Being able to answer this question is more than just saying yes or no. It takes more digging to find out the correct answer to this question. The reason we say this is, because the signs and symptoms for the question “Is my foundation sinking?” can be representative of other scenarios going on with your home. Let’s dive a little deeper into the symptoms.
Drywall cracks can be a sign of a foundation that has sunk or is in the sinking phase. They cracks act as hinge points for the house and the framing as the foundation moves downward. We have seen drywall cracks on homes that have less than 1/2″ of movement. Every house reacts differently when it starts to move. Most of it is dependent on the amount of area that is moving. If it is the whole house you will more than likely have cracking throughout the house. If it is just a corner or a wall, which we typically see, it may be confined to just that area of settlement. In the same breathe, drywall cracks can also just be the wood framing expanding and contracting. This happens when there is either an abundant amount of moisture in the air, typically if we have a lot of rain for weeks on end, or if there is a lack of moisture in the air, typically when we have droughts and prolonged periods of no rain, which we experienced a few years ago. When there is a lot of moisture in the air, the wood framing is able to absorb that moisture and just like clay soils, it will expand, not a lot, but enough that it could produce hairline cracks in the drywall. The same goes with having minimal to no moisture in the air. The wood framing can dry out and will actually shrink some. These happen in rare occasions, but we have seeing them in a few homes that we have inspected in Southern California.
This symptom is more apparent that you have a foundation that is moving. Like we said above, you can have isolated areas the settle, due to poor soil conditions, vegetation, or poor drainage in those areas. Rarely do we see the entire house being effected. There are easy ways to check this. You can take out a long level and see just how level you floor are, you can take a ball, golf balls work great, lay it down in the area you think you are having movement and see if it rolls to the lowest floor elevation. Now these are great at home tests to validate for yourself of the floor movement. We on the other hand, will use a Ziplevel Altimeter that can measure floor elevations to within 1/10 of an inch. It provides a digital reading for every area of the floor that is measure. This will provide you a very accurate answer with validation of just how much movement your home may be experiencing.
There are a few other things that our inspectors check out when they conduct an in home visit, but these are a few quick ones that you can do relatively easily on your own. Regardless of what you find, the best thing to always do is to get a professional to validate your findings. Make sure that you ask the questions that you have in regards to understanding the fix and how it will benefit and correct your home’s sinking floor problem. Not every home is the same just like every repair recommendation will be the same. Different solutions are great to provide you with the most cost-effective repair to make sure you and your family can enjoy one of your family’s biggest investments, your home.