Homes and buildings experience foundation settlement over time. Sometimes, the problem starts in one section of the house then spreads to another. Left unchecked, foundation settlement can damage your floors, walls, and ultimately negatively impact the structural integrity of your home.
Now is the best time to learn about foundation settlement and its implication for your home. If you think the cracks on your foundation walls are due to a sinking foundation, contact a foundation repair expert to inspect your property and provide possible solutions.
What Is Foundation Settlement?
It’s a phenomenon that occurs when the soil under your home shifts. Soil expansion and contraction are to blame. However, settlement can also be attributed to poor ground preparation. Foundation settlement can also happen when there are air pockets or spaces under the foundation. These gaps will lower the bearing capacity of the foundation. As a result, your home will sink or settle into the soil and this might lead to structural damage.
Signs of Foundation Settlement
Anytime the foundation settles or sinks, you will be able to observe certain signs. These are the most obvious.
Cracks and crevices in your foundation are a strong indicator of a settling foundation. With time, the foundation cracks may grow longer and broader, a sign that the foundation is shifting further.
Cracks that are wider at the top are an indication of uneven foundation settlement. In such a case, merely filling the gap won’t do it; you first need to determine if the foundation needs to be stabilized. Otherwise, filling the crack may prevent a contractor from being able to lift the foundation back into place.
Sticking Doors and Windows
Sticking doors and windows are a common problem in older homes. Sometimes this may be as a result of a moisture issue or internal parts of the door or window system being worn out. Other times it could be a settling foundation that is causing your window or door to fall out of its frame.
Cracks in the Drywall
Another sign you’re experiencing settlement is cracks on your drywall. The cracks could be due to a poor tape job, excess moisture, or an indication of lingering foundation issues. While these cracks are easy to patch, it’s best to find out what is causing them before you patch your wall.
If foundation settlement is the cause, you will realize that the cracks reopen after some time. Keep an eye out for nail pops. These occur when the drywall shifts forcing what covers the screw to pop off.
If floors appear uneven or out of level, that’s a sure sign that your foundation has settled.
Leaning or tilting chimney and stair-step cracks in concrete block or brick foundation walls are other signs to watch out for.
What Causes Foundation Settlement?
While various things cause settling, there are two main contributing factors; soil and weather. The soil expands and contracts as the weather and seasons change. This can be especially damaging to foundations built on expansive clay soils. Expansive soils expand when they absorb water and contract when it gets hot and dry. Therefore, foundations can settle up to 5 inches deep if not repaired.
Heavy downpours can also weaken the soil’s load-bearing capacity causing it to collapse under the weight of your home. While there’s little you can do about the type of soil beneath your home, you can still control the amount of water that penetrates it. In some cases, sump pumps, surface drains, or French drains may be needed to stop water from infiltrating the foundation soil.
Possible Solutions for a Sinking Foundation
Installing foundation piers can help stop further settlement. A pier is a support structure that’s driven down into the soil until it reaches the bedrock. Once in place, it will support and stabilize your foundation permanently. The pier helps transmit the weight of your home or building to the strong bedrock.
- Helical Piers: More like giant screws, helical piers are advanced deep into the ground using a hydraulic machine. Their brackets attach to the foundation before it can be potentially lifted back into its original place.
- Push Piers: These piers are driven past unstable soil to better stabilize and connect your foundation to the firm, stable soil or bedrock.
- Slab Piers: These piers stabilize settling concrete slabs. Usually, when the ground under your concrete slab compacts or drops, the slab is likely to settle. This often leads to cracking. Slab piers restore stability by joining the slab to solid and more compact soil at greater depth.
Variables like soil type, house design, and depth of settlement will determine which underpinning solution your contractor will use.
Is your foundation settling? Contact the professionals at Tar Heel Basements to schedule a free foundation inspection and repair quote. We improve the safety, curb appeal, and value of your home with the most thorough foundation repair services.