How To Identify Foundation Problems Early & Minimize Damage
For most people, purchasing a home is the largest investment they will make. Along with the cost of monthly mortgage payments, homeowners are tasked with ongoing maintenance and repairs. Since very few things cost more to fix than a house, knowing if your home's foundation has structural damage is essential. Before building a custom home, ensure that the foundation is sound. "Has the foundation had any problems?" is one of the crucial questions before purchasing a fixer-upper home. By identifying foundation problems, property owners can take proactive measures to minimize damage and unnecessarily expensive repairs. Learn about the ways you can identify foundation problems and minimize damage in the sections below.
The 3 Types of Foundations
The majority of modern home foundations are constructed from poured concrete or laid bricks and blocks. Furthermore, most of Canada's foundations fall into the following three categories: basements, crawl spaces, and slabs.
Basement foundations generally involve digging to depths of approximately 2.4 metres. Usually built using poured concrete into prefabricated forms, basement foundations deliver increased storage and, potentially, living space. In older Canadian homes, basement foundation walls were constructed with brick, stones, and mortar.
Crawl Space Foundations
Crawl space foundations mirror the process of deeper basement foundations. Crawl spaces generally include a footing approximately .5 metres underground and a short-foundation wall. The primary benefit of this foundation style is that it offers property owners an area to make repairs to electrical wiring and plumbing running under the house.
Also called "slab on grade," this type of foundation forgoes any open area under the floor. Slab foundations are made by preparing the land, setting form, inserting rebar, and pouring concrete to create a flat, buildable surface. Slab foundations are at least 2.5 metres thick.
A home's foundation will be is one of the items assessed during a home inspection. Foundations that pass home inspection possess the structural integrity required to support a home or commercial building. However, the unanticipated impact of severe weather and ground shifts can cause damage. Knowing what to look for can save property owners from suffering substantial financial setbacks.
Telltale Signs Your Foundation Needs Repair
New construction homeowners typically don't need to worry about tiny foundation cracks. Foundations undergo something of a settling process that lasts up to about three years following construction. It's essential to keep in mind that ordinary settling results in only hairline fissures. Anything beyond 0.16 centimetres thick is cause for concern. Whether you own a newly built or older home, the following are reasons to contact a contractor.
Your Foundation Appears To Be Sinking
If your floors begin to feel unleveled, or you notice one side of the foundation appears lower than the other, this may indicate a major settling or sinking issue. Consider taking a round object such as a tennis ball or marble. Check first-floor rooms and hallways to see if its roll consistently favours one direction. Another way to identify uneven settling involves taking a long carpenter's level and checking the area where the foundation meets the exterior walls.
In the event you conclude it is sinking or shifting, foundation piers may be required. The house can be raised, and pier supports will be installed to keep it level. Slab foundations are more prone to shifting under certain soil conditions. The good news is that slabs are also good candidates for pier supports.
Your Foundation Appears Elevated
It sounds counterintuitive for a heavy concrete or block structure to defy gravity. But believe it or not, the precise opposite of foundation settling can occur in some cases. A home's foundation can become elevated when the soil beneath the foundation naturally expands and swells upward. Areas that struggle with rising foundations typically possess high clay content in the ground. Clay can gain substantial volume following heavy or sustained rain.
Because the foundation is being driven upward, a line should appear. If you examine where the foundation and ground meet, a thin line of soiled concrete or brick may be present. It may be small, but that telltale sign warrants contacting a foundation professional.
Your Doors and Windows Don't Function Properly
Property owners would be well-served to consider sticking doors and windows with a grain of salt. The surrounding lumber may swell or contract due to moisture, heat, cold, and other environmental issues. On the other hand, a tilting foundation throws the entire building off-kilter. If the issue persists, it may be in your best interest to have a professional evaluate the structure.
Other telltale signs include excessive moisture in basements and crawl spaces, vertical cracks, and crumbling materials. Early detection provides home and commercial building owners the best chance to take action before foundation damage impacts the structural integrity of the building. If you are concerned about a possible foundation problem, contact a professional.