Houses and buildings settle. This means that the foundation underneath the structure is moving, which is normal. But how much foundation movement is too much? There is an entire range of symptoms, some of which should be addressed immediately, and others which are not a cause for concern.
Addressing Foundation Issues Early
Residential foundation repair is a wise option, especially if the problem is severe. So it is important to address issues as they come up, and not let the problems compound. Commercial foundation repair can be significantly more complex due to any potential commercial building codes and the size of the building. The best way to keep costs low is to address problems as soon as possible before they get worse.
Settling and foundation movement are most often the result of the soil that the foundation sits on. So the most important steps in preventing foundation problems are taken during the construction process by understanding what type of ground you’re building on, the climate you’re in, and the grade of the land surrounding the foundation.
Normal Foundation Settling
The consequences of normal foundation settling are generally cheap and easy to address. Some problems to expect include cracks in the mortar between blocks, hairline cracks in the slab itself, or cracks in a brick or stone veneer. While these cracks are not something to worry about, they do need to be repaired. Regular maintenance of these cracks is even more important if you are in a cold climate. The amount of force that water exerts as it freezes is incredible. If a minor crack fills with water which then freezes, you will very quickly have a compromised foundation. A trip to the hardware store and an afternoon in the basement is an easy way to prevent major problems down the road.
Assessing You Foundation
A basic indicator of how your structure is doing is the performance of the windows, doors, and floors. When doors and windows are hung, they are plumb and square. If you’re constantly adjusting doors or having trouble operating your windows, it might be a good idea to look more closely at your foundation. A tip to avoid a false positive from your windows is to ensure that they are locked whenever they are closed. Even during normal settling, if the top and bottom half of your windows are never linked, you will have problems with them.
Signs of Uneven Settling
Floors should be perfectly level. A good way to check for this is to place a ping pong or golf ball on the floor. If it rolls, your floors are sloped which indicates that your foundation is settling unevenly. Another thing to look out for are cracks or gaps in the walls. If sheetrock walls are pulling apart, wood paneling is opening up, or trim boards are separating, you need to look down to find the source of the problem. All of these symptoms indicate uneven foundation settling. One part of the structure is moving more than the other parts. This is what you need to watch out for.
Addressing Foundation Issues Early On
If the foundation has deteriorated to the point where you’re seeing the problems above, it needs to be addressed immediately. Unfortunately, it is going to be a little more involved than a trip to the hardware store. It will require hiring professionals. The two most common ways of repairing a foundation are piering and slabjacking. Piering is when they dig down around the structure and install piers underneath the compromised areas and restore the slab to a level position. Slabjacking is when they pump material underneath the slab which will push it back up to level. Both processes are expensive, though piering is the costlier and longer term solution.
Worst Case Scenario
A foundation that has been completely neglected can have catastrophic results for the structure sitting on it. Far beyond cosmetic cracks in the walls and floors, it will eventually result in structural failure. Buildings are built from the ground up, so if the foundation has failed it means that the entire building has failed. This includes the major load bearing components like walls or post as well as the roof assembly. If this is the case, it is not entirely safe to even enter the building and it may be time to consider knocking it down. The consequences of a completely failed foundation can be so extensive and reaching that the cost to restore the building would be incalculable.
In historic buildings built with wood or stone foundations, the cause for failure of the structure was almost always the foundation. After hundreds of years of technological advances in the building industry there can still be problems with foundations. They have always been a very vulnerable part of the building, but certainly do not need to cause structural failure. If you regularly inspect and maintain your foundation, you can prevent a minor problem from becoming a major one.
Contact Dirt Connections Today!
The experienced contractors at Dirt Connections have decades of experience diagnosing and addressing residential and commercial foundation repair. Whether you are a home owner or a property manager – Dirt Connections can provide you affordable solutions. To learn more about how our services can benefit you, call us directly or send us a message online today.