All buildings stand on a foundation. Some foundation types, concrete slab or pier and beam for example, are more susceptible to showing signs of failure. If your property begins to indicate that it has foundation issues, it is best to call in a professional inspector. It is usually less costly and less disruptive to have repairs done sooner rather than later.
Foundation problems are often the result of poor soil compaction dating back to when the property was built, poor construction techniques, adverse weather conditions or plumbing leaks. Whatever the cause, there are several common warning signs of foundation problems. They are easy to spot, and if you know what to look for you will be ahead of the game. The signs show themselves inside and outside the house, so walk around, notice anything that may be different from last time, and look for these specific signs.
1) Doors that stick or are out of alignment
Foundations often sag when they begin to fail. This can show itself in doors that don’t open or close easily or don’t latch properly. Double doors may not line up together the way they used to. If you notice this sign, look closely to see if you can find others.
2) Uneven floors
Foundations do not fail evenly, so a dip close to a wall or in the middle of a room suggests that the foundation is sagging. When the soil on which the foundation stands begins to contract, the foundation drops taking the floor with it. If the soil beneath the foundation is water-logged, because of a leak or poor drainage after heavy rains, the soil can expand pushing the foundation upwards. Soil that has absorbed a lot of water will expand when the water freezes. Frost heave, as it is called, will also push the foundation up.
3) Cracks and gaps
These can be a sure sign of foundation issues. You can distinguish normal settlement cracks from the other sort, because settlement cracks in the foundation or basement walls are likely to be no more than one sixteenth of an inch wide, and shouldn’t get bigger. A problem crack may be in the foundation floor or in a wall. Look for horizontal cracks in concrete walls, step cracks in exterior brick walls, and gaps around exterior doors and windows.
All of these are common signs, and you can easily spot them when you do your own inspection. If you find any of the more serious signs of foundation problems you owe it to yourself to arrange for a professional inspector to visit with you.