Home repairs are not cheap. High quality foundation repairs are definitely not cheap. So you may wonder: is it really worth investing serious cash into something that may not be visible?
Absolutely, yes it is.
I know this may sound like a self-serving answer, given that I work for Acculevel, a family-owned and operated company that specializes in foundation repair. The truth is, we are very conscious of just how essential it is to protect your home; it’s most likely to be your single largest investment. We’ve been helping homeowners in Indiana and parts of the surrounding states since 1996. We do excellent work at a reasonable price, and provide the best warranties in the industry.
We know you rely on your home to provide safe and reliable shelter. That home depends on its foundation for strength and stability. In this article, I’m going to explain how foundation problems affect your entire home, what signs to look for, and how those problems can fester if left alone.
Foundation Cracks Are a Sign of Developing Damage
When you hear something ‘crack,’ what is the first image that comes to your mind? Is it a sound of comfort or reassurance? Do you expect whatever it is to still be in good condition? I’m going to assume the answers to those questions are “no!” It doesn’t matter who made the sound happen, cracking usually means something breaking.
Your foundation isn’t any different. It doesn’t crack without a cause, and it’s typically a sign that something needs repaired.
How cracks form in your foundation will depend on the cause. There are two significant contributors: hydrostatic pressure and settling.
If hydrostatic pressure is causing cracks in your foundation, water intrusion is virtually guaranteed at some point. This pressure is the result of water oversaturating the soil around your home. As the soil absorbs water it expands, taking up more physical space. If there’s more water than the soil can absorb, it applies pressure to everything around it, looking for somewhere to go. Your foundation functions as the “dam” keeping water out of your home, and sometimes it cracks.
These cracks may be extremely thin as they start- we call them hairline cracks because they can be as narrow as a single strand of hair. But over time, the pressure will widen it. Water can get into your basement or crawl space. And that’s when other visitors start to arrive.
All biological growth needs- whether it’s mold, mildew, fungus, etc- is damp and dark. This is the perfect description of a crawl space, and it may apply to the unfinished parts of your basement, too.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project manager during a free estimate appointment. Water leaking in the crawl space has allowed the flooring structure to rot and decay.
Once the wood parts of your home get wet, they become ideal habitats for termites and other insects. This is often how floors begin to sag, because the entire flooring structure of your home (joists, beams, sill plate, etc.) is made of wood.
Water leaks, sagging floors, moldy spots… These create serious problems and are expensive to resolve. They’re the sort of issues that show up on inspection reports and keep you from selling the home. They are also the sort of problems that damage your home’s stability and can hurt your family’s health. This is why fixing even small foundation cracks is essential; it will prevent much worse damage from developing.
Your house is going to settle over time. That’s nature at work. A large, heavy structure like a house gradually works its way into the earth. This usually happens very, very slowly.
But there are circumstances that can cause this process to accelerate. Maybe the soil under the home wasn’t well-compacted before the house was built. The earth under the home might have layers of soil that are a different composition that moves more easily. It could be erosion under the footing of the house. Whatever the reason, sometimes one corner or section of a home settles at a faster rate than the rest does.
When settling happens at different rates, it strains the overall structure of your home. A house is built of solid materials like concrete, steel, and wood. These are not flexible pieces, they’re not meant to be. But when gravity pulls on them, applying an unequal amount of force, they’re going to move. They can warp, twist, tear or crack.
You’ll see this evidence in some specific ways:
- Doors and windows that stick; this doesn’t mean only that they are stuck closed. It can also mean a door that won’t stay open without a doorstop, or only stays closed if it’s locked. Likewise, windows may slide closed unless propped up, or be impossible to open past a certain point.
- You also may notice drafts around these entry points; once the foundation shifts to a certain point, the home’s framework will become twisted or crooked. There have been instances where a homeowner invested in new windows- only to learn the windows weren’t to blame and they now have to spend additional funds on fixing their foundation.
- You may also find cracks in the drywall near these doors and windows, because this is connected to the framework, too.
- Depending on the exterior of your home, you could also see cracks in the foundation. I want to stress that these zig-zag cracks are on the outside of your home. (If you have this shape of crack inside your basement, that’s a bowing wall and an entirely different foundation problem.)
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project manager during a free estimate appointment. This shape of crack indicates the foundation is settling, causing the brick to separate.
If settling is repaired in its early stages, a good contractor can usually make repairs that include a slight lifting of the settled foundation section. This is usually the “ideal” solution for homeowners, because it is easier to repair drywall than reframe doors and windows. But lifting is not always possible; it depends on the condition of the home and how far it has sunk.
Delaying Repairs Can Be Costly
It is a simple fact: repair issues do not go away on their own. Acculevel has repaired over 30,000 homes, and experience has shown us that the longer you wait to do repairs, the more damage is done. We have an article that reviews four different possible situations, and how delaying the repairs affected the costs and damage to the home.
Procrastination can hurt your budget, and your bottom line. The costs of products and labor only increase over time. And it can be very difficult to sell your home when its condition and health need considerable repairs. The keys to protecting your home and your wallet are early detection and correction.
Want to Learn More about Your Home’s Foundation?
I have three different resources I’d like to share with you. All of them are free to use, and were designed to help answer homeowners’ questions. Acculevel is, of course, dedicated to helping people protect and preserve their homes. But we also believe you should be treated respectfully and offered the detailed information necessary for you to determine what is best for you and your home
- Our DIY home inspection checklist will walk you through the steps to follow, to thoroughly check your home’s foundation for any warning signs or potential issues. We recommend that you perform this check twice a year, possibly times to coincide with daylight savings time (when you should also change your clocks and test the batteries in your smoke detectors).
- If you have not clicked on the Check Your Symptoms tab in our navigation bar, please do so when you have time. This page itemizes various symptoms in an interactive format; you can select the concern that you have and a new window will open with applicable information regarding the potential concern, causes, and repair methods.
- Last, but definitely not least, we have a comprehensive foundation repair guide that is meant to address all the questions we commonly encounter from homeowners. Please bookmark this guide and refer to it when you need more information about your own home’s health and stability.