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Can A Sinking Foundation Be Fixed?

Sam Smith Foundation Repair Consultant

sinking foundation

If you are curious about what a sinking foundation is and whether it is an issue that can be resolved, you’ve come to the right place!

This Regional Foundation Repair guide explains everything you need to know about sinking foundations including:

  • The Causes of Foundation Sinking
  • How to Know if Your Foundation is Sinking
  • How To Fix a Sinking Foundation
  • How Long Your Sinking Foundation Repair Will Last
  • When It Is Too Late to Fix a Sinking Foundation
  • How to Save Money on Sinking Foundation Repairs

For a quick quote on how much it will cost to fix your foundation settlement issues, let us know about your project in the contact form, and our specialists will be in touch with you as soon as possible.

What Causes Foundations To Sink?

Discovering that your home is slowly sinking is not a pleasant experience for any homeowner. However, by knowing what causes foundations to sink, you can take the necessary measures to prevent or slow down the process.

There are several reasons why your foundation could be sinking, all stemming from the three main culprits:

Changes in the Soil

Most of the problems experienced with foundations stem from the changes in the soil underneath. The most common of these changes is the shrinking of the soil as a result of forces of compression. The pressure exerted by the weight of the structure will compact the soil below and cause the weaker areas to shrink, pulling parts of the foundation down with it.

Environmental factors like temperature changes also affect the stability of the soil. When the weather is hot and dry, the soil will dry out and shrink in size, pulling away from the foundation.

Trees and other vegetation could also suck the water out of the soil and cause it to shrink, resulting in the sinking of the foundation.

Given the role of the soil in the structural stability of your home, it is prudent to let an expert examine the soil before starting the construction process.

The Effects of Water

Water is a devoted agent of change, always striving to move wherever it can. If your home is located in an area with a naturally high water table, you will most likely be experiencing foundation problems caused by the activities of water.

Water could also be a problem if poor drainage methods direct it to the foundation of the house. When the water gets to the soil under the foundation, it will make it softer and more liable to give in to compressional forces, causing it to shrink further.

Water could also displace the soil under your home through erosion, resulting in the sinking of your foundation.

In expansive soils (those that can absorb and release water), the absorption and release of water will cause periodic expansion and contractions, destabilizing the foundation and causing it to shift.

When water drains into underground reservoirs, it creates sinkholes that could pull the soil down and cause your foundation to sink.

water puddle and grass

Poorly Constructed Foundation

The method that was used to lay your foundation will also determine whether or not it will sink. The contractors should consider factors such as the type of soil, the temperature of the area, and the amount of moisture in the area when building the foundation if it is to provide the required support.

For instance, if the soil is not compacted to the required density during construction, it will most likely shrink under the weight of the house and cause the foundation to sink.

At Regional Foundational Repair, our specialists will not just help lift your sinking foundation for you, they will investigate the root source of the problem and provide solutions that will eliminate the problem for good and give you the peace of mind you deserve.

What Are The Warning Signs?

Like other home repairs, foundation issues are best resolved as soon as possible. If you spot the signs of foundation problems below, you should let a foundation repair expert look into it before it escalates.

Cracks on Foundation Walls

Foundation cracks are one of the most obvious signs that your house foundation is settling. Since the shrinking of the soil under your home will occur unevenly, some parts of your wall will be pulled down while others remain put, causing it to crack due to the tension forces.

However, not all cracks are indications of issues in your foundation. In fact, some are quite normal.

You can tell the difference by looking at factors like the time of appearance, the location of the cracks, and their general direction.

Cracks that appear on the basement walls within the first year of construction are due to the concrete curing, and should not be a reason for alarm. These shrinkage cracks usually remain the same size after their appearance, not growing wider or longer. However, if the cracks appear years after your home was built or increase in length and width over time, it is usually an indication of movement in the foundation.

You should also watch out for cracks that are wider at the top as they indicate that part of the concrete foundation may be falling away from the rest.

Before filling the cracks with concrete or other material, you should check to see if the problem stems from foundation movement. This is because filling the cracks will make it difficult for a contractor to lift the foundation back into place.

Windows and Doors Sticking

When windows and doors begin to stick, they become difficult to open and close, requiring you to push or pull harder. While the problem could lie within their structures, it could also be an indication of foundation damage.

One way to tell is to check with a four-foot level. Placing the level on top of the window or door frame will show you whether or not it is slanting to one side.

Sinking floors will cause the window and door frames to lose their rectangular or square shapes, preventing them from closing and opening smoothly.

Also, If your sticking door shows signs of having been shaved down before, especially if you are not the original owner of the house, it is likely that your foundation is sinking.

Windows and doors could also stick due to other factors other than sinking foundations. If your sticking problem is seasonal, it could be that your window or door is reacting to changes in temperature and moisture levels.

Windows and doors in older homes could also be malfunctioning as a result of loose hinges. For these problems, luckily, your window repairman should suffice.

Cracks in Walls or Above Door and Window Frames

Cracks in plaster and drywall are easy to patch, and this is usually the first instinct of most homeowners. While this is okay if the cracking results from a poor mud and tape job or the effects of excess moisture, it could be counterproductive if the cause is a sinking foundation.

For drywall cracks caused by foundation problems, you will notice that they reappear after being repaired. If you are not the original owner of the house, look closely at the area around the crack to see whether there are signs of a previous patch job.

A small hump or a rougher finish is an indication that the problem is a recurrent one, likely resulting from foundation settlement or sinking.

Another way to tell whether a crack is caused by foundation sinking is its location. Foundation sinking cracks will be most pronounced around the corner of doors and windows. These are the weakest points of a wall and will be the first to show signs of strain. You should have an expert look at it as soon as possible.

crack around window frame

Nail pops on your drywall are also an indication that your foundation could be sinking. The strain placed on the wall by the sinking foundation will push the nail forward, causing it to push against the drywall. While they could appear normally during the initial settling of your foundation, they are a bad sign if they show up more than 3 or 4 years after your house is built.

Slanted Floors

Sagging or slanting floors should always be a cause for concern. Not just because they are unsightly and a safety concern for children, elders, and people with disabilities.

They are an indication of underlying issues within your home’s foundation. It could either be that your foundation is sinking or undergoing foundation upheaval. Either way, you should call in a professional as the problem will only get worse.

When the uneven shrinking of soil causes the foundation to sink more on one side than the other, the result will be uneven floors. This will often be accompanied by other signs such as cracks on walls and sticking windows and doors.

Foundation upheaval is the opposite of foundation sinking and is caused by moisture, frost, or temperature changes. These factors cause the soil under the foundation slab to swell, pushing it upwards and causing the floor to slant.

Whether your floors are slanting due to foundation sinking or upheaval, it is wise to call in a foundation repair expert as soon as possible. Most homeowners shrug it away without knowing that the damage to their foundation will only increase.

How Is A Sinking Foundation Repaired?

There are various foundation repair methods, and the most appropriate one will depend on the extent of the damage, the type of foundation, the weight of your home, and cost, among other factors.

The two most common methods of lifting a settling foundation are piering and slab jacking.

Piering

Piering involves installing a support beam into the ground near the settling foundation to provide the support needed to underpin it and hold it in place. The different types of piers that could be used include:

  • Helical piers
  • Push piers
  • Concrete piers

Helical piers are large screw-like shafts that are drilled into the soil and attached to the foundation’s foot, lifting it and preventing it from sinking further. Helical piers penetrate the softer soils to reach the more competent load-bearing soil layers below.

Helixes or metal plates on the surface of the shaft provide additional support to hold the foundation in place.

Push piers or steel piers also use the same concept as helical foundation piers, with the difference that instead of being drilled into the ground, they utilize the weight of the building to push them past the soft upper soils. In the process, the house is lifted to its original position.

Concrete piers are also underground beams for underpinning foundations but unlike the helical and push piers, they are constructed on-site. A hole is dug under your sinking foundation, then filled with grout and left to cure.

The foundation is then lifted with hydraulic jacks to the desired height, and steel pipes or concrete is used to fill the gap.

Slab Jacking

Slab jacking involves pumping material beneath a sinking slab foundation to lift it and restore it to its original height. When slurry (a mixture of sand, water, and cement) is used, the process is known as mud jacking. When polyethylene foam is used instead, the process is referred to as poly jacking.

This is a light method that is only effective for lighthouses or fixtures such as sidewalk slabs, patios, and driveways.

How Long Do Sinking Foundation Repairs Last?

The length of time you should expect your foundation repair to last depends on the method used.

If mudjacking was sufficient to fix your foundation, you should expect it to last for about 2 to 5 years. Polyjacking, on the other hand, lasts much longer, reaching up to 10 years.

These figures can however increase or decrease based on factors such as the soil condition, the amount of moisture in the area, and the maintenance practices of the owner.

If installed correctly, the helical, push and concrete piers should never have to be installed again. You should expect the repair to last a lifetime. The reliability of the piering system is what makes it the foundation support of choice for bridges and other large structures requiring extra support.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Sinking Foundation?

The cost of fixing a sinking foundation also depends on the method used.

Slab jacking is the cheapest of the methods as it requires less material and smaller equipment. The average cost of mudjacking a foundation is between $3 and $6 per square foot. Polyjacking/ foam jacking costs an average of $6.70 to $16.70 per square foot.

Therefore, for a 1,500 square foot foundation, mudjacking will cost $4500 to $9,000, whereas poly jacking will cost $10,000 to $25,000.

As piering is more durable than slab jacking, it is no surprise that it is also more expensive. The installation of the pier will cost between $1500 and $2500 per pier, where a 1,500 square foot foundation will require about 8 to 10 piers to hold it in place.

This places the cost of repair between $12,000 and $50,000 for 1,500 square feet. With piering, the most important cost factor is the type and number of piers used.

Your foundation repair costs could be lower than you think. Fill the form with your details, and we will send you a free, no-obligation price quote to give you an estimate of how much your repair will cost you.

When Is It Too Late To Fix A Sinking Foundation?

It is almost never too late to fix a sinking foundation. Only in some very rare cases will the damage to your foundation as a result of sinking be too extensive to repair.

If the house had been sinking for a long time, to the extent that the foundation slab has cracked and separated in several locations, then the foundation lifting methods above may not work.

Such a house will have long become unlivable since most of the walls and floor will have cracked severely or collapsed.

In such cases, the only remaining alternative would be to tear down the foundation and replace it with a new one. Total foundation replacement is a very disruptive, costly, and time-consuming affair that should only be considered as a last resort.

Before you label your foundation as unsalvageable, let our foundation inspection experts take a look at it.

In most cases, however extensive the damage, our innovative specialists will find a practical way to repair your foundation and save you from the costs and inconveniences of total replacement.

How Can You Save Money When Fixing A Sinking Foundation?

House leveling is a home improvement step that will greatly improve the aesthetics and value of your home. Here is how to save money on the process.

The Sooner The Cheaper

Your foundation repair will be the cheapest at the earliest stages of sinking, as only a little lifting will be required. As soon as you see the first signs of trouble, reach out to our professionals and have the problem looked at. The longer you wait, the more structural damage your house will suffer, and the more expensive repairs will be.

Pick Your Contractors Carefully

Another way to keep your repair costs low is to entrust the process to qualified professionals you can trust. Your contractor will decide the methods and the material to use, essentially determining how much you end up spending.

A good contractor will not just recommend the most expensive solutions; they will take the time to analyze the state of your foundation and the possible causes of the problem, to come up with the most cost-effective and long-lasting solution.

At Regional Foundation Repair, our knowledgeable and caring specialists have been providing homeowners with affordable and permanent solutions to their foundation problems, helping them keep their homes and families safe and comfortable.

Contact us today for any inquiries, and our friendly experts will reach out to you within no time.

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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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