Is My Foundation Heaving? (Signs, Causes, & Treatment)

If you or a loved one lives in an arid climate, then you might be suffering from the foundational heave blues: cracked drywall, doors that are difficult to open, and fatigue caused by skirting around that miniature molehill in your carpet.

Go ahead – que that sad soul harmonica music…or, let Dalinghaus Construction Inc. talk you through the signs and symptoms of the foundational heave blues and point you in the right foundation repair direction.    

In this blog we will cover:

  1. What is foundation heave?
  2. What are the signs and symptoms to look for?
  3. What are the causes?
  4. And what are the best treatment options? 

What is Foundation Heave?

Foundation heave is the uplift, elevation of a foundation precipitated by soaked, expanding soils and can generally be attributed to a seasonal increase in moisture, a plumbing leak, or underground aquifers.

Foundation heave is the uplift, elevation of a foundation precipitated by soaked, expanding soils and can generally be attributed to a seasonal increase in moisture, a plumbing leak, or underground aquifers.

Foundation heave is the polar opposite of foundation settlement.

Foundation settlement sinks your foundation. Foundation heave lifts your foundation up. For a more in-depth overview of foundation heave, check out: What is Foundation Heave (Causes, Affected Area, How to Fix)     

This article is going to focus primarily on helping you determine whether or not you’re suffering from foundation heave and whether you deserve compensation. (*Our best lawyers are in deep litigation with Mother Earth right now, so we’ll see how it goes).

People often confuse foundation heave with foundation settlement. That’s a different lawsuit and a different infomercial.

One of the biggest issues with foundational heave is that it mimics the exact symptoms of foundation settlement.

One would think that because the external forces of foundational heave and foundational settlement are the polar opposite that the signs and symptoms would be different. They’re not.

Fun Facts with Brian: Foundation heave is serious business. It is so serious the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors has determined that expansive soils capable of damaging foundation can exert as much as 5,500 psf against your home’s concrete. 

Signs and Symptoms of Foundation Heave

As mentioned above, there is a good deal of overlap in terms of signs and symptoms when it comes to heave vs settlement. Some of the signs to look for in regard to heave are:

Cracked Drywall

Check the walls and ceiling of your home for drywall cracks. These will be very evident and considerably thicker than simple hairline fractures.

Pay special attention to fissures that you know have grown thicker and longer over time.

These cracks can also form:

  •   Around doorframes (at top of the frame)
  •   Around window frames (at the top and bottom of the frame)
  •   In brickwork (often snakes its way through the motor in a zigzag fashion)

Off-Center Frames

Window and doorframes are susceptible to veer off at quirky angles during the foundational heave blues.

This is due to the constant upward pressure exerted on your home’s foundation. This pressure is then transferred up into the wooden bones of your home, affecting your framework, slanting it or jostling it out of square.

Fun Facts with Brian: the chain of pressure goes from foundation to framework to drywall/windows/doors to your mental health.    

This pressure causes the frames to squeeze doors and windows, making them difficult to open or sticky.  

Lifted Flatwork

Flatwork refers to concrete that is uniform and generally 4 to 6 inches thick. So, lifted sidewalks, patios, garage slabs, and backyard half courts all fall into this vein.

This is typically characterized by sections of flatwork that jut upward like little miniature skateboard ramps. These can be a significant tripping hazard.

Obviously, lifted flatwork can occur inside of the home but manages to hide under carpet or area rugs. It has a much more difficult time hiding with linoleum, tile, or hardwood floors.

To learn more about concrete and flatwork, check out our Concrete R&R article.   

Cracks in Slab

Look for and feel for fractures, fissures, rifts running through your floor. These cracks in the slab are caused by that immense 5,500 pounds of pressure per square foot we were talking about earlier.

Fun Facts with Brian: Foundation heave is typically more prevalent in homes with lightly loaded footings and shallow footings. This is because there is less innate weight of the home to combat the forces expelled by the expanding soil.

The wet soil expands, pushes up against the slab on grade foundation, and pushes its way up, not only creating an increase in elevation but cracks as well.

The Triangle of Death – Okay, so nobody has ever died from this phenomenon, but this a surefire way to know you’re dealing explicitly with foundation heave.

Three separate cracks form and meet, typically at the apex of the heave, in the shape of a triangle.

Foundation Heave Causes   

Here is our equation for foundational heave:

Expansive soil + Water = Foundation Heave 

Now, we cover causes extensively in our other article What is Foundation Heave (Causes, Affected Area, How to Fix). But here is a very basic overview of sources of water that can instigate foundation heave:

  1. Rain
  2. A leaking pipe
  3. Underground streams/Aquifers

What are the Best Treatment Options

Dalinghaus interrupts this blog with this commercial break to bring you He-lic-al Piers! Is your home sinking into the ground, but too light for Push Pier installation? Not a problem, because we got Helical Piers – they screw into the earth! 

So, you’re probably thinking the best way to deal with foundational heave is to either (a. somehow regulate the soil underneath your home or (b. regulate the water. Obviously, option b is more manageable.

In order the regulate the water around your home:

  •   Hop into your crawl space and look for a leak
  •   Replace or repair dripping taps
  •   Repair busted pipes under your home
  •   Ensure your sprinkler system is not leaking
  •   Invest in a better drainage system (gutters/the works)   
  •   Check your water bill and see if your bill has climbed
  •   Turn off ALL of the water and check your water gauge in real time (if it’s moving, you have a problem).  

In short, the best treatment option is better drainage; however, sometimes better drainage is not enough, and the home might require some helical piers.  

Really, you are going to require some specialized help, whether it’s reconfiguring your drainage system in your backyard or attaching helical piers to your home’s footing.

Dalinghaus is Here to Help

Now you know what foundation heave is, the signs and symptoms, and know that better drainage is the best treatment option. 

Dalinghaus Construction is here to help you with all of your foundation repair needs, starting with a FREE foundation inspection as covered in our article Free Foundation Inspections in Arizona (How Free is Free)

If you’re a cool cat who likes to chill and read about foundation repair – we can dig it. Keep perusing our blog.  

If you reside in Central AZ and are worried about foundational heave or settlement, click on our link below to book a FREE foundation inspection –

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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