There are many different signs of foundation problems that are prevalent in Richmond because of the various underlying causes of damage. We’ll describe each of the symptoms below and discuss what specifically causes them.
Cracks in your foundation are some of the more apparent signs of damage and weakness. They can occur in various positions under your home, each pointing to a specific underlying problem.
Basement Floor Cracks
Hairline cracks commonly form in basement and crawlspace floors during the concrete’s natural settling as it dries and cures. These appear in most homes, and, as long as they remain thin, they usually don’t suggest a severe problem. In Richmond, where water intrusion is prevalent, sealing hairline cracks can help avoid moisture issues, but no further action is typically needed.
If the cracks in your basement floor widen, or if one side of the gap becomes unlevel with the other, chances are you have a problem with differential settling. This is a more severe problem and should be addressed by a foundation repair specialist.
Vertical Wall Cracks
Fissures in your wall that run vertically form during normal settling and typically don’t present much of a problem aside from water intrusion. They should be sealed by a foundation repair company and only need further attention if they widen to ⅛” or more.
If the hydrostatic pressure from the expansive soil in Richmond puts too much stress on your foundation walls, a horizontal crack will form, and the top portion will slide inward. These cracks indicate severe damage and should be inspected by a structural engineer and repaired immediately.
Cracks forming in a stair-step pattern on your concrete block wall usually indicate differential settling, an unfortunately common problem in Richmond due to the clay soil, flooding, and heavy rainfall. This type of damage requires professional repair as quickly as possible.
Bowing Foundation Walls
A typical precursor to horizontal wall cracks in Richmond foundations is the inward bowing of the concrete walls. As the hydrostatic pressure mounts with an increase in moisture, the concrete flexes slightly before cracking. There’s no way to tell when the crack will appear, but it’s likely if your foundation walls are bulging into your basement or crawlspace.
Unlevel Floor in Basement
Similar to how hydrostatic pressure can create inward bowing of your foundation walls, the frost heave common in Richmond can cause your basement floor to rise in certain areas.
You may notice an unlevel floor if the problem isn’t severe, but the slab will likely crack eventually under the upward pressure. At that point, you’d probably find cracks in your floor where the two sides aren’t level, or one side appears to be sinking into the ground.
Damp or Wet Basement
Water intrusion is one of the most common foundation problems, and especially so in Richmond. Expansive soil, tropical storms, hurricanes, low elevation, and flooding can all contribute to water problems below your house.
Most homeowners in the area who have these problems find liquid water in their crawlspaces of basements. You may find it pooling along the edges of your basement or trickling down the walls from cracks.
Even if you don’t have cracks in your foundation, moisture in the soil can wick through your solid concrete walls and evaporate into the space under your home. This can lead to humid or moist air, musty odors, mold growth, and efflorescence, which is a build-up of minerals on your wall from evaporating water.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
Lastly, low-quality air in your living space can be a sign of foundation damage, particularly water issues. Air from your crawlspace or basement regularly seeps into your upper floors in a process called the stack effect. This air movement can bring moisture and mold spores with it.
Humidity makes temperatures feel more extreme, so you may have a water intrusion problem if your home is uncomfortably warm in the summer or cold in the winter.
You or your family members may experience unusual allergic reactions to mold in the air if you have moisture problems below your house. The symptoms can include sneezing, itchy eyes, and difficulty breathing.