Can You Identify These Common House Foundation Issues?

How many times have you heard someone dismiss foundation cracks as simply an old house that's "settling"? Ignoring foundation problems such as cracks and uneven floors can lead to serious - and expensive - problems down the road.

Homes are built on dirt and, over time, that dirt will shift and settle. Clay, for example, will contract and expand depending on the moisture. Sand will erode after significant rainfall or flooding. Plus, the average home weighs 160 tons so that's a lot of pressure on the dirt underneath your home, explains Michael Connolly, marketing manager for Lowcountry Basement Systems, which recently moved into the Charleston market.

"Problems don't get better, they only get worse, and the worse they get the more expensive they will be to fix," Connolly says.

Foundation issues can keep doors and windows from opening properly. Moisture can get into the house and create mold problems. Not properly repairing these issues can also make it difficult to sell your home down the road, he adds.

Homeowners should educate themselves on what to look for and how to identify these common foundation problems:

Settling foundations:

When these soil layers under your house are unable to bear the weight of your home on top of them, the foundation can begin to sink and settle into the earth. This kind of damage can be permanently stabilized with a foundation pier system that transfers the weight of the foundation down to soils at a greater depth, which have the required load-bearing capacity.

Foundation wall cracks:

Minor hairline cracks occur naturally as concrete cures and don't indicate a structural problem. Larger structural cracks are more commonly caused by either foundation settlement or expansive soils pressing on the foundation walls. These larger cracks usually accompany other problems such as tilting chimneys, jamming windows and doors, and cracks in drywall surfaces.

Floor cracks:

Concrete floors form cracks as they either sink into the soil or are pushed upward by the soil. Foundation settlement also can lead to significant floor cracks. Identifying the underlying cause is important so the issue can be permanently fixed.

Uneven floors:

This is more than an annoyance. Uneven floors can lead to jamming doors and cracks in the drywall. If the uneven floor is above a crawl space, there may be rotted framing in the floor or a problem with the framework supporting the floor joists – and both are significant problems and over time can result in serious damage.

Sticking windows and doors:

This is likely due to a settlement issue. Foundation contractors often will install piers to correct settlement problems, stabilizing the structure and often even restoring it to its original position.

If your windows and doors are sticking above a crawl space, the problem may trace back to the central pier and girder support system, which needs a different repair strategy involving new posts and footings.

Tilting chimneys:

One of the most alarming foundation issues a homeowner faces is a chimney that begins to tilt or lean away from the house. The chimney’s foundation may have been constructed separately from the house foundation.

This smaller foundation is susceptible to shifting if it's built on soil with poor load-bearing capacity. Shifting and leaning can also occur if the chimney foundation is too small or too close to the surface. Foundation piers can be an effective solution so you don’t have to rebuild the entire structure.

Collapsing retaining walls:

Retaining walls crumble, tilt, or collapse for a variety of reasons. Most frequently, they fail when the foundation footing has been improperly designed or when a wall has to retain more weight than its design allows. In many cases, a collapsing retaining wall can be effectively returned to strength with a wall anchor system.

If you’ve noticed any of these issues around your house, it’s time to call Lowcountry Basement Systems.

Lowcountry Basement Systems, a waterproofing and foundation repair company, has recently expanded its service area to include Charleston. Their team of certified in-house foundation repair experts have the training, experience, and warrantied products you need to solve your problem at an affordable price. Whether you need foundation crack repair, foundation leveling, foundation underpinning, foundation stabilization, slab foundation repair, basement wall repair, or any other form of structural repair Lowcountry Basement Systems is here to help.

To learn more about their services, schedule a free inspection or get a free repair quote, visit online at CharlestonFoundations.com or call 1-843-410-3797.