If you can detect the early signs of foundation problems you can save 10s of 1000s of dollars by acting quickly instead of waiting for them to get even worse. After all, the quicker you can identify these problems, the less costly it is to repair them.
Top Four Indoor Warning Signs:
- Cracks start developing in ceramic or vinyl tile over a concrete floor.
- Doors start jamming or fail to latch.
- Cracks develop in the windows, doorways, walls or where the wall meets the ceiling.
- Windows that could be closed and opened easily in the past are suddenly difficult to fully close or they begin to stick.
Verify the Exterior
Go outside and from each corner, check the length of your foundation wall. This is a great way to see if the foundation is actually straight. Keep in mind that the walls need to be straight from side to side and both down and up. Be sure to also use a level and see whether you have leaning walls.
A curve or a bulge in either a poured concrete or block foundation wall may be a sign that the foundation shifted or that the earth around it may be contracting and expanding, putting a lot of pressure on the walls.
Check Concrete for Weakness
If the perimeter foundation of your property is poured and you’ve noticed the concrete is flaking or chipping, use a screwdriver and poke it. The concrete needs to be very hard so that you cannot damage it with the screwdriver.
If you can chip it, then the concrete may become progressively worse because the mix contained too much water, salty sand or dirty sand. In fact, this is a very common issue in properties that were built in the early nineteen hundreds in certain parts of the country. The solution for this is to basically get a new foundation.
Verifying Structural Components
In your crawl space or basement, be sure to check for piers and posts. The latter need to be properly planted under the beams they support and they also need to stand straight. As for the bottom of the posts, they have to firmly rest on the concrete piers. You should not see framing that is wet or find puddles. Again, use a screwdriver (using an awl also works) to check the wood posts for rot.
Other signs of moisture, such as puddles, may mean that there is poor drainage around the foundation’s perimeter. Check to see if the gutters are plugged and don’t forget to also check if the soil slopes away from the foundation at a rate of six inches for every ten horizontal ft.
Foundation Cracks and How to Read Them
When the concrete cures it will slightly shrink and where it cannot shrink evenly, it usually cracks. Block and concrete foundations generally have a few cracks at the least. It’s important to be able to identify the ones that are serious from those that are not. Below we came up with a list of the ones that are serious and those that are not:
- You shouldn’t worry about hairline cracks in the mortar.
- Cracks at an L-shape section are usually shrinkage cracks. These don’t signal a structural problem, but you may have to plug them to keep the crawl space or basement dry.
- Bigger concerns are the stair step cracks in masonry joints. This is especially the case if the crack is greater than 1” and the wall is bulging.
- Horizontal cracks though are very serious and you need to act fast once you identify them. In case you have ground that shrinks when dry and expands when damp. If this is the case, then you need a new foundation.
If you think you may need foundation repair, be sure to call a Licensed Foundation Repair Expert.