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Is it Safe to Live in a House with Foundation Problems?

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If you discover issues with your foundation, you may wonder whether or not it is safe to remain in your home. The answer to that question depends on the severity of the damage.

Is it safe to live in a house with foundation issues? This article will tell if you can stay put or if you need to pack your bags and leave immediately.

If you have mild foundation problems, it is generally safe to remain in your home. But with that said, foundation issues don’t go away on their own, and they will worsen if you don’t address them.

If your foundation issues go unattended for a prolonged period, your home could eventually become unsafe. To prevent that scenario from unfolding, use this article to understand better the causes of foundation damage and some measures you can take to recognize and mitigate these problems.

What Causes Foundation Problems?

There are three primary sources of foundation complications: improper construction, differential settlement, and hydrostatic pressure.

Improper Foundation Construction

The first reason your foundation may begin to fail is that the team that built it did not follow proper building techniques and guidelines. Whether that team mixed concrete incorrectly or made another mistake during the building process, you can expect foundation problems to arise, often shortly after the construction phase is over.

Differential Foundation Settlement

One of the most common causes of foundation damage is settlement. However, not all forms of foundation settlement are detrimental to the structural integrity of your home.

For instance, a small amount of uniform settlement is pretty common following construction. This type of settlement is subtle enough that you may not even notice it.

One of the most common causes of foundation damage is settlement. However, not all forms of foundation settlement are detrimental to the structural integrity of your home.

By contrast, differential foundation settlement is problematic. Differential foundation settlement involves uneven foundation shifts that compromise your foundation’s structural integrity. This form of settlement often causes foundation cracks, sloping floors, and many other problems throughout your home.

Hydrostatic Pressure

Hydrostatic pressure is another widespread cause of foundation failure. Since your foundation is embedded in the earth, it supports the immense weight of the surrounding soil. Under normal circumstances, your foundation wall should not struggle to hold that weight.

Hydrostatic pressure is another common cause of stair-step cracks in a masonry foundation. Hydrostatic pressure is a scientific term that refers to the force that water places on the surfaces it contacts.

However, when the soil that presses against the exterior surface of your foundation wall becomes saturated, hydrostatic pressure can build up. If the pressure isn’t relieved, it can overcome the strength of the foundation wall, resulting in bowing and cracking.

Common Signs of Foundation Damage

If you notice the signs in the list below, there is a decent chance that your home has experienced enough differential settlement or hydrostatic pressure to warrant attention from a professional foundation repair team:

  • Bowed or cracked foundation walls
  • Doors or windows that get stuck or won’t close
  • Drywall cracks
  • Stair step cracks in brick or masonry
  • Sloping floors

Signs of Foundation Problems

Vigilance is the best preventative measure against foundation problems. As such, every responsible homeowner should learn the signs of foundation damage and be prepared to contact a trusted foundation professional if those issues arise.

Resolving Foundation Issues

Repairing Differential Foundation Settlement

Installing foundation piers is the most common approach to repairing a foundation experiencing differential settlement. Foundation piers have two primary forms: helical and push piers, which serve a similar function.

Installing foundation piers is the most common approach to repairing a foundation experiencing differential settlement. Foundation piers have two primary forms: helical and push piers, which serve a similar function.

When using piers to resolve differential foundation settlement, your foundation team will insert them deep into the earth and connect them to your foundation using a solid bracket. After forming that connection, they can use the piers to raise your foundation as much as possible without causing damage. The piers give long-lasting support that makes future foundation settlement unlikely.

Fixing Hydrostatic Pressure Problems

If your foundation damage arises from hydrostatic pressure, your foundation team must take several measures to resolve that complication. The list below explains a few of the main steps that the team will take while completing the project:

  1. Improve drainage: Hydrostatic pressure builds up against the outside of your foundation due to poor drainage around your home. Installing drain tile and other drainage structures conveys excess groundwater away from your house and relieves the pressure it places on your foundation.
  2. Address slope and gutter problems: If the slope of the land directly around your home pitches towards your foundation, it’s more likely that hydrostatic pressure will increase. Grading the land so it slopes away from your home reduces the odds of that problem. Similarly, it’s essential to ensure your gutters remain clean and consider installing downspout extensions to ensure rainwater that hits your roof moves well away from your home where it cannot cause foundation damage.
  3. Restore the strength of your foundation: One of the final steps when repairing a foundation that suffers from excessive hydrostatic pressure is to add reinforcement in the form of carbon fiber straps or wall plate anchors. These devices attach to the inside of your foundation wall and help restore it to its original strength.

Fixing a foundation is challenging, and inexperienced homeowners should not attempt it independently. The best approach is to find a foundation repair team that can evaluate the degree of damage present. That team will be able to tell you whether or not your home is safe to live in.

Get Foundation Repair When You Need It

At Dalinghaus Construction, we are prepared to help residential and commercial customers evaluate the extent of their foundation damage and find the ideal repair solution. If you have foundation concerns and are in Southern California, Nevada, or Arizona, contact us to learn how we can help put your worries to rest.

WRITTEN BY

Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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