10 Critical Signs You Might Have Foundation Problems

Written by Blake Heron on . Posted in .

There are a lot of household problems that can be swept under the rug for “future you”. One set of problems that you don’t want to ignore, however, is foundation issues.

Foundation issues can ruin a house if left untreated, and they need to be addressed sooner rather than later. It’s best to identify them as soon as possible to save yourself a headache and a lot of money in the future.

Your home depends on the strength of your foundation. It supports the entire structure of your house, because it’s all connected. If there’s any weakness in the foundation, the damage will work its way up.

If you’re worried that you might be dealing with foundation issues now, or you want to be prepared for the future, don’t worry. Read on to learn about ten critical signs that you might be experiencing foundation issues in your home.

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What Causes Foundation Issues?

Several things can lead to foundation issues, but most commonly they’ll start with the dirt and soil underneath and surrounding the building.

As the soil collects water, it acts like a sponge and expands. Expansion doesn’t have to be a big deal, but too much expansion can put pressure on your home. That pressure can lead to minor structural damage, which can then lead to leaks, which can then lead to mold or greater structural damage.

It’s a problem that increases in severity the longer that it goes untreated. It’s best to address the foundation problem as soon as possible to avoid any costly repairs in the future.

1. Cracked Drywall

If you have some walls with some diagonal cracks creeping up, you might be in trouble.

While a vertical crack might be normal, if you find yourself spotting more cracks form over time, it might be time to look into the foundation of your home.

Your floors are supported from the foundation upward, so if a crack has formed in the living space, then something is moving below. This is a clear sign that the foundation is not stable.

2. Gaps Between Exterior Windows and Walls

A shifting foundation can pull your walls away from your windows and doors.

This will likely happen very slowly, but it’s incredibly harmful over time. As the foundation pulls the walls away, the gaps can create room for moisture or bugs to get in. This can create more problems for the structure of the house.

If you notice this happening, call someone immediately to check out your foundation.  A foundation stabilizer can help solve the problem.

3. You Notice a “Sinking” Feeling

If you’ve realized that one side of your building is lower than the other, or that your foundation appears to be “settling,” this is a problem.

Even a tiny dip that starts as only a few centimeters can grow to inches over time, so this is an issue that needs to be addressed quickly.

4. Counters, Cabinets, or Other Static Structures Separating From the Wall

If you notice that things that were once attached firmly to the wall now have small gaps in between them, look into the foundation.

If the floors and walls are no longer level in your home, this causes the things attached to the floors and walls to detach or crack in response. Even if you don’t notice the de-leveling, you can notice the detaching.

5. Cracked or Leaning Chimney

Excessive moisture or an unbalanced or unleveled foundation can lead to a chimney being cracked or broken, even completely crooked! Is it leaning? If it is, it could be a sign that your foundation is failing.

One of the best ways to tell if your chimney is leaning is by looking at its placement along the side of your home. If you notice space between the exterior of your house and the chimney, it is leaning.

A leaning chimney happens when your foundation sinks, raises, or shifts. Like with many other types of foundation issues, a leaning chimney can lead to water damage and mold if not fixed.

While this might not be something you recognize immediately if you start seeing other small signs, look to your chimney for confirmation.

6. Cracks in the Walls or Floor

Not all cracks are a cause for concern. Cracks happen in paint, or even in heavier materials. Hairline cracks can be easily fixed and are often cosmetic.

There are dangerous cracks though. If they’re horizontal or at a 45-degree angle, if they’re more than an eighth of an inch wide, or if they’re wider at one end than the other, it’s important to get them checked out.

These can be indicative of structural or foundational damage and can lead to larger cracks down the line if they’re not taken care of quickly.

7. Nails Popping Out of Drywall

Again, while this happening from time to time, or minimally, is totally okay, if it’s excessive you should look into it.

If you have a nail come out of the wall, it should be no big deal. Just hammer the nail back into the wall.

If all your nails are popping out of the wall, that is a sign of a problem. When the drywall in your home shifts, nails may move and come out of the wall. If you notice this happening, check for cracks on the inside and outside of your home.

8. Warped Floors or Ceilings

If your ceilings or floors sag down or warp up, it can show that your house is settling or your building is compressing. Beam issues happen when the foundation sinks, rises, shifts, or rots.

This is a bad sign of foundation issues, and it needs to be addressed. It’s more obvious in floors. While sometimes floors are built slightly off-level, if you notice a change, take note.

With concrete foundations, you may notice that your floor is uneven if the home has shifted. Whether you have a beam foundation or a concrete foundation, you will want to fix the damage immediately.

Uneven floors may seem like no big deal at first, but over time they can become dangerous. If children or elderly people are living in the home, they are more likely to trip on an uneven floor.

9. Musty Basement Smells

If your basement smells particularly musty or unpleasant, you might have a mildew problem.

Mildew happens because of moisture that’s getting in through tiny cracks in the foundation. Unfortunately, this means foundation problems.

Having too much moisture in your crawl space leads to beam rotting. If the foundation beams rot, you will have bigger and more expensive problems. Rotting beams often attract termites that get into the rest of your home.

Even if it doesn’t seem like your beams are rotting, you still should stop the moisture immediately. Moisture in homes leads to mold and mildew. Mold can cause skin irritation, sneezing, runny nose, and create a bad smell if not taken care of.

10. Unusual Walls

If your walls are doing things that they’re not supposed to be doing, it might be time to call in an expert. This can include a few things.

If they’re bowing in, this can be similar to the sagging floors and ceilings. There’s some compression happening and it needs to be adjusted before the problem gets worse.

Your walls can also begin pulling away from the house. If that happens, you run the risk of the whole thing coming down. To avoid this, call someone in immediately, don’t wait for more signs.

Additional Signs of Foundation Damage

Cracks in the Tile

If you have tiles in your bathroom, kitchen, or any other part of your home, check to see if they are cracked. When tile floors are uneven or sink, the tiles may crack because they are fragile.

If you notice that tiles are cracking, have a foundation contractor access the situation. If you don’t fix the problem, you will need foundation repairs and tile repairs.

Doors Out of Alignment

Have you noticed that your doors are out of alignment? Are you having a difficult time opening and closing them? If so, foundation problems could be to blame.

When your home’s foundation shifts, the doors may shift with it. If one side of the door is slightly higher than the other side, they will stick and you will have a hard time opening them.

While foundation problems are most like the cause of doors being out of alignment, the problem also could stem from high humidity.

If you live in an area with high humidity and it has been raining for the past couple of days, wait until the rain stops to see if you still have the problem.

If the doors are still difficult to open, you should watch for other signs of foundation problems and have an expert check the doors.

Windows Don’t Work Properly

Like the doors, foundation damage affects the windows in a significant way. The movements in the foundation that lead to the changes in the position of walls may lead to windows leaving spaces beneath or above them when they lock. Always observe the ways your windows fit into the frames to know if there is any problem with cracks.

It is easier to notice changes in the way windows lock that doors. If they are always becoming loose when they lock, the frame is being forced to expand. There may also be cracks on the sides of the frames because the walls are moving.

Likewise, you may wake up one day and notice that your windows won’t lock or open even when the locks are not engaged. It is an effect of movements in the walls too. It would be best if you called an expert to check the foundation when you notice such situations.

Water Stagnates Near The Foundation

Have you noticed water stagnating and pooling around the foundation? This should worry you because it shows that your structure is experiencing a lot of damage. If the water used to flow freely even when it rains heavily, you have to check the foundation to make sure that nothing has changed.

Sometimes, foundations get destroyed, and this leaves a lot of depressions around them. They may also sink inwards and make the drainage systems less effective. When this happens, water will always stagnate around them, causing an unpleasant view in your home.

Even after water restoration, this water will keep pooling around these areas until the landscape is restored. You may notice that in some cases, the stagnating water causes even more damage to the foundation as it tends to drain into it.

Foundation Upheaval

The movement of slab foundation in the upward direction is termed as foundation upheaval. This is a key indicator of a problem with the structure of the foundation. Generally, foundation upheaval is caused due to the accumulation of excess moisture in the soil beneath it.

Heavy rains, broken pipes and lack of proper drainage provisioning results in the soil getting wet and heavy forcing the foundation upwards. Frost heave is another key factor that causes a considerable shift in the foundation. When water freezes it increases in volume by 9% putting adding pressure on the foundation which can result in the formation of cracks.

How To Fix Foundation Problems?

If you’ve experienced one or several of these signs of foundation issues, it might be time to reach out to someone for help.

Even if you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to get a professional opinion from someone who’s seen this before. If you need an expert, check out our page and contact us for help. We can assess the damage before it’s too late.

Blake Heron

Written By Blake Heron

Blake has specialized in crawl space & foundation repairs for over 10 years (since 2012). His prior engineering and business degrees from James Madison University in VA prepared him for a mastery of problem solving with crawl space & foundation repair issues. He is one of America’s top experts on crawl space encapsulation. As Founder of both ‘BAY Crawl Space & Foundation Repair’ as well as ‘GridLock Foundations’ he is a leading industry expert on crawl space foundation repairs.

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