The foundation of your home is an essential factor that ensures its stability. It anchors your home to the ground and holds up the entire weight of the structure by distributing the load to the soil below so that your house remains safe from a wide variety of elements.
Although a foundation is designed to help your house withstand abuse, it is still susceptible to cracks brought about by soil expansion and contraction. This is the reason why a foundation is usually built from a combination of steel and concrete, which do the task of holding the foundation together when cracks appear. Small foundation cracks are common and should not be a cause for concern. However, if they get larger, they may indicate a more serious settling issue that should be addressed immediately to avoid disasters later on.
Wondering if you have serious foundation problems? Below are the things you should look for to know if your home is still on solid ground.
Look at the walls. Check your drywall and see if there are cracks running on it. If the cracks are jagged and are running at a 45-degree angle, then this is a clear sign that the foundation had shifted and the sheetrock is likely to be teared up in two.
Inspect the doors and windows. Sticking doors and windows which are not caused by paint or any other issue is an indication that their frames are twisted due to a shifting house. Also, if you find that the doors have unnecessary gaps on the top portion, this can also indicate that there has been a movement.
Check the floors. If your house is standing on a slab-on-grade foundation, do inspect its floors. If you see cracks–which commonly appears on concrete slab–you can check how serious they are by using a straight level. If you put the level over the crack and you notice that one part of it is significantly lower than the other, that would be a sign that your foundation has dropped.
Get into the crawl spaces. If there are crawl spaces inside your home, take the time to inspect them as well. If the exposed dirt in these spaces are moist and there is a musty smell inside, you are likely dealing with water intrusion. However, if you notice that the dirt is extremely dry and has cracks running along it, these are signs that moisture was also present but was followed a by a dry period–a sign indicating that the foundation is starting to lose its ability to hold a dead load.
Look upwards. Issues in the foundation are not always apparent on the foundation itself. Rather, the severity of the damage may bee seen higher up the house. Cracks above the windows and doors on second floor rooms as well as gaps on the frieze board are indicative of serious foundation issues.
Check vertically. Go around outside your house to see if there are horizontal cracks running across the foundation. Horizontal cracks are indications that there is too much water behind the foundation that is pushing it out. Also, take note if the vertical cracks are larger at the top than the bottom. If they are, this may mean that there is a ground-heaving problem. If it’s the other way around, this may mean that there is a settlement problem (foundation is dropping), though, this can only be verified by an expert.
Reacting to Cracks
So you found a crack or two inside and outside of your house, what should you do? As mentioned earlier small cracks (hairline cracks) should not cause any panic as they are extremely common. If they are not leaking, just leave them be. It is recommended that you only fill in the cracks once your home has stabilized into its new position.
If the hairline cracks are caused by extreme dryness of the soil, the best thing you can do is to moisten the ground surrounding your foundation by placing soaker hoses around your house’s perimeter. These things will wet the ground with water just enough for the soil to expand and for the cracks to close. However, if the cracks are caused by the presence of too much water around the foundation, you will have to address leaky plumbing, the lack of slope on your foundation and lawn, and wrongly positioned gutters and downspouts.
If the cracks you found match the ones mentioned above (vertical cracks, dry dirt accompanied by cracks, etc.), then you need to call in the pros to inspect, assess, and address the problems at hand. Foundation repair done by professionals may rack up significant amount of money as the process may involve wall removal, full excavation and application of foundation reinforcement, depending on the severity of the damage. The expense may be high, but you can be assured that the right solutions will be applied to fortify your home’s foundation.
This home improvement article was penned by one of the regular contributors of Heritage Cleaning, a stone cleaning specialist in Scotland, carrying out work on private and commercial buildings. Their cleaning system is also used in the restoration and conservation of listed buildings throughout the country.