The many underlying causes of foundation damage in Charleston can manifest in a variety of symptoms. We’ll discuss each of the most prevalent signs of foundation problems in the city below.
Foundation cracks are a common occurrence in foundations in all areas, signifying anything from harmless concrete settling to significant structural damage. The extent of the damage is typically indicated by the location and width of the gap.
If you’re lucky enough to have a basement or crawlspace in Charleston, you will likely find hairline cracks in the concrete floor under your home. These are often a result of your foundation settling after new construction. You can and should have them sealed to keep water and moisture out.
Wider floor cracks or those that aren’t level from one side to the other usually indicate dangerous foundation settlement. These fissures are caused by uneven ground movement under your house, which is common in the expansive soil in Charleston. They should be repaired as quickly as possible to limit the resulting damage to your home.
Hairline cracks oriented in a vertical position on your concrete block wall or slab are usually a sign of natural settling. They generally don’t require structural repair, but many Charleston homeowners get them sealed to keep water and moisture from seeping through them.
Broader vertical cracks usually don’t indicate structural problems either, but a foundation repair contractor may opt for a more substantial sealant to prevent further widening.
Horizontal Wall Crack
Cracks traveling horizontally on your foundation wall will typically only occur if you have a crawlspace or basement. These cracks signify severe structural problems resulting from hydrostatic pressure, often from the expansion of the clay soil outside your home.
Step-Shaped Wall Crack
Cracks that form in the shape of stair steps are also only visible if you have space under your home and concrete block walls. These gaps result from differential settling, which leaves a portion of your foundation to sink into the ground more rapidly than the rest.
These cracks are clear signs of structural problems and can lead to total foundation failure. As such, they should be stabilized as quickly as possible.
The risk of differential settling in Charleston is severe due to the expansive soil around the city’s homes. The symptoms of this problem vary depending on the type of foundation you have.
Homeowners with a basement or crawlspace typically find uneven floor cracks in their slabs, sloping floors under their homes, and stair-step cracks on the concrete block walls.
Those with slab foundations often have more difficulty identifying sinking. Signs include foundation cracks spanning the corners of your slab, visibly uneven portions of concrete above the ground, and visible sinking of your foundation, typically around the corners of the concrete.
Moisture Problems Under or Inside Your Home
Water intrusion is a prevalent issue in Charleston because of the expansive soil, flooding, heavy rainfall, and added risk of concentrated precipitation during hurricane season. As runoff is held against your concrete for extended periods, there are several things you may notice in and around your home as a result.
If you have a crawlspace or basement, you may notice standing water under your home, water stains on the walls, water damage to building materials, mold growth on the walls, insects or rodents under your home that are attracted to humidity, and efflorescence, which is a white, powdery substance that is left on the concrete walls after water vapor wicks through your foundation.
Most property owners in Charleston have slab foundations and are unable to see these clear signs. For those without access under their house, there are some good indicators that can develop on the home’s interior.
If moisture builds up between your concrete slab and the rest of your building material, you may notice musty odors in your house from mold growth, uncomfortable temperatures resulting from elevated humidity, doors and windows getting stuck if their frames swell from moisture, and cracks in your sheetrock if increased humidity causes the framing behind it to warp or bow.