Much like numerous diseases of the body, foundation problems start slowly and can be extremely costly by the time you understand there is an issue. The secondary symptoms, some of which aren’t apparent foundation issues, are also a challenge for the layman. Parts of your home like windows and doors malfunctioning do not immediately ring the foundation problem bell to the average homeowner.
The saying “build a strong foundation” became famous for a reason. So read on, and save yourself time, money, and stress from a renovation nightmare.
Indoor Problems: Malfunctioning Entry Points and Cracks
The most obvious sign of a foundation problem is the cracking of walls and flooring. Stress from shifting foundation issues causes bowing and bending that residential building material is not meant to handle. Check for cracking where there are joints, expansions, or angles. It is common for cracks to appear where a wall meets the floor, or more importantly, the ceiling.
It can be confusing for homeowners when doors and windows start to open and close poorly. Even a slight angle change in a wall supported by a poor foundation can cause a malfunction in these places. If any of your doors and windows start to become harder to open and close gradually, it is time to get your foundation checked out. However, don’t confuse a gradual problem for a door that has stuck since installation. This probably means that the installation was poor, and is a much simpler problem to solve.
Exterior Problems: Additional Cracking and Wall Leaning
The Leaning Tower is a one in a million example of a structure “settling” without causing immediate damage. The prodigious landmark attracts tourists for its curious tilt, but architects and engineers still have fought for years to stabilize the structure. Settling is a term that is used to describe new homes getting used to their foundation. Unlike the leaning tower, settling usually causes damage to both interior and exterior structures.
Photo by Jens karlsson on flickr
Obvious cracks in the foundation and exterior walls (especially brickwork) will call for a foundation inspection by a professional. When checking, make sure to look behind all shrubbery and decorative siding. Even the nicest looking houses from the street can exhibit cracking, and often go undiagnosed because of the seeming perfection of the home.
Wall leaning and bulging can be hard to diagnose with the untrained eye. Even a 2° change in a wall angle can call for a diagnosis by a professional.
Eyeballing this issue can be hard. Take out a level to get a close look. If you don’t own one, there is actually a handy app for your smartphone.
When foundation problems run out of control, symptoms become more apparent. Here are a few to look for:
- A roof that is bowing
- Pooling of water and poor drainage
- Concrete chips, indents, or falls apart from weakness when probed
- Wall joints separating from ceilings
If any of these problems are happening in your home, act fast. The structure of your home is in jeopardy and potentially dangerous.
Photo by Ed! (Photography Gallery), from wikipedia commons
When Should You Act?
Immediately. Yesterday. The day before yesterday. Foundation problems are not an issue that can sit stagnantly and be taken care of even a week down the road. Every millimeter a crack moves can lead to ten other problems.
What Is It Going to Cost?
Foundation repairs have one of the widest ranges of repair costs. Estimates have ranged from a few hundred dollars to $30,000+. Here are just a few needs of foundation repair according to Concrete Network:
- $300-$1,500 to hire a structural engineer
- $500-$3,000 for soil reports from a geotechnical engineer
- $75-$150 for a building permit
- $3,000-$4,000 for seismic work (if you live in an earthquake area)
- $1,000-$2,500 for hidden obstacles (tree roots, old repairs, deep footings)
- $1,340 per pier (repairs for an average size home require 8 to 10 piers)
As you can see, the costs can add up fast.
Will Insurance Cover My Repairs?
Unfortunately, unless the problems were caused by natural disaster (flood, tornado, hurricane etc.) foundation repair costs will need to come out of pocket. Check your policy or with your agent to see if you are covered. In very rare cases, land zoning compensation is given by the government when multiple homes experience extensive foundation issues from unstable land.
So what’s the prescription?
Hint: It’s not more cowbell
We may sound like a broken record at this point, but addressing foundation problems immediately is the best course of action. Contractors can generally work on basic foundation problems, but you may want to go with a foundation specialist for their full knowledge of problems and solutions.
Need help finding the best professional in your area? Use Kukun’s Professional Database to find the best professional to help with your foundation.