We are often asked: “How do I know if I have a foundation problem?”
The short answer to that question is that foundation problems are a lot like LOVE – you’ll know it when it happens!! 😊
But, seriously – there are some common indicators you can look for. And the degree to which these occur can provide a clue as to the severity of the problem.
So let’s take a quick look at some of the most common problems and signs associated with foundation problems:
These cracks can occur outside in the masonry veneer, inside in the sheetrock surfaces, or both. But be forewarned that there are MANY things which can cause cracks to form both inside and outside a home. Sometimes a crack is just a crack. But as a rule, the wider the crack the more significance you should give it. If the crack looks like it was drawn on with a pencil, it is probably nothing to worry about. If you can start slipping coins into the crack, it may be an issue and should be evaluated by a professional. If you can stick a finger in the crack, then you have a significant problem and should seek the help of a foundation repair professional immediately. These guidelines apply whether the crack in inside or outside the home.
Outside the home you may see the brick “pulling away” or separating from window or door frames. This is a common indication of foundation settlement. The wider the gap, the more significant the movement has been. But look closely! These gaps are often filled with caulk or even tapered wood trim boards to hide the gaps.
Frieze Board displacements
The Frieze Boards are the trim boards that run along the top of the brick. They should meet at the corners of the home. If at a corner they do not meet, and cannot meet because the brick is keeping them apart, that is a definitive sign of foundation settlement. The farther apart the boards are from each other, the larger the degree of settlement has been.
There are several things which can cause doors to become misaligned. Foundation settlement is just one of these. If you can close a door but it doesn’t latch, it may be an indicator of foundation settlement. A door sticking at the top can also be an indicator of foundation settlement – but a door sticking on the side of the frame may not be foundation related. Large gaps between the top of the door and the door frame, particularly if not even across the door, are often a sign of foundation problems.
If the floor feels like it is sloping, then it probably is. But keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfectly level house. Never has been – never will be. All residential foundations have highs and lows, and may slope from one side to another over the length or depth of the home. This is normal and not indicative of a problem or defect. However, if the home suddenly and noticeably slopes in a particular area, and other previously mentioned indicators also exist in this same area, then it is most likely a foundation settlement problem which needs to be addressed.
Keep in mind that any one of these indicators by itself may not be a sign of foundation problems. But when several exist in the same area of the structure, together they point to a foundation settlement issue which should be addressed before it worsens.
Some common issues which may NOT be signs of foundation problems:
Doors which swing open or closed on their own MAY be an indicator of a foundation settlement issue, but often cannot be corrected intentionally through foundation repairs.
Technically called “sloughed” corners, a corner pop is a symptom of thermal expansion and is not typically a structural issue nor an indicator of any foundation problem or construction defect.
It is in the nature of concrete to develop surface cracks, technically known as “striations”. Like a loaf of French bread, small cracks on the surface of concrete is normal and not an indication of any problem. If you can’t lose a coin in the crack, there is nothing to worry about.
Cracks in the corners of decorative ceilings
Sheetrock doesn’t like anything other than 90-degree angles. Angled ceilings, such as “splayed” ceilings, are prone to crack in the sheetrock seams from a combination of foundation and roof movements. This is a condition which, alone, does not point to a foundation problem.
Cracks around a vaulted ceiling.
This construction design is missing the bottom horizontal supports found in a truss design and is therefore more prone to movement from high-wind storms. This will create sheetrock cracks – mostly in the seams – around the ceilings and central wall areas.
As with our personal health issues, the cost and long-term effects of foundation problems can be minimized by addressing the issue early instead of waiting and hoping it will “just go away on its own.”
So if you see any of the positive indicators listed above – particularly if you see 2 or more – call a foundation repair professional immediately for an evaluation and recommendations