The foundation of the home supports the entirety of the structure and also helps to protect the building from ice, snow, rain, frost, flooding, and drought. However, over time and with repeated exposure to harmful environmental conditions, the foundation can shift, sink, crack, buckle, or deteriorate, resulting in serious structural problems that can leave your home vulnerable to flooding, insect infestations, or in extreme circumstances, the home may even collapse.
Foundation problems can occur anywhere, regardless of whether you live in a colder area of the country that is adversely affected by ice and snow or your home is located in a warmer area that is impacted by excessive heat, flooding, and droughts. To ensure that you can make repairs as soon as possible, it's a good idea to learn how to spot problems with your foundation. Use this guide to discover 10 signs your home has foundation problems and how to resolve these issues.
Signs of Foundation Problems
There are many different signs that can signify problems with the foundation, so it's important to familiarize yourself with these symptoms in order to quickly and effectively address the underlying cause. Keep in mind that foundation repairs cannot typically be completed by a DIYer, so if you spot any signs of trouble, you should look for a reputable foundation repair company to assess the situation.
Identifying the cause of the trouble is the first step to finding a solution, but it's important to note that on average you can expect to pay between $2,150 to $7,725 for foundation repairs. If you catch foundation problems early, foundation repair experts can resolve the issue before it becomes too expensive. Minor cracks may only cost as much as $500 to fix, while major repairs that require the use of hydraulic piers can exceed $10,000.
Misaligned Doors and Windows
One of the most common signs that the foundation is shifting or sinking is that the doors and windows throughout the home are no longer properly aligned. This can cause the doors and windows to stick, or may also result in the doorframes and window frames pulling away from the walls, leaving gaps between the frames and the walls.
Even if only one window or door is affected, it doesn't hurt to inspect the foundation to ensure that it isn't an early sign of future problems. However, it's important to note that if there is only a single door or window that seems to be misaligned, this may not be caused by foundation problems. In some cases, the screws holding the door to the frame may be loose or water damage may have caused the frame to warp.
Another sign that the foundation may be shifting or sinking is sagging, uneven floors. When the foundation rotates, twists, or sinks, it pulls the home out of alignment. This shift in the structural support of the building causes the floors to sag because they are no longer properly held up. Initially, a sagging floor may not result in anything more than an increase in creaking noises when you walk across the surface, but if the problem is left unresolved, the floors could bend, warp, crack, and collapse.
Similar to misaligned windows and doors, a sagging floor is not necessarily a result of foundation problems. It can also be caused by insect damage, poor wood quality, or water damage that has left the floor weak, spongy, and rotted. The best course of action if you notice your floor is sagging is to have a professional inspection completed to determine the root cause of the problem.
Exterior Wall Cracks
In most cases, at least part of the foundation is visible from the outside of the home, giving you the option to regularly check the concrete for any signs of deterioration. Cracks in the exterior wall of the home is a clear sign that the foundation needs repair. If you address these issues quickly, then the cost to resolve the problem can be as little as $500 to fix the cracks in the walls.
Vertical cracks are the most common and also the least concerning. While it's a good idea to fix any cracks, small vertical cracks are usually a sign that the home is settling and can even appear in newly built homes. Diagonal cracks are much more problematic, indicating that the position of the foundation is uneven, and the weight is not properly distributed. Horizontal cracks are often a sign of water damage and are a serious issue that can lead to the walls buckling.
Sinking Around the Foundation
The ground around the outside of the home should be sloped slightly away from the foundation to encourage rainwater and meltwater leftover from ice and snow to run away from the home. If you see signs that the soil around the outside of the home is sinking, this is an indication that there may be active leaks in the foundation or drainage issues that may be contributing to the deterioration of the foundation. Contact a professional foundation expert to resolve the situation before further damage can occur.
Concrete and brick are not the only materials that can show signs of structural damage. The siding on a house can begin to buckle, crack, or warp from exposure to excess moisture, but this problem can also occur if the foundation shifts, twists, or sinks. This leads to the siding pulling away from the wall, leaving noticeable gaps between the lengths of siding and where the siding overlaps at the top and bottom of each panel.
Interior Wall Cracks
The exterior of the home generally shows signs of cracking before there are any signs indoors, but in some circumstances the cracks outdoors may go unnoticed or ignored until the foundation problems become worse. At this point, you may see sudden or unusual cracks in the drywall inside the home due to the significant twisting or shifting of the foundation. This is a sign that the foundation is at risk of buckling, collapsing, or deteriorating.
Soft and Spongy Floorboards
The floors throughout your home are designed to support a significant amount of weight, so you shouldn't have to worry about soft or bouncy surfaces when you are walking across the house. If the floorboards feel soft and spongy under your feet, then it means that there is an issue with the support for the floor.
Bouncy floorboards can be an indication that the support structure for the floor has shifted due to foundation problems. However, it can also be caused by insect infestations or severe water damage that has caused the floorboards to weaken and rot over time. Have an inspector check out the problem to determine the cause before taking steps to resolve the issue.
Horizontal cracks in the foundation are signs that the walls could begin to bow, but if the cracks were hidden behind drywall or otherwise undetectable, you may not notice the problem until the walls begin to bow. Bowing walls is an advanced symptom of foundation issues that can lead to the walls collapsing.
Even if the walls do not collapse, the deterioration of the foundation may cause water to leak into the basement, resulting in flooding and significant water damage. Alternately, the damage to the foundation may provide a great opportunity for rats, mice, termites, ants, and other pests to infest the home.
Wet Crawlspace or Basement
A wet or damp crawlspace or basement is a sign that the foundation is cracked or damaged. When there are cracks or gaps in the foundation of the home, moisture can seep through the walls and into the crawlspace, cellar, or basement, resulting in widespread water damage, mold growth, and wood rot.
In order to address this issue, you need to first locate the damage to the foundation, then repair the cracks to prevent the moisture from leaking into the basement. After fixing the cracks in the foundation, you will still need to repair or replace the flooring, walls, or any items that were affected by the water, mold, or rot.
Tile Floor Cracks
Tiles can often mask the soft or spongy feeling a floor may get if it isn't properly supported due to water damage, rot, termite damage, or a shifting foundation. However, when the tiles crack or pull apart at the grout joints, this could be an indication that the foundation has significantly twisted or shifted. Contact a professional foundation repair company to assess the situation and make the necessary repairs to prevent further damage to the home.
Resolving Foundation Problems
There are many home repairs and renovations that can be handled by an experienced DIYer with the proper tools and materials, but, in most cases, foundation work is best left to the professionals. One exception is minor cracks that are less than 1/4-inch in width, which are easy enough for a DIYer to fill using an epoxy injection.
However, if you see serious signs of damage to your foundation, like bowing walls, contact a licensed contractor as soon as possible to inspect the foundation and determine the best course of action to resolve the issue. On average, you should expect to pay between $2,150 to $7,725 for foundation repairs.