5 Signs and Symptoms of Foundation Issues

Do you have sloped floors, drywall cracks, and doorframes that are out of alignment? Are you embarrassed that your cabinets are pulling away from the wall? If your home is showing multiple symptoms, odds are high you’re suffering from foundation settlement, foundation heave, or another failing foundation issue.

Dalinghaus Construction Inc. has been in the foundation repair industry for two decades. We’ve serviced thousands of foundations and inspected thousands more, boasting of over 100 years of combined experience. 

We are here to guide you through diagnosing the signs and symptoms of foundation failure, even if you ultimately choose to repair your foundation through another construction contractor. This article highlights the primary signs and symptoms of foundation settlement and foundation heave.

We highly suggest you download our free signs and symptoms checklist to help you identify the level of severity of your symptoms.  

Primary Reason for Foundation Issues, Expansive Soil

Before we dive into the signs and symptoms of foundation failure, let’s briefly cover the main culprit: expansive soil. Expansive soil is generally a clay or loam soil that expands and contracts in direct correlation to the volume of water. Expansive soil is notorious for sinking foundations, as it is an incompetent, non-load-bearing soil.

Expansive soil manifests in two primary forms: foundation settlement (where the foundation sinks) and foundation heave (where the ground heaves upward into the foundation). Both exact extreme pressure on your foundation, which is transferred into the framing and interior of your home – thus cracked drywall, sloped floors, and more as listed below.

1. Signs and Symptoms of Foundation Issues: Cracks 

Cracks are the most noticeable indicator that there are issues with your foundation. Cracks can fracture through your drywall, stucco, slab, tile, and chimneys.

Drywall Cracks 

One of the primary signs of foundation damage is stair-stepped cracks in your drywall. These aren’t hairline cracks – they’re big (we’re talking pink-tux-to-a-funeral noticeable or wider than 3/4s of an inch). 

Check out our article Top 5 Primary Reasons for Sheetrock Cracks to learn about other causes of interior cracks besides foundation heave and foundation settlement. 

Drywall cracks are often recurring (if patch-and-painted) and continue to grow. Drywall cracks emanate from door frames and window frames. While it might be easy to grab a putty knife and slap some plaster over them, this is more of a cosmetic fix and does nothing to address the root of the issue.

Also, look for wallpaper that pulls away and wall steering (when paint stretches between corners due to structural damage from a warped framing. 

Stucco Cracks

Here in Southern California, many homes are made with stucco siding due to the 1920’s stucco craze. Foundation issues can also crack its knuckles into your stucco. 

Again, the primary locations to look at are around windows and door frames. While stucco cracks can be an indicator there is a problem with your foundation, it is important to note that stucco can also crack due to age, weather exposure, seismic events, and the quality of the stucco application. 

Concrete Slabs Cracks

We’ve all heard the expression, out of sight, out of mind. That applies especially to concrete slabs that fracture under the pressure of foundation settlement. Slab cracks hide underneath the carpet, carpet padding, and the seams of tile grout. 

It’s also important to note the Top 5 Characteristics of Concrete Cracks.  

Tile Cracks

Foundation issues can also crack tile in your bathroom, kitchen floors, countertops, and backsplashes, causing an embarrassing eyesore for visiting friends and family.

Before you sink your savings on a home remodel, make sure you address any underlying foundation issues first. 

Chimneys Cracks

While it might be easy and even magical to blame your cracked chimney on Santa’s weight gain last Holiday season, it’s more realistic to consider you have foundational problems.

Leaning or pulling away chimneys are a good indicator you have a big problem right beneath your feet.

Check out our article, Why is My Chimney Leaning? (Sings, Causes, & Solutions) to learn more about how to  

2. Signs and Symptoms of Foundation Issues: Leaning Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets that pull away from the walls and ceiling are indicative of foundation problems. 

No one enjoys putting away dishes and worrying one day they will open the cupboard and have a surprise glass shower. This particular sign is harder to pinpoint, as it requires a ladder to check the top of the cabinets.   

3. Signs and Symptoms of Foundation Issues: Sloping Floors

Bowed floors are a major indicator that you have foundational woes. Uneven sloped floors can make you feel like you’re living in a perpetual state of vertigo (you might even feel like you’re on a scene from The Titanic). 

While it might be fun for your kids to use Heely’s in the house, uneven floors do pose a falling hazard, especially for older adults. If you’re not sure if you have sloped floors and you believe in imperial evidence, place a marble on the floor and watch where it rolls. 

If it stands still – no issues, but if it rolls like a miniature boulder from Raiders of the Lost Ark: you’ve got a problem, Indy. We don’t suggest using a level (unless you have a monstrous six-foot level). 

Foundation repair companies utilize a Ziplevel altimeter to quickly and accurately measure elevation changes. The industry standard for floor gradient is half an inch per ten feet. 

Sloping floors can also cause baseboards to jam up against one another so that they look like Tennessee Teeth.

Also, if you feel like there’s an extra pep to your step, foundation problems can make you feel like you’re walking across a trampoline.

See our article What is Floor Slope (Definition, Signs, Causes, & Repair). 

4. Signs and Symptoms of Foundation Issues: Sticking Doors and Windows

Doors that stick or don’t close correctly are a sure sign of foundation problems. A sticky door is one that is difficult to open and close. 

You shouldn’t need the raw strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger to open your own front door. Gaps can also appear between your door and doorframe, leaving you little privacy for bedrooms. 

Before shaving down your door, consider that underlying foundation issues might be at play. The framing around doors and windows becomes out of square and can result in these gaps at the top and bottom of the frame.    

5. Signs and Symptoms of Foundation Issues: Mold 

Mold isn’t necessarily a sign that there is a foundation issue, but mold is definitely a signal that there is extra moisture present. This extra moisture may be caused by foundation issues. Mold in your home can pose a serious threat to your health. 

Receive a Free Foundation Inspection for Peace of Mind

In this article, you learned about the 5 primary signs and symptoms of foundation settlement and foundation heave: cracks, leaning kitchen cabinets, sloping floors, sticking doors and windows, and mold. We understand that these symptoms can prove exasperating and that you’re ready to fix them now.

Dalinghaus Construction Inc. has the experience and drive to help you address your foundation repair needs once and for all.

Are you ready to determine if your signs and symptoms are caused by foundation issues? If you live in Southern California or Arizona, click on the link below for a free foundation inspection – 


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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