HomeownerHelpful Info: Home Maintenance

Foundation Repair

Foundation Repair Educational Content

Foundation problems are every homeowner’s worst nightmare. Luckily, settlement issues rarely occur overnight. Signs of foundation problems can be hard to catch, though, especially in the early stages. This is why it’s a good idea to know what’s normal for your house and what isn’t. Have you seen new cracks in the walls? Is a basement wall bowing where it used to be straight? Have windows or doors started sticking? Jot down your concerns and then reach out to a foundation expert.

Take note of issues even if they aren’t directly at your foundation. When a basement or foundation shifts, the rest of the house moves in response. Even if you don’t see evidence of a problem at the foundation, other parts of the house may betray the root cause.

Your house is built on a foundation. That foundation, whether it’s a slab or a basement, rests on the ground beneath it. As a result, your home’s foundation is only as stable as the ground it was built on. The earth under your foundation is made up of different layers of soil. Each of those layers has its own properties, like moisture content and density. Dry or wet weather can cause the soil to contract or expand, which sometimes causes foundation problems.

Time also plays a part. Layers of soil settle over the years. This settling process can cause foundation cracks. Slab foundations that are poured on loose soil are especially prone to problems. The soil base should be firmly compacted before concrete is poured. If this crucial step is neglected or poorly done, the soil may settle and crack the foundation. Foundations built on land with varying soil types are also at risk of settlement problems. Rocky soil, for example, behaves differently than expansive clay soil. A foundation that spans these two soil types is at risk for damage when the clay soil expands with rain and the rocky soil does not.

If you’re concerned about your home’s foundation, contact a few foundation repair firms for an inspection and estimate. When you call, the company will need a few pieces of information from you.

Know the age of your house and any relevant history. Additions, renovations, and water issues, for instance, are all helpful details for the contractor. If you’re dealing with a foundation or wall crack, tell the company approximately when you noticed the crack and whether it has gotten larger. Keep in mind that the expert should always come to your home to complete the inspection and estimate. Foundation problems cannot be diagnosed over the phone.

Most inspections take approximately an hour to an hour and a half. Some contractors offer free inspections, so be sure to ask about the cost up front. Some foundation repair companies have structural engineers on staff to consult on projects. Other companies consider that relationship to be a conflict of interest. Getting an unbiased structural report isn’t a bad idea. It’s a lot like getting a second opinion when you’re facing major surgery. For an unbiased structural report, hire an independent structural engineer. You can also ask your foundation repair contractor for a referral.

Foundation repair methods vary widely and depend on lots of factors. As a result, we do not recommend one method over another. Talk to several foundation repair contractors in your area for an idea of the repair methods you should consider.

The causes of some foundation problems are beyond your control. There are, however, a few things you can do to cut the risk of settlement problems. Water that flows where it shouldn’t is your home’s enemy. Keep your gutters and downspouts in good shape and free of debris. Overflowing, clogged gutters dump gallons of water directly on your home’s foundation during a rainstorm.
If necessary, install downspout extenders. They help ensure that any rainwater or melted snow is released far away from your house. Be mindful of landscaping and changes in the grade of your property. Trees, shrubs, and other plants can change the grade of the soil as they grow. This new grading can then route water too close to your foundation. If your yard begins to slope toward the house rather than away from it, you will probably need to have the soil regraded.

If you do notice cracks or other signs of foundation problems, monitor the issue and call a foundation repair contractor. If necessary, take notes to help you keep track of when the problem appeared and whether it seems to worsen. Measurements of the length or width of cracks can be helpful, too. Foundation problems become more serious and more expensive to repair with time. If possible, avoid a wait-and-see approach.

Bringing a foundation or wall back to its original, predamaged state is virtually impossible. Some level of movement will happen. Rarely, foundation problems can come back. This sometimes happens in houses that were originally built with less-than-ideal materials. In some cases, the repair process might involve trying different methods to see what works best. Occasionally, fixing one problem will create problems in another area. Your foundation repair contractor will tell you what to look for and what to do if a separate issue arises. Cracks may reappear after the foundation repair is completed. In most cases, those cracks are minor and not cause for concern.

Foundation issues are often caused by moisture problems. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to address the moisture problem along with the foundation repair. If you skip this step, the problem will probably return. Foundation repair contractors often offer preventative waterproofing measures. These usually include root barriers, French drain systems, and moisture barriers. Taking steps to keep water away from your foundation will protect your investment, both in your house and in the foundation repair work. As a bonus, you’ll also be far less likely to run into foundation problems again in the future.