Recognizing the Signs of Foundation Issues

by James Florence

A concrete foundation is the proverbial rock upon which a house is built, so when it begins to settle due to erosion or another issue, it’s no small matter. Since the signs of foundation settlement issues can be surprisingly subtle, it’s a good idea to be proactive about identifying them in your home. Here are a few things to look for:

Foundation

Foundation settlement can cause major structural problems in a home, but the warning signs are often subtle. Photo: Gaelic Construction (2014)

Wall cracks
While cracks in walls aren’t always a concern, in some instances they can be a direct result of foundation settlement, such as diagonal cracks at the corners of doors and windows. If you see these types of cracks, there’s a simple way to determine if they’re related to foundation movements: fill them in with latex paint. If the same cracks reappear within a couple of months, it’s likely the wall is continuing to move due to foundational shifting.

Damaged or uneven floors
Especially apparent on tile or hardwood surfaces, floor damage such as bulges, cracks and warping are further potential indicators of a settling foundation, as are uneven floor surfaces. To test if your floor is level, set a tennis ball down at one end of the room—if it rolls to the other side, there’s a good chance your foundation has settled.

Efflorescence
An unfamiliar term to most consumers, “efflorescence” is a white, powdery scaling that accumulates on the insides of concrete foundation walls. It’s often a sign of hydrostatic pressure, which means water is being pushed through the wall due to inadequate drainage. To avoid issues that arise from drainage problems, make sure your home’s gutter downspouts are correctly terminated and the surrounding ground is properly graded.

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