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5 Common Signs of Foundation Damage You Shouldn’t Ignore

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5 Common Signs of Foundation Damage You Shouldn’t Ignore

Homeownership comes with numerous responsibilities, one of which is maintaining the integrity of your home’s foundation. Foundation damage can lead to severe structural problems if not addressed promptly. Identifying the early signs of damage can save you from costly repairs in the future. Here are five common signs of foundation damage that you should not ignore:

1. Cracks in Walls and Floors

Cracks are the most obvious signs of foundation damage. They typically appear in the floors, walls, and sometimes ceilings of your home. Not all cracks indicate serious problems; for instance, small, hairline cracks might simply result from the house settling over time. However, large gaps, zigzag cracks, or horizontal cracks can signal significant foundation shifting or settling. Particularly concerning are cracks that widen over time, as these suggest ongoing issues that need immediate attention.

  • Where to Check: Inspect where walls meet ceilings and floors, as well as joints and corners. Be vigilant about checking both the interior and exterior of your home.
  • Types of Concerning Cracks:
    • Horizontal Cracks: Often caused by hydrostatic pressure from the soil outside the foundation.
    • Stair-step Cracks: Common in brick or concrete block walls, indicating differential settling.
    • Wide Vertical Cracks: Wider than about 1/8 inch and expanding over time.

2. Doors and Windows Sticking or Not Closing Properly

If doors and windows that used to open and close smoothly are suddenly sticking or won’t shut completely, it could be due to foundation shifting. When a foundation moves, it can warp the frame structures of your home, leading to misaligned doors and windows. This misalignment not only causes functional issues but can also indicate more severe foundation problems.

  • What to Do: Check if the issue persists with multiple doors and windows, particularly those on different sides of the house or at different levels.

3. Gaps Around Exterior Doors and Window Frames

Similar to sticking doors and windows, gaps around door and window frames can develop when the foundation shifts. These gaps may appear gradually but can become quite noticeable, letting in drafts and affecting your home’s energy efficiency. This shifting can also create visible gaps where the walls and floors meet.

  • Visual Inspection: Look for daylight around the frame of doors and windows, and check for visible separation in corners.

4. Sloping Floors or Staircases

A sloping floor is a tell-tale sign of foundation issues. Floors should obviously be level, so any noticeable incline typically indicates settling or heaving of the foundation. Use a level to check the gradient of your floors if you suspect they might be uneven. Slopes might be subtle or pronounced, and they can pose significant risks, such as potential structural failure.

  • How to Measure: Place a ball on the floor in various locations. If it rolls steadily in one direction, it’s likely that your floor is not level. A laser level can also provide a more accurate reading.

5. Water in the Basement

Water intrusion in your basement can be a symptom of foundation cracks or gaps. Water can seep through these openings, especially during rainy seasons, leading to moisture problems, mold, and other water-related damages. Persistent moisture can weaken foundation walls and significantly exacerbate existing issues.

  • Preventative Measures: Ensure proper drainage around your home. Gutters and downspouts should direct water away from the foundation. Additionally, consider waterproofing measures to protect against water damage.

What to Do if You Notice These Signs

If you observe any of these signs, it’s crucial to act swiftly:

  • Consult a Professional: Hiring a structural engineer or a foundation repair specialist can provide an expert assessment of any damage.
  • Regular Inspections: Make foundation checks a part of your regular home maintenance schedule. Catching issues early can prevent more significant problems later.
  • Address Minor Repairs Promptly: Small fixes can prevent larger issues. For example, sealing cracks and ensuring your home’s drainage system works properly can stave off major repairs.

Ignoring foundation damage can lead to serious structural problems, risking your home’s integrity and your safety. Being proactive about checking for and addressing these signs can save you not only a great deal of money but also ensure that your home remains safe and stable for years to come.