
or more away from the wall. At that point, youve
got major issues. If you become aware of
something like this, its definitely a sign of
foundation damage. When walls arent level,
cabinets and lots of other things in your house
cease to be level, too. It may seem to you that
everything is sloping or not hanging correctly.
Thats because something is affecting your
foundation and causing it to be uneven. What To
Do If You See Things That Indicate Foundation
Issues If you observe unusual things happening,
the situation warrants further investigation. The
first thing to do is to contact a qualified
foundation repair contractor and enlist them to
perform a thorough inspection on your house or
other structure. These evaluations are generally
provided for free. In many instances, property
owners discover that they have absolutely
nothing to worry about. What If A Contractor
Determines That Repairs Are Needed? In the event
that the contractor discovers foundation damage,
they can provide you with an estimate for
repairing your cracked concrete slab, sinking
pier and beam foundation or troublesome
basement. This estimate should be presented to
you in writing. When youre considering hiring a
contractor, be sure to find out if the company
offers a foundation
repair warranty. If so, ask if its a
transferable lifetime warranty because thats the
very best kind. If you learn that your
foundation needs to be fixed, the contractors
job is to restore it as close to its original
level position as possible, and make it upright
again. This process is often called referred to
as house leveling or foundation leveling.
Making repairs entails lifting your house or
commercial property and installing structural
supports called foundation piers or
foundation pilings beneath it. When the job is
complete, your foundation will rest on top of
these piers. While these are a wide variety of
foundation piers that can be used, most
contractors opt to install pressed concrete
piers (which are cylindrical in shape and roughly
1011 long) or steel piers. Both work very
well and can make your foundation structurally
sound. The primary difference between the two is
that steel foundation piers, which cost much more
than concrete pilings, can be installed deeper
into the soil. In fact, they are sometimes
pushed 35 into the earth, and they may go
deeper. Of course, the vast majority of houses
and commercial buildings dont require that piers
be installed that deep before they reach solid
rock. Most piers must only be drilled down 1220
below the surface, so theres no point in paying
for steel piers if you dont need them. After
all, pilings made of steel can cost over 500
each. Contractors usually install concrete piers
until they reach what is often referred to as
the point of refusal. This basically means
that the foundation piers are forced downwards
into the ground (using a hydraulic jack) as far
as they can go. A foundation repair expert can
determine exactly how many piers will be required
to fix your foundation. The number of pilings
that must be installed will affect the price to
restore it. It could be that you only require 68
piers, or it is possible that your may need more
than 25. Only a contractor can tell you for
sure. Recognizing that your home or commercial
building represents a major investment, its
best to take steps to preserve your building and
if need be, have it repaired. So take a little
time to perform a visual inspection on your
structure. If you have any concerns about your
foundation or see signs of common problems, have
it evaluated by a qualified contractor right