Signs and Causes of Foundation Issues

Although homeowners generally fear foundation problems, they are relatively common. Several homeowners don’t even want to imagine that their home can have this problem. But this attitude is one of the main reasons why foundation damage is so widespread.


All foundation problems have a cause, and by their nature, they happen very slowly. A home’s foundation will rarely fail without warning. Most of the time, the problem begins slowly with telltale signs that homeowners either ignore or misinterpret.


The failure to detect and deal with foundation damage early is the primary cause of foundation failure. When homeowners understand the factors that initiate foundation damage and the signs of the problem, they can often avoid foundation damage to their homes.


What are the causes and signs of foundation damage? Read on to find out.


Causes of foundation damage


1.     Expansive soils

Expansive soils absorb and release a lot of water, which causes them to shrink and expand at massive rates. That can have a significant impact on the stability of any structure erected on the soil. Homes in areas with high amounts of expansive clay soils, like Texas, are more exposed to this problem.


2.     Dried-out soils

Exceedingly hot weather and nearby plant roots can extract too much moisture from the soil beneath a home. That may lead the ground to shrink from the foundation, depriving it of the support it needs to maintain stability. If this happens, the foundation could become unstable and start to shift.


3.     Too much water in the soil

When soil receives too much water, two things can happen. The soil may swell and expand: in which case, it pushes against the foundation and forces it upwards. The soil may also become more compact and settle. That can cause the foundation to lose its underlying support and sink.


4.     Poor soil preparation

If a contractor doesn’t follow the proper soil preparation and compaction procedure, it can expose a home to foundation damage. You can use solutions like chemical grout injection to strengthen loose soils. But if the builder neglects to use the appropriate techniques, the result may be foundation failure.


5.     Improper drainage

Poor drainage around the home will predispose it to foundation failure. This problem can result from: downspouts discharging water on the walls and foundation; water pooling near the base of the home; low-lying areas in the yard that collect water; and damaged plumbing that leaks water into the foundation.


6.     Natural sinkhole formation

Natural sinkhole formation is probably the only cause of foundation damage that is almost beyond homeowners’ control. When water drains underground, it creates sinkholes. Such activity will sometimes create underground caverns. If these caverns collapse, the soil above them and any structure on it will also sink.


Signs of foundation damage

1)    Cracks and fissures

In the first 2-3 years after construction, it is normal for tiny cracks to appear on the foundation as the home settles. However, if there are horizontal cracks in a foundation, that is a problem. The presence of stair-step cracks in brick exteriors and fractures positioned at a 45-degree angle is also cause for concern.


2)    Signs of foundation settling or sinking

There may be a noticeable tilting of the building. It happens when a house settles unevenly due to differences in the characteristics of the underlying soil. One part of the house will sink lower than other parts. It could be the sides or center of the building. As a result, it throws the entire house out of level.


3)    Sticky doors and windows

Irregular movement in the home’s foundation will cause the structures on it to go out of alignment. This misalignment will make doors and windows in the house difficult to close and open. The doors and windows may stick at the top or bottom.


4)    Gaps around window frames

Another form of misalignment that may become visible in the home is gaps around the door and window frames. The foundation problem will sometimes reveal itself through doors – especially exterior doors – that fail to latch except you lift them or press downwards.


5)    Uneven floors

Floors are directly over the home’s foundation and are highly sensitive to movements in the foundation. Sagging, sloping, or uneven floors are among the apparent signs of foundation shifting or moving at a non-uniform rate.


6)    Counters and cabinets that detach from walls

Minor gaps may appear between counters or cabinets and walls as a result of a poor job. These gaps may become massive with time. That means the problem is due to the foundation shift causing misalignment between the walls and floors.