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What Are The Common Signs Of Foundation Problems And When Should You Be Concerned?

Sam Smith Foundation Repair Consultant

Exterior foundation crack in concrete wall

Need help identifying potential foundation problems and what could be the cause? This Regional Foundation Repair guide will cover everything you should know.

Here’s what you’ll learn by the end of this article:

  • The telltale signs of foundation issues
  • Different kinds of foundation problems
  • When to fix foundation damage
  • How to save money when repairing your foundation

The concrete foundation under your house has a big job to do. It levels the ground where your home is built, resists moisture, helps prevent water damage, and gives your entire structure stability. That’s why there’s so much potential for things to go awry.

The stress your foundation continually endures usually presents itself in some sort of physical damage to your concrete. All homeowners should know what damage to their foundation looks like and be able to notice signs that suggest there is an issue.

In this article, we’re going to review the warning signs of foundation damage, how damage will often look, and how to carry out foundation repair without spending your life’s savings.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Foundation Damage?

The constant pressure on your concrete block walls and slab often makes small problems get worse over time. That’s why it’s crucial to be able to identify the warning signs of foundation problems quickly and before they get out of hand.

Damage to your foundation can look different depending on what the root cause is.

Below are some of the more common signs that should trigger you to hire a home inspector or have foundation repair done.

Exterior Foundation Cracks

Cracks in your concrete walls can sometimes be seen on the portion of your foundation that’s visible from the outside of your home.

We recommend you do regular home inspections of the exterior foundation walls because cracks are easy to identify and can be addressed or sealed quickly.

Vertical cracks here usually just mean foundation settlement has taken place due to shrinkage and isn’t a major problem.

These are very common in new foundations and should be sealed with an epoxy or other waterproofing product, especially if they are more than ⅛” thick.

Diagonal cracks may indicate structural issues and should be inspected.

Horizontal cracks often indicate structural damage from hydrostatic pressure and need to be fixed immediately by a repair expert.

Interior Foundation Cracks

The same types of foundation cracks on the inside can form as on the outside.

Vertical cracks should be waterproofed to stop leaking, and diagonal cracks require a foundation inspection by a structural engineer. Horizontal cracks on the inside of your crawlspace or basement walls also need immediate professional attention.

Stair-step cracks can be found on the interior of your foundation too. These look like stairs and also usually indicate structural damage from differential settling.

Foundation Settling or Sinking

Similar to stair-step crack damage is foundation sinking. You typically see just a corner or side of your concrete slab sinking.

This may cause large cracks in your crawlspace or basement floor, which may need to be fixed with mudjacking or some other reinforcement.

Uneven soil movement due to too much or too little water in your dirt is usually the root cause of differential foundation settling.

Foundation Upheaval

Foundation upheaval is quite the opposite of foundation sinking and may find parts of your concrete slab elevated. This movement often leads to cracks in your slab or an uneven floor in your basement.

Upheaval is usually triggered by frost heave or excessive groundwater, both of which put pressure on the underside of your slab.

Stuck Doors

Doors sometimes stick and become challenging to open or close because of humidity. However, multiple stuck doors in your house can mean your foundation has suffered damage.

The door frames in your home rely on structural integrity from your foundation to function as intended. Doors may not fit in their dedicated wall opening if your foundation is damaged.

Gaps Around Wall Openings

Another sign of potentially dangerous foundation movement is gaps or cracks in the drywall around your door and window frames.

Your sheetrock can easily crack if your framing shifts in response to foundation damage. This type of damage is seen most commonly on the exterior walls and especially around your garage door.

Warped or Uneven Floors

The floor joists and supporting beams in your house rely directly on your foundation for support. As such, they are subject to movement and warping if your concrete walls or slab suffer damage.

Any unevenness in the flooring on any level of your house could be a sign of structural damage to your foundation.

Dampness in the Crawl Space

Water seepage is often a problem for homeowners because concrete is porous. However, any cracks in your home’s foundation can let in more water than could ever seep through the solid concrete.

Your foundation may have potentially dangerous cracks in it if your crawl space or basement feels damp.

Dampness under your home can be a sign of too much hydrostatic pressure from your soil that can lead to significant damage as well.

Counters or Cabinets Separating from the Wall

Just like your floors and wall openings can warp in response to foundation movement, walls can move, shift, and bulge too. If one concrete block wall is damaged, the walls above it often bow outward.

This type of movement may be tough to see but can cause more easily noticeable separation between your wall and cabinets or countertops.

Musty Smells Or Mold Growth

Gaps in your foundation can form because of normal settling or pressure from the soil around it. Any foundation crack can leak and cause mold growth or mildew odors in your crawlspace or basement.

Checking for visible mold or musty smells can help you identify the presence of cracks that need to be sealed. This inspection will be especially useful in finished basements, where drywall covers your foundation walls.

Bulging Nails in Drywall

I’ve already mentioned that the framing in your house relies on your foundation for structural integrity. Foundation damage often warps studs, floor joists, and rafters.

Movement in the framing may be hard to see, but it can cause drywall nails to pop or bulge out. Checking your drywall for bulging nails can help identify foundation trouble.

Chimney Problems

Your chimney is a rigid structure that relies on your foundation for a level and sturdy base.

Foundation movement can translate to chimney movement, causing the chimney to crumble or separate from the side of your house.

When Should You Fix Foundation Problems?

Your house is probably your biggest investment and most expensive asset, so we always recommend carrying out foundation repair as soon as damage is found.

More serious foundation problems like horizontal cracks, stair-step cracks, and foundation sinking or upheaval should be fixed immediately by a concrete repair specialist.

Less urgent repairs like sealing vertical or hairline cracks can wait but should still be done quickly.

Foundation damage usually worsens because of all the pressure on your concrete.

A rapid and permanent fix is the best fix.

How To Save Money When Fixing Foundation Problems?

Foundation damage can be very expensive, depending on the severity and the root cause. Many homeowners understandably try to save money on foundation repair cost.

There are some smart ways to do so and some ways that are unadvisable.

First, having a foundation repair contractor do the necessary repairs is usually the best way to save money. Some people attempt temporary repairs that are, by definition, temporary.

These solutions always require more permanent and expensive fixes in the future.

Save yourself money and time and get the proper repair done now before the problem worsens.

Most foundation repairs should be professionally done. However, you can save on labor costs if you DIY some of the less complex solutions. You can quickly and safely seal small cracks or fix poor drainage on your property yourself.

Lastly, foundation damage always has a root cause that should be fixed too. For example, horizontal cracks don’t just happen.

They occur because you have drainage problems that are creating dangerous hydrostatic pressure.

You should take care to treat the root problem instead of just patching the damage it has done. Drainage can improve drastically if you grade your soil, install gutters and downspouts, and consider an exterior drainage system. These fixes will help save on future repairs.

Read More Foundation Repair Guides

Sam Smith Foundation Repair Consultant
SHORT BIO: Hey, I'm Sam Smith. I'm one of our service techs here at Regional Foundation Repair. I'm here to help you learn more about your home's foundation. I've been doing this for a while, so I have a few insider tips and tricks to share!

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