The Ultimate Guide to Signs and Symptoms of a Home in Need of Foundation Repair

If you want to know the signs and symptoms of a home in need of foundation repair and why they happen, this is the Ultimate Guide for you. Download the Guide for when you’re on the go!
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I. Introduction

As the expression goes – ”home is where the heart is.” Your home is the place you’ve invested your life into, both financially and as a place your family resides. Your home is a place where you can feel safest. You’ve dedicated your heart and soul to your home and the people who live there. 

The home is one of the few places where you can be your most genuine self. You can reside there and be vulnerable to the closest people around you. That living space is where you’ve had some of your happiest moments.

When you start to feel comfortable, you notice not one problem in your home; it’s everything piling together. Cracks are on your ceiling, windows and doors are difficult to close, a part of your home feels like a ski slope, and your drywall and stucco are starting to crack. And these are the problems you immediately notice. You don’t know what else to look for or understand how all these issues are happening at once. 

We get it – Your home is your livelihood. You purchased it for a few reasons: 

  • Your home is a source of equity.
    • A financial investment for you and those around you. The value of your car, stereo, stamp collection, or whatever else might go down. Your house will always be of higher value, assuming problems aren’t making themselves present.
  • Your home is your base of operations
    • The sanctuary from the problems of the outside world. The place where you can regroup, rest and have food alongside your significant other, children, your other family, and the family pets.
  • As a place to call your own.
    • Your home is your largest investment and place of living, accepting the responsibility of being a homeowner. You want your home to be protected.

 

When you don’t understand the issues with your home, feeling fear is a natural reaction. Everything feels like it’s in jeopardy when what you need is peace of mind. It feels as though this is an additional problem to everything going on around you. The life problems you feel you need to deal with are further delayed.

Thankfully, not everything is all bad. You might not know what’s happening with your home, but that’s why we’re here to help you out.

Not knowing can be a scary thing. You don’t need to be scared when you’re a mom or a dad. You’re stressed enough at your job as it is. In this economy, you’re trying to make sure you can pay the bills, let alone afford gas.

You don’t need to feel distressed over issues with your home. We want you to understand what is happening. We want to make it easier to pursue your goals and complete them. What’s important to us is that you can conquer any obstacle you face. 

This is only another obstacle that needs to be faced. Unfortunately, ignoring issues never seems to work. Facing issues head-on makes for the best resolution. 

 

There isn’t any issue you can’t overcome. You’re more powerful than you give yourself credit for. 

 

Dalinghaus Construction is here to help. We’re here to help you never settle. We’re here to help educate, guide, and direct you. 

Where you feel like Frodo on his quest to destroy the ring on Mt. Doom, we’ll act as Gandalf, helping you throughout the way. There won’t be a Fellowship of the Ring, but we will teach what we can and guide you along the way. 

 

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” -Gandalf

 

This Ultimate Guide to Signs and Symptoms of a Failing Foundation Guide will walk you through the different types of foundations, the causes of foundation settlement, and the signs and symptoms of your foundation failing.  

II. Table of Contents

III. Primary Types of Foundations Homeowners Have

People are generally concerned about the frame of the home, how many beds and bathrooms there are, the square footage, the yards, and if the home is in good condition. What people are less concerned about is what the house sits on top of. The foundation is usually something out of sight, meaning it’s mostly out of mind.

Knowing the type of foundation you have is like knowing the type of media you’re going to consume. With The Lord Of The Rings, there are movie and book versions. They’re different mediums to tell the same story, but they tell the same story nonetheless. There might be some added scenes or inconsistencies in the movies, but that’s not the point. There are different types of foundations, but they do the same job of holding your home.

Generally speaking, there are three different types of foundations:

1. Slab-on-grade

The house sits on a 4-inch to a 6-inch concrete slab with a footing around the perimeter of the slab. The depth of the footing depends on the weight the house exudes, though it is common to see a home with an 18-inch footing. If the home has a load-bearing wall, a concrete footing will be placed under the slab where the load-bearing wall is located.

2. Raised

Raised-Foundation

A foundation with a crawlspace. Raised foundations elevate the home above the ground. This foundation acts as a buffer between the house and the ground. A concrete footing is put into the ground, commonly referred to as a stem wall. Where slab foundations only have concrete, raised foundations have the added material of wood. A sill plate is bolted on top of the concrete footing to hold the frame of the house.

3. Basement

Basement-Foundation

The deepest of the three major foundation types is generally around 8 feet deep. Great for putting storage space in, or playing Dungeons and Dragons–seriously a fun game–with the group from Stranger Things.

Our article Slab Foundation, Crawlspace, or Basement: What Type of Foundation Do You Have goes more in-depth about these three types of foundations to help you understand your home and what it stands on.

IV. What is expansive soil?

Expansive soil is any type of soil that expands or shrinks depending on moisture volume. Soils expanding and contracting often cause signs and symptoms of a home needing foundation repair as they put undue stress on your home. 

When these soils are exposed to more volumes of water, they expand or swell, causing foundation heave, or an upward movement in the home. 

As opposed to heaving, you have the opposite effect called foundation settlement, or when an area of a structure sinks into the ground. This is due to the soil drying and being more compact. Gravity, seismic activity, climate, and time are culprits that contribute to settlement issues. 

All types of foundations are subject to settlement. 

Sometimes soils are improperly compacted, causing settlement from human error and/or negligence. 

To reiterate, expansive soils cause foundation settlement (where the foundation sinks) or foundation heave (where the foundation is pushed upward). 

Expansive soils include: 

  • Smectite
  • Bentonite
  • Montmorillonite
  • Beidellite
  • Vermiculite
  • Attapulgite
  • Nontronite
  • Chlorite

To learn more about expansive soils, check out our article What is Expansive Soil?

V. Common Signs of Foundation Issues

Any of these signs on their own don’t necessarily mean you have an issue with your foundation. If you’re seeing many of these signs and symptoms of a home in need of foundation repair at the same time, you’re more than likely in need of foundation repair.

Failing foundations result in cosmetic and structural issues with the home that makes you feel like you’re in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” but with less dancing and pop. The situation is a certain type of thriller, but not one to anyone likes.

You might require foundation repair if:

  • You feel like you can hire a bobsled team to navigate your uneven floors.
  • You can see constellations in the night sky as you look toward your ceiling.
  • You’re worried pests and insects can fit in your cracks and invade your home.
  • Windows and doors are difficult to open and close, forcing you to work out before you can go to the gym.
  • Door frames are crooked, making you unsure if you’re looking outside, or at a crooked Van Goh painting.

If you’re experiencing all of these symptoms, find licensed contractors to come out and inspect your home for potential foundation repair. Be sure to look for more than one bid to have multiple opinions about your foundation issues and compare companies. That way you have an informed idea on the next plan of action. 

A. Sticky Doors and Windows

Having to put more muscle into opening doors and windows for fresh air isn’t a normal workout routine suggested by personal trainers. You’re still working up a sweat anyway as you put your whole body into opening windows and doors. The struggle makes you sweat and short of breath, making you desperate to feel that fresh air.

Sure, sticky windows and doors are inconvenient, but what if they could put you at risk during an emergency? If you’re dealing with a fire, earthquake, or any other emergency, the added time trying to open and close those doors or windows can make a situation direr.

Of course, this is a worst-case scenario of this sign and symptom of needing foundation repair. You’ll mostly experience sticky windows and doors as an inconvenience, usually resulting from expansive soil (foundation settlement or foundation heave) or humidity.

Humidity

Humidity will cause moisture to soak into the wood, swelling it up and bulging the frame. The increased amount of pressure exerted will make windows and doors more difficult to open and close.

Foundation Issues

Expansive soils will expand and contract depending on the water volume in the soils. New pressure is being exerted, affecting your foundation and the frame of your home.

Signs and symptoms of sticky doors and windows

  • The doors and windows won’t open or close correctly.
  • You exert extra force to open your windows and doors.
    • The process feels more like a workout routine.
  • Door/window frames are out of square.
  • Cracks appear outside of windows and doorframes.
  • Gaps appear between doors and doorframes.
  • Floors feel generally uneven as though you can sled down a hill.

When doorframes and window frames are built, they’re in line with the frame of your home. As settlement or heave happens, the pressure your house originally exerted is out of whackcompromising the alignment of your frames.

Causes of Sticky Doors and Windows

  • Moisture was absorbed into your window/door frame, causing it to expand and stick.
  • Foundation settlement or heave.
  • The door hinges weren’t installed correctly and are misaligned.
  • Your kid was pretending to be a bear and got honey all over your doorframes.

For more information about sticky windows and door frames, take a look at our article Why Do I Have Sticking Doors and Windows? (Humidity & Foundation Issues)

B. Window and Doorframe Cracks

Windowframe crack (Dalinghaus)

If you notice your doors and windows are difficult to open, consider looking in the corners of your window frames and door frames to see any diagonal cracks. The cracks on their own aren’t necessarily a sign and symptom of a home in need of foundation repair, but you’ll notice many other signs that coincide. There are two reasons you would have a window frame and a door frame crack.

Moisture

Humid and tropical climates tend to have more moisture that compromises your windows or doorframes. Where Dalinghaus Construction is located (Southern California, but we also do work in Arizona and Nevada), things are a little drier, whether in humor or climate.

The (very) rare times where it rains in Southern California and Arizona. The rain causes the organic materials of the home to soak in moisture and makes the roads wetter than we’re used to – creating terrible drivers when the clouds play with a relatively light splish splash to the ground.

The wood expands and contracts, asserting pressure on the window and door frames and creating cracks.

Moisture cracks are most common in the framing trim. 

Weather from moisture isn’t the only culprit for this type of crack. You could also have a leak coming from somewhere. If you see discoloration, it’s possibly due to a moisture leak. Be sure to check your roof and pipes to identify the source.

Cracks in your frames due to moisture are more of a cosmetic issue than anything else. So long as nothing is leaking and you’re able to mitigate temperatures and humidity in your home, these cracks can be mitigated.

Foundation Settlement or Heave

When the soils under your home expand and contract, your foundation is unable to properly hold the weight of your home, causing the structure to either sink into the ground or be pushed upward.

In Southern California and Arizona, you’ll more often experience foundation settling. As things get dryer, the soil becomes more compact, and gravity assists in pushing your home downward slightly. When the framing of your house is compromised and exerts new stressors, your internal framing will also be affected. Your window and doorframes become out of square, are crooked, and start to crack.

Not only can settlement and heave cause cracking in windows and doorframes, but it can cause other signs and symptoms of foundation issues:

  • Windows and doorframes out of square.
  • Cracked glass (usually single pane).
  • Windows and doors are difficult to open and close.

Again, any of these signs by themselves aren’t too much of a problem. When you see other signs and symptoms of foundation issues, then you should be more concerned.

For more information on window and doorframe cracks, check out our article Why Do I Have Window Frame and Doorframe Cracks? (2 Primary Reasons)

C. Ceiling Cracks
Why Do I Have Ceiling Cracks_ (Dalinghaus) If you can see the stars when you look toward your ceiling, you might have an issue. Granted, you’ll notice these cracks before it can get that bad. We’ve done foundation repair on a home that has sunk 16 inches with that specific project being red-tagged. You could see the sky from inside the house. That project wasn’t considered to be harmful to our production crew. IT was a home the city deemed unlivable. Seeing signs and symptoms of a home in need of foundation repair typically isn’t an issue you’ll have to deal with due to immediate dangers.  Foundation issues rarely become as dramatic as a Shakespearean tragedy – Looking at you, Hamlet. And we doubt Shakespeare would have written a tragedy on a ceiling crack – maybe a comedy. That said, this is one of two types of ceiling cracks you should be concerned about. Let’s go over both:

Large Ceiling Cracks with a Bowed Ceiling

These are the “Shakespearean tragedy” cracks we referred to earlier. You’ll see large fissures going down the middle of your ceiling. These are very noticeable to the point you can consider putting an outdoor plant inside. Large ceiling cracks show the structure has been severely compromised, especially with a bowed ceiling. The structural integrity can be compromised due to foundation settlement, too much weight attributed to your ceiling, severe water damage – or a combination of all three.

Yellow, Brown, or Damp Ceiling Cracks

These types of cracks need to be addressed immediately due to being to it being a symptom of a water leak. Cracks from water damage need to be addressed at the source, or the damage will continue. While the structure will still be intact, the moisture can create mold, mildew, and electrical damage. Mold is serious for your health, especially if you’re immune-compromised or have asthma. Protect yourself and your family. For more information on these particular types of ceiling cracks, check out our article Ceiling Cracks You Should Worry About. There are other types of ceiling cracks that aren’t a serious threat to your home on their own. You’ll want to take them seriously in conjunction with other signs and symptoms of a home in need of foundation repair. You should still monitor them, but you shouldn’t worry so much about mold or a severely compromised home. Here are some other types:

Hairline Ceiling Cracks

These are teeny-tiny cracks that look like someone put their hair on the ceiling after using too much conditioner. Hairline cracks are usually caused by plaster or drywall muss issues. Not the drywall itself. They don’t look the most appealing, but they are not a symptom of serious structural damage. A change in temperature and humidity causes the plater to expand and contract, which weakens the adhesive of the drywall mud. With multiple layers of paint, the probability of hairline cracks increases. The multiple layers of paint start to look like the scales of a Dwarf Caiman Alligator.

Spiderweb Ceiling Cracks

These cracks look like what the name implies: a spiderweb pattern. You might think you had an altercation between three Spider-men like in Spiderman: No Way Home. That’s a cool thought, but these cracks often signify foundation settlement. There likely isn’t much to worry about if the cracks are smaller than 1/16th of an inch, especially if drywall mud was applied insufficiently and came out too thin. When the home settles and creates spiderweb cracks in your ceiling, you’ll see additional signs associated with it:
  • Sloped floors.
  • Out of square windows and door frames.

 Straight Ceiling Cracks

These cracks follow the straight edge of drywall tape along the drywall joint, causing the cracks to be straight as though a doctor used a scalpel to cut for surgery. These cracks tend to be fine due to them being attributed to a sparse amount of plaster applied during drywall installation. They’re usually a result of human error. However, foundation settlement can cause this sign and symptom of needing foundation repair to worsen.

Cracks Between the Ceiling and Wall

This is a more serious ceiling crack professionals like a construction company need to deal with.  These are a result of a truss pulling away from the ceiling usually due to wind or weather fluctuations. What is a truss?
    • According to MTCopeland, a truss is “a web-like roof design of wood or steel that uses tension and compression to create strong, light components that can span a long distance.”
    • The types of loads trusses withstand in a building:
  • Live loads: “Transient forces within the building include people, furniture, appliances, and cars.”
  • Dead loads: “Permanent loads like beams, walls, and flooring comprise the structure of a building.”
  • Environmental loads: “Forces like wind, rain, or snow act laterally against the building.”
These cracks that pull away are a result of truss uplift. Trusses are designed to be flexible and adapt to humidity and fluctuations in temperature. When the trusses fail, they pull away from the wall and create a gap between your wall and ceiling. To have a more in-depth look at ceiling cracks, check out our article Why Do I Have Cracks In My Ceiling? (6 Types of Cracks to Look Out For)
D. Water Leaks

 Clues to look out for:

  • The feeling of uneven footing, and you’re looking at life from literally a different angle. 
  • Broken, chipped tile on tiled floors.
  • Uneven, bowed, ramped, or flexed wooden floors.
  • Floors that feel like a trampoline or bounce house.
  • Large gaps and cracks between the floor and baseboard/crown molding. 

These reasons are either a sign and symptom of a home in need of foundation repair or you own an older home with average wear and tear.

Here are reasons your floor may be slanting:

Sloping Floors Caused by Subfloor Problems

Subfloors apply primarily to raised foundations. This area is what provides a reliable and stable surface for underlayment and surface flooring.

Wooden subfloors are particularly vulnerable to water damage, whether from mold, rot, disintegration, or wood warping. The resulting water damage makes the subfloors feel uncomfortably spongy, causes the floors to bow, and, if it’s super severe, collapse.

The subfloor isn’t so much of a problem compared to what supports it. Sometimes the posts and pads, stem walls, and cripple walls underneath the home act like a crowd you don’t want to have to support you when you jump off a stage to crowd surf. A couple of people in the crowd might immediately give up holding you, making you feel as though you’re gonna land on the ground soon.

Busted Floor Joists

Poor drainage, water leaks, and previous flooding make floor joists incredibly susceptible to moisture damage (rot, mold, disintegrating, or warping).

Floor joists in older (sometimes newer) homes might have been installed incorrectly. It happens that construction and architectural standard have increased today compared to back in the day.

One of the largest indicators of the floor joists being damaged is if they appear abnormal (rotted, warped, or soft). Abnormalities in the wood are the primary reasons for your sloped floors.

Rotten, the section of wood sitting between the stem wall and supports the floor joists, wood sills are also susceptible to water damage.

Foundation Settlement or Heave

If the soil under your house is moving, so is the area of your house. When your foundation is sinking, so is your floor. When your foundation is rising, so is your floor. If your soil shifts, your foundation is also likely to shift.

Sometimes the soils aren’t competent as time goes on, causing foundation issues by sloping or slanting. This doesn’t help your interior.

It doesn’t matter what type of foundation you have. Every type of foundation is susceptible to settlement at some point.

In Southern California and Arizona, foundation settlement is the most common reason for sloped floors. Foundation settlement is the reason it feels like a portion of your floor can be used for the winter Olympics; add some shaved ice to the slope and you can compete with Shawn White (if he wasn’t retired).

For more information on sloping floors, look at our two articles What Causes Sloping Floors? (3 Common Reasons for Unlevel Floors) and What Is Floor Slope? (Definitions, Signs, Causes, and Repair)

If you prefer a visual aid, here is a video that goes into how to spot slope damage, how slope damage is fixed, and the cost to fix it:

E. Sloping and Bowed Floors

 

Sloping and bowed floors are one of the biggest indicators of a major foundation issue. Pretty much the number one sign. 

You could experience vertigo or find a reason to try out the Michael Jackson lean. Or you’re shooting a re-enactment of the famous movie Cool Runnings, even going as far as to buy your own bobsled. 

Okay, the movie joke is an exaggeration. Everything else could legitimately be a thing. If your floor slopes enough from the rest of the home, you can physically feel it. 

Sometimes you can’t feel it. But you can test it!

All you have to do is place a marble or golf ball on the floor to see where it rolls. If they roll quickly, be careful not to lose your marbles from a sloping floor.

Here’s a video that goes into how to tell if your floors are uneven:

  Clues to look out for:

  • The feeling of uneven footing, and you’re looking at life from literally a different angle. 
  • Broken, chipped tile on tiled floors.
  • Uneven, bowed, ramped, or flexed wooden floors.
  • Floors that feel like a trampoline or bounce house.
  • Large gaps and cracks between the floor and baseboard/crown molding. 
These reasons are either a sign and symptom of a home in need of foundation repair or you own an older home with average wear and tear. Here are reasons your floor may be slanting:

Sloping Floors Caused by Subfloor Problems

Subfloors apply primarily to raised foundations. This area is what provides a reliable and stable surface for underlayment and surface flooring. Wooden subfloors are particularly vulnerable to water damage, whether from mold, rot, disintegration, or wood warping. The resulting water damage makes the subfloors feel uncomfortably spongy, causes the floors to bow, and, if it’s super severe, collapse. The subfloor isn’t so much of a problem compared to what supports it. Sometimes the posts and pads, stem walls, and cripple walls underneath the home act like a crowd you don’t want to have to support you when you jump off a stage to crowd surf. A couple of people in the crowd might immediately give up holding you, making you feel as though you’re gonna land on the ground soon.

Busted Floor Joists

Poor drainage, water leaks, and previous flooding make floor joists incredibly susceptible to moisture damage (rot, mold, disintegrating, or warping). Floor joists in older (sometimes newer) homes might have been installed incorrectly. It happens that construction and architectural standard have increased today compared to back in the day. One of the largest indicators of the floor joists being damaged is if they appear abnormal (rotted, warped, or soft). Abnormalities in the wood are the primary reasons for your sloped floors. Rotten, the section of wood sitting between the stem wall and supports the floor joists, wood sills are also susceptible to water damage.

Foundation Settlement or Heave

If the soil under your house is moving, so is the area of your house. When your foundation is sinking, so is your floor. When your foundation is rising, so is your floor. If your soil shifts, your foundation is also likely to shift. Sometimes the soils aren’t competent as time goes on, causing foundation issues by sloping or slanting. This doesn’t help your interior. It doesn’t matter what type of foundation you have. Every type of foundation is susceptible to settlement at some point. In Southern California and Arizona, foundation settlement is the most common reason for sloped floors. Foundation settlement is the reason it feels like a portion of your floor can be used for the winter Olympics; add some shaved ice to the slope and you can compete with Shawn White (if he wasn’t retired). For more information on sloping floors, look at our two articles What Causes Sloping Floors? (3 Common Reasons for Unlevel Floors) and What Is Floor Slope? (Definitions, Signs, Causes, and Repair) If you prefer a visual aid, here is a video that goes into how to spot slope damage, how slope damage is fixed, and the cost to fix it:
F. Drywall Cracks
interior drywall cracks from settling foundation   Drywall cracks can show up for a multitude of reasons not always affiliated with signs and symptoms of a home in need of foundation repair. However, your home is making a statement that something is going on. Not necessarily bad sometimes, and at other times telling you it’s feeling new stressors. Your home is trying to tell you a problem by action rather than through words. Your home is trying to show you how it’s feeling rather than talking to you about its issues – even though a home isn’t able to talk (as far as we know). If your home talks to you, let us know. There may be experiences it wants to tell you about. Your house is wiser than you think. Joking aside, drywall cracks can appear anywhere in the home. I mean drywall is all around the interior. You’ll most commonly find these cracks diagonally around your window and door frames. There are three reasons why you’ll see these cracks:  

Seasons Changing

Southern California and Arizona don’t really experience seasons. Here’s a forecast of Southern California in particular: Winter: Sunny! Spring: Sunny! Summer: Sunny! Fall: Sunny! As you can see, there is a lot of variety in the seasons. However, we sometimes get more variety than that. It happens on rare occasions, but it does happen. There are times it might rain for us (scary) and feel a little humid in warmer weather. Keep in mind your home is made of organic materials such as wood. Those organic materials will change depending on the weather, whether minimally where you won’t notice, or to where you see new anomalies. Higher humidity causes moisture to be soaked by the wood in the framing. The wood expands and, when there isn’t enough room, will put stress onto your drywall to compensate for the increase in size. A good portion of that stress will affect your drywall, causing cracks. This will happen during a period of heavy rain or a fluctuation in humidity levels. When the weather dries out again, as we prominently experience in Southern California (and especially true in Arizona), the organic materials will contract. Those pesky cracks you once noticed in the drywall are playing the best game of hide-and-seek you’ve ever played, only to be found when you discover them during a wet spell. The organic material is coming back together. If it becomes too dry, those cracks can be noticeable.  

Mother Nature making a statement to society

We call these natural disasters. In the case of Southern California, we have earthquakes. Thankfully, your home is built to absorb rolling earthquakes. Regardless of the type of earthquake, your home may experience cracking in the drywall. Keep in mind an older home will handle earthquakes differently. They’re usually not as intricately designed to handle movements of the earth compared to newer homes. That’s most old homes, but some handle earthquakes like a tank.  

Foundation Settlement

To reiterate, not all drywall cracks are a sign of foundation issues. At least not on their own. If you see drywall cracks along with sloping floors, cracks in your ceiling, and your doors become difficult to open and close, you’re more likely to have a foundation issue. Your house is feeling down, sinking into the ground like an ostrich burying its head.   Yes, we know ostriches don’t really do that.    When an area of your house starts to settle, the drywall slowly starts to separate. That’s when you’ll see more unique cracks that look like a two-dimensional stairway. You’ll still see diagonal cracks and cracking along your door and window frames. For additional information on these types of cracks, check out our article Why Would Drywall Cracks Mean My Foundation is Settling? inar dapibus leo.
G. Stucco Cracks
  When you thought signs on the interior of your home were annoying enough, there are exterior signs and symptoms of needing foundation repair that aren’t aesthetically appealing. The sight of your exterior might be embarrassing for you, which is understandable. More importantly, cracks in your stucco is your house trying to tell you there is a deeper issue at hand. The cracks are pointing out issues of structural integrity to show you there’s a foundation issue.   Here are common types of stucco cracks you’ll see:

Stucco Spider cracks

Are you already having flashbacks to the Drywall cracks section of this Ultimate guide? You can probably guess what these cracks look like. You guessed it. They resemble a spider web pattern. I wish Spider-Man used his web-shooters and left the web on your wall, but this stucco crack isn’t a result of fiction. This type of crack is caused by a lack of mud in the stucco mix, usually created by overuse of water. They’ll also appear if the mud mixture dries too quickly. Maybe there was a hot day when the mixture was extra exposed to the sun. Stucco spider cracks aren’t a significant threat to your home’s integrity or a surefire sign of having foundation issues.  

Stucco Foam Trim Cracks

Stucco installation utilizes a foam trim that is susceptible to cracking, suggesting the fiber mesh tape was not correctly used if it was applied at all. This results in stucco not properly fitting at the seam. And what do you know? Weather affects expansion and contraction in certain areas. The stucco foam trim cracks are susceptible to the elements and can cause further deterioration. Address these cracks. They can lead to damage when exposed to the elements. And the elements aren’t forgiving. Your stucco really won’t forgive you, either. Professional handymen or construction companies can appropriately address this problem.  

Stucco Hairline Cracks

These hairline cracks are similar to those found on your drywall, except now on stucco (obviously). The point is they’re thin and look like hair, running 1/16th of an inch. These can be due to multiple factors:
  • Improper mud mixture.
  • New home settlement.
    • Usually by drying timber or framing.
  • Seismic movement
  • Foundation settlement.
Stucco hairline cracks usually appear from benign factors for reasons that don’t directly correlate with foundation issues or the structural integrity of your home. They could be a sign and symptom of needing foundation repair, but this isn’t the case the majority of the time. Hairline cracks on the home are your house telling what you see is only a boo boo.  If the cracks were larger, wider, and deeper, you have a much bigger issue. Your house may be yelling at you, “it’s just a flesh wound” as it tries to stand its ground without arms or legs.   Here is a video that goes into how big of a crack should be concerning:
Mainly be sure your hairline cracks don’t lead to an issue of significance. If they’re left to deteriorate and widen, you can see serious structural damage as moisture creeps in to destroy everything. Hairline cracks are common and can be addressed by repatching. They’re not something to worry about as an indicator of needing foundation repair. However, if it does result from foundation issues, the cracks will eventually become worse. Be sure you’re looking for other signs. The hairline cracks on their own aren’t a sign of foundation issues. Sometimes hairline cracks manifest as stairstep cracks, a pattern that looks like you could walk up to a second level. This pattern is often a sign of your home needing foundation repair.  

Stucco Cross-Pattened Cracks

Before getting into details on this type of crack, you need to know what a lath is. What is a lath?
  • A framework – usually a mesh, metal wire, or waterproof paper pattern – that provides the framework for the mud stucco to adhere to.
If the lath isn’t properly placed on the structure, whether it was stapled or nailed, it can break off and be dangerous to the structural integrity of an affected area. Improper installation of the lath creates a crack that looks like a grid overlapping with vertical and horizontal lines. AKA a stucco cross-patterned crack. Repairing this crack requires you to remove and replace the lath. Hire a construction company or a professional handyman to address this issue. Don’t attempt to do it yourself.  

Stucco Diagonal Line Cracks

You’ll find these diagonal cracks around window frames, door frames, and AC units. These cracks usually indicate a severe foundation issue, whether from settlement or heave. I would be surprised if you found these cracks and you didn’t require foundation repair. Any cracks caused by a damaged foundation will result in hairline and diagonal cracks. Diagonal cracks are typically a sign and symptom of your home needing foundation repair. You should worry and look for additional symptoms of foundation issues when you see diagonal cracks. Your house is telling you it’s undergoing new stress that needs to be addressed. Your house settling or heaving affects the framing of your house, which influences your window and doorframes as they start to warp. The shifting of everything causes the diagonal and hairline cracks on your stucco. What you’ll find alongside stucco cracks are additional foundation issues such as drywall cracks, sloped floors, and doors that are difficult to open and close. You might be irritated by the cracking of your stucco, but it’s communicating a need for your help. Be more forgiving.  For additional information on stucco cracks, jump into our article 5 Common Signs of Stucco Cracks (When to Worry)
H. Gaps between windows, doorframes, and walls
sloping floors When you have foundation issues, you notice more gaps. If you need more space, an area of your home is certainly giving it to you – only way too literally.

Gaps don’t always mean you need foundation repair

Remember talking about organic materials expanding and contracting? Yeah, you’re home experiences this naturally. Gaps between window frames and door frames will have to be significantly noticeable to constitute a foundation issue. A single gap isn’t indicative of needing foundation repair.

When it indicates a foundation issue

When you find multiple gaps, you might have a foundation issue. Especially if they’re in specific areas of the house. When you see gaps in these areas, your home’s framing is being forced out from its original spot, warping much of the layout. When you see gaps between windows, doorframes, and walls, things are shifting and causing the gaps.

Other places you’ll find gaps

Wouldn’t it be cool if it were only gaps between windows, door frames, and walls that told you about a foundation issue? But your whole house will almost never have one specific sign and symptom of needing foundation repair. You’ll find gaps in:
  • Patios
    • They’ll move laterally (side-to-side) due to slopes.
  • Cabinets
    • Gaps form along the top and bottom of cabinets since they’re locked in place as the home settles.
  • Countertops and kitchen islands
    • This is very similar to cabinets since islands are also locked in place.
  • Tile in floors
    • When your house is settling, it’s not the entirety of the structure tipping into the ground. Specific areas of the home are affected.
    • If any part of the interior is affected, it’s certainly your floor. If you don’t notice the gaps, your floor might keep you on your toes more than usual.
  • Chimneys
    • As the house moves, chimneys pull away.
      • They’re usually heavier, especially if they’re made of brick.
    • Your chimney will lean away from the house.
      • If it does lean toward the house (it can happen), have an expert check the issue immediately.
To read more on finding gaps, don’t space on our article Why are there gaps between door frames, windows, and/or walls?
I. Flooring Cracks (Floors and/or Slabs)
You’ll see cracks on your floor, especially if you have tile. You won’t see a crack if you have a slab-on-grade foundation (unless you rip out the floor), but you’ll certainly feel your house bringing you down, especially if your house is facing foundation settlement. We wish homes would be more uplifting (which they can if you experience heave, which is rare in Southern California and Arizona), but foundation issues aren’t like opening a bag of skittles to have them all be red, or having fun sized starburst packs with both strawberry flavor. They cause serious damage to your home and are expensive. The damage is stressful to you and your home. Two of those stressors will be floor cracks and your concrete slab. However, cracks don’t always mean your home is settling or heaving. For this category, we’ll divide each circumstance between when they ARE and AREN’T caused by settlement/heave.

Concrete Slab Cracks – When They’re Caused By Settlement/Heave

Again, concrete slab cracks aren’t easy to see, especially when they’re under your floor. However, you may feel it. A part of your floor will start to slope, causing the crack and probably making you feel a little off balance. It’s the sloping alongside foundation issues like drywall cracks, ceiling cracks, and you’re windows are difficult to open and close that you will likely need foundation repair.

Concrete Slab Cracks – When They Aren’t Caused By Settlement/Heave

There are sometimes anomalies that crack your slab for seemingly no real reason. However, those reasons do exist outside of your home needing foundation repair. We’re going to explore five of those reasons:
  • Cracks caused by extreme temperatures
  • Cracks caused by plumbing leaks
  • Cracks caused by plastic shrinkage
  • Cracks caused by roots
  • Cracked caused by your concrete drying prematurely
Cracks Caused by Extreme Temperatures
Nature is funny in many ways. Summers can get heated like a couple fighting in public. Winters can be cold like two people not acknowledging each other after an argument. The colder days expand water by approximately 9%, which will cause soil to thrust upward. The freezing and thawing cycle will weaken your foundation over time as the soil fluctuates in motion up and down. In contrast, hot weather dries out the soils that surround your foundation. When the soil shrinks, it’s unable to properly support the foundation of your home, causing undue stress that results in your concrete slab cracking.
Cracks Caused By Plumbing Leaks
Moisture falling asleep on concrete for a long time creates a relationship where they eventually tear each other apart. Plus, who wants to sleep on concrete? Concrete is very supportive, but even it can only take so much before it wants to break down. Joking aside, moisture and cured concrete can result in concrete spalling, which is when small bits of concrete start to flake off the main piece, as well as other structural damage. Check out our article What is Concrete Spalling? (Causes, Prevention, Treatment) to learn more about concrete spalling. Plumbing leaks are also infamous for getting into the soil under your home to cause the foundation to heave and crack your slab. Unmitigated water from heavy rain alongside poor drainage will also contribute to your slab cracking. Cracks Caused By Plastic Shrinkage When you first pour a slab before curing and drying, the water mixed with cement is in a “plastic state.” The water evaporates and can have voids between the cohesive particles, creating concrete that is predisposed to crack. Too much water and the excessive heat can result in plastic shrinkage. The concrete is fragile and becomes susceptible to cracking. You’ll find shrinkage located:
  • Along your pipes and plumbing fixtures.
  • Drains.
  • Reentrant corners.
    • Corners that segue toward the concrete slab.
  • Manholes.
This is why you’ll often see control joints on your sidewalks and other areas. This allows cracks to be contained in a specific area.
Cracks Caused By Roots
Ah, plant life. The glorious green on earth that supplies you oxygen, the beautiful colored petals on roses you hand off romantically, the bushes that protect prey in wildlife from predators and the sun, and those glorious trees out in your front yard that supply fruit. There are trees growing apples, oranges, limes, and lemons. And then sometimes life truly gives you lemons and ruins your slab. The root systems of plants and trees are notorious for ruining slabs. The trees too close to the home will do heavy damage to your concrete slab and footing. Fun Fact – Lemon trees have very shallow roots. The lemon tree example was mainly for the metaphor. They won’t do as much damage compared to other types of trees, but root systems are much stronger than most people realize. The smallest of root systems act like they’re participating in strong-man competitions. Roots are like detectives, sorting through the soil in search of moisture like an escaped convinced. They’re asking, “what’s this? Moisture? In your home?” Yeah, tree roots love to grow toward your home, especially if you have a water leak. And roots are powerful, slow-moving beasts. They’re like a snapping turtle with less bite.
Cracks Caused By Drying
Cracks will result in your slab if the concrete isn’t cured properly. Funny enough, you need to water your concrete occasionally for 27 days. Concrete needs water to stay strong. Neglecting the health of the concrete and letting it dry too fast will cause cracks. For more understanding of why and how to cure concrete, check out our article Why Soak Concrete During The Curing Process? (Reasons and Benefits) To learn more about how your slab cracks aren’t always due to foundation settlement, get to crackin’ on our article My House Isn’t Settling But My Slab Is Cracked Everywhere! Why?!

Floor Cracks – When They’re Caused By Settlement/Heave

When referring to floor cracks, we’re typically referring to tile. The tile is less malleable compared to a wood floor or carpet. Expansive soils will always be the culprit of finding cracks in your flooring. More water expands these soils, and less moisture shrinks them up, causing them to compress. Regardless of these clays causing settlement or heaving, they result in floor cracks. While you’re seeing those cracks on your drywall, cracks on your stucco, and you’re floors are sloping, there is a chance your tile or wood floors can crack.

Floor Cracks – When They’re NOT Caused by Settlement/Heave

Again, this is typically referring to tile. Not to say it couldn’t apply to wood, but it’s much less likely.
Poor Tile Installation
Tile is flat, even, and secure, but flexible is hardly a word you could use to describe it. If you’re not applying enough adhesive across the tile, it will be installed at an uneven position. There will also be a void, weakening the integrity of the tile. Poor installation quickly creates cracks throughout your laundry room, kitchen, and bathroom since those rooms have heavier equipment being used in them.
Dropping Heavy Material
The heavier the thing, the more likely your tile will fracture. Losing your marbles will innocently bounce off the tile when you drop them. Compare that to a 240-pound concrete sphere you use for a strongman competition, which will pretty much guarantee a crack in your tile. Going back to the tile installation and lack of adhesive, your tiles will be weaker and basically guaranteed to crack.
Heavy loads Residing On The Tile
Heavier household appliances – stoves, washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, etc. – sitting on the tile can cause intense and sustained stress. The stress can eventually cause the tile to break. This usually happens with poorer tile quality and/or installation. Be sure you use the correct type of tiles for certain areas of your home sustaining heavier weight. For more information on flooring cracks, we lay it down in our article Why Is My Tile Cracked (3 Benign Causes and Expansive Soil)
J. Leaning Chimney

leaning chimney on home

 

Ah – the fireplace. The area of the home makes you feel warm as the contained flames rage and the wood crackles in a popping rhythm. If you’re driving through Southern California and Arizona, you’ll notice plenty of homes with chimneys. 

If your chimney is leaning, it isn’t because Santa Claus had to crash land on your roof and caused damage. You’re seeing a sign and one of the symptoms of your home needing foundation repair. 

Chimneys are a much heavier structure with much of the weight being concentrated into one area, resulting in them having their own foundation and footing. They might not be built up to par with the rest of the home. 

Before jumping back into all the words, watch this video on what causes chimneys to lean, how to spot the damage, how it’s repaired, and how much the repairs cost:

Signs and Symptoms to look for with your chimney:

  • The chimney is tilting.
      • Often the chimney will pull away from the home, creating a gap between the molding and brick.
        • The gaps can allow access to moisture, pests, and mold.
  • Leaking Chimney
      • Rainfall allows water to get in through the gaps.
  • A crack on the exterior of the chimney
      • These are very noticeable with brick chimneys.
  • Smoke is indoors
      • You probably shouldn’t smoke around the home. And if you don’t smoke and your chimney is doing it for you, there is poor insulation, resulting in the wind punching the air back inside.
    • Brick/mortar decay
      • Bricks are getting loose and decay is around the base of the chimney.
  • Caulking in the gap
  • The flashing around the chimney is misshapen.
Much of the reasons your chimney will lean will most of the time be a foundation issue, whether from:
  • Poor Construction
  • Masonry Issues
    • Your chimney wears out, just as you do over time.
  • A missing footing.
  • The footing has been compromised.
    • Chimneys typically aren’t light. If they exert enough weight, the footing might not be able to handle it.
    • Not all footings are constructed well or with the appropriate materials.
  • Expanding soils.
  • Lack of proper water drainage
    • The dirt will push against the footing as it expands.
For additional information on why your chimney leans, get warm and read the article Why is my Chimney Leaning (Signs, Causes, & Solutions)
K. Slope Creep

Exposed Foundation _ Slope Failure (Dalinghaus) (1)

 

When we say “slope creep,” we don’t mean a stalker on a hillside. It means your house is on a hillside and is slowly moving downhill. The soils, rock, and organic materials move laterally (side to side). Slope creep is a common factor for condemned homes. This phenomenon can cause serious foundation issues, resulting in property damage costing thousands of dollars.

Of the regions in Southern California, Orange County has prevalent slope creep.

Slope creep happens on the top six-foot layer of soil. This sensation can be exacerbated by poor drainage, little to no vegetation, and seismic events.

And don’t worry. Slope creep is not a landslide. A slow and gradual movement is occurring down the hill.

There are two different types of slope creep:

Ascending

This means your home is built on a hillside. The slope is moving downward from your home. The hillside you reside on is likely eroding.

Descending

Your home is at the bottom of a hillside or slope. The soil is moving downward to say hi to your home.

Common signs of slope creep:

  • Water in your pool is more at an angle.
  • Support beams on your deck are moving outward.
  • Stairstep cracks on your property line walls.
  • The retaining walls are tilting and cracking.
  • You’ll have increased gaps between your pavers, patio, concrete hardscape, or deck and home.
  • Flesh pool mastic angled about 3/4ths of an inch to the pool deck.

For more information on slope creep, slide into our article What the Heck is Slope Creep? (How to Mitigate Lateral Movement)

L. Footing Cracks

Footing Crack (Dalinghaus)

 

Of course, we mean the concrete footing of your home might be a sign and symptom of needing foundation repair. Any potential cracks on your feet should be looked at by a doctor.

Footing cracks will appear on any type of foundation.

Slab-on-grade footing cracks are difficult to find since most of the footing is underground. If you did, you might find one. We wish we had X-ray-through vision like a superhero, but we don’t. The Dalinghaus Construction team is likely to find these cracks during a repair before you do.

Raised foundations are easier to see since a portion of the footing is above ground. If you inspect your crawlspace with a flashlight (or Nightvision goggles), you’ll have a chance of seeing some cracks.

When it comes to footing cracks, you’re more likely to see other signs and symptoms of needing foundation repair before this one. Sloping floors, sticky windows, cracks on drywall, and cracks on your ceiling all at once mean there is most likely a crack in your concrete footing.

There are multiple reasons you have a cracked footing.

Tree Roots

Tree roots are looking for the most nutrient-rich soil – under your home. If you have sprinklers near the perimeter of your home, the tree roots will meet them and your footing. And those roots are powerful.

ADUs and adding multiple stories to your home

If you want to add more rooms to the top of your home, be sure your footing can handle it. The footing is designed to hold the home’s original weight. The extra weight can make the footing give out.

Extreme Temperatures

You’re less likely to find cracks in your footing from extreme heat. Extreme cold is a whole other story. Frost layers can be the worst. That layer can compromise the chemical makeup of the concrete. Not to mention the ice that melts will get into the soil under your home.

Poor Drainage

The water leaking from your pipes will get into the dry soils under your home, causing the expansive soil to, well, expand.

Water pooling can cause concrete spalling and deterioration.

Be sure you mitigate your gutters, drain systems, and patios. Make sure all moisture is sloping away from your home.

Inadequate Soil Compaction

Incorrectly compressed soils can cause your foundation to sink and fracture. While we have a better understanding of soil compaction now, newer homes still deal with this issue.

Foundation Settlement and Heave

Of course, this is another one of the signs and symptoms of needing foundation repair. Classic.

When the soil expands and contracts, your footing moves with it. Pressure can be applied disproportionately to affect different areas of your home.

Mother Nature Being a Force to be Reckoned with

Mother nature is a strong, independent force who don’t need no schedule. She strikes whenever she feels like it.

We can’t prevent earthquakes, floods, and other natural occurrences. The extent of the damage can cause various foundation issues – most notably a crack on your concrete footing.

There are two different types of cracks you can find on your concrete footing:

Vertical Cracks

Vertical cracks are a surefire sign your home is enduring foundation settlement. Not always, but usually. There is a pressure your footing isn’t handling correctly.

Always look for other signs and symptoms of your home needing foundation repair. Then you can come to foundation settlement as a suspect.

Horizontal Cracks

Sometimes cracks can occur when we least expect them to, whether from concrete curing improperly or foundation settlement. Moisture will sneak into the cracks and contact the rebar inside the concrete footing, oxidizing the steel or iron and causing rust. When metal rusts, it expands. As expansion happens, more cracks will appear on your concrete footing. To learn more about footing cracks, touch our article like rebar to water Why Are There Cracks In My Concrete Footing? (Causes)

VI. Methods of Foundation Repair

First, we need to understand what foundation repair is. Foundation repair involves strengthening and reinforcing the existing foundation of a structure. This is sometimes done by extending the depth, rigidity, and breadth of your foundation. 

Second, you need to understand the types of repairs Dalinghaus Construction does. This list section won’t be as in-depth compared to the common signs and symptoms of foundation repair. 

To have an extended look at our repair processes, check out The Ultimate Guide To Foundation Repair. Everything You, the Homeowner, Need To Know About Foundation Repairs! 

A. Underpinning
Underpinning involves installing push and/or helical piers made of galvanized steel to the foundation of your home. These piers are placed underground into bedrock or more stable soils under the active zone. When your home has foundation issues due to settlement, you can bet piers will be installed.

Push Piers

Push piers (also referred to as piles, push piles, and push pins) are galvanized steel pipes hydraulically driven into the competent, load-bearing soil. They’re anchored into a foundation’s prepped footing using a remedial bracket to secure and stabilize a structure. Here is a video that helps you understand what push piers are:
Pushing these piers down into competent soil requires an incredible amount of PSI, which is amplified by the size of the ram head. A guide sleeve is used to ensure the piers are pushed into the ground and don’t veer off. The starting pier (the pier that first touches the competent spoil) is fitted with a collar to reduce skin friction. The piers are then hydraulically driven into the ground.   Things to note with push piers:
  • Push piers balance the load of the home, ranging anywhere between 80,000 and 160,000 pounds.
  • Push piers utilize the weight of the home when hydraulically driven. Single-story homes are often too light in weight to use push piers.
    • It would make it so the home would be lifted well before anything goes underground.
    • When push piers can’t be used, helical piers will do the job.

Helical Piers

Helical Piers are an industry-standard in how effective they are. They make sure your home is locked in place. Helical piers, like push piers, are made of galvanized steel. The main difference is these piers have helices attached at the bottom. Rather than being pushed down, they’re essentially screwed into the ground. Push piers are like nails. Helical piers are like screws. These piers anchor the structure they’re attached to. So if the active zone were to be taken away from the bottom of the structure, the piers would still be screwed into the competent soil like your home is on stilts. They’re screwed down to competent soils and implemented through extreme torque using a hydraulic ram.  

Both Types of Piers Are Used to Lift or Stabilize Your Home

We sometimes install both types of piers depending on the materials in the structure. After they’re installed, you have the choice to stabilize or lift your home. To lift means to get your house back to maximum practical recovery, or the amount of lift that can be achieved without compromising the structural integrity of the home. If you decide not to lift, you can choose to stabilize your home. There won’t be any lift, but your home won’t settle any further. To learn more about lifting a home vs stabilizing, feel uplifted from our article Lifting vs Stabilizing My Home For Foundation Repair (Pros and Cons).
B. Polyurethane Injection Repair

Polyurethane Injection (Dalinghaus)

 

Polyurethane is often used with push piers and helical piers. There are instances it can be used solo, but is mostly used for void fill.

What is Polyurethane foam?

  • Polyurethane foam is combined with a polyol and isocyanate resin. These are put together to cause a chemical reaction, creating a foam as strong as concrete with a 90% compression strength in less than 15 minutes.
    • It’s non-polluting and environmentally friendly.

Polyurethane is a significantly lighter alternative to mud jacking (using cement to reinforce or raise a previous structure)

Polyurethane foam is often used for void fills after lifting your home, specifically for slab-on-grade foundations. That way the foundation of your home isn’t sitting on air.

If you’re concerned about polyurethane being dangerous, it’s not. If you’re searching for any dangers of polyurethane, be cured while reading the article Is Polyurethane Dangerous? (Why You Don’t Need To Worry)

C. Crawlspace Jacks and Foundation Repair

Push Pier in crawl space

 

Crawlspace jacks are used for raised foundations. They’re the best solution to repairing bowing floors. They are fitted on major joints so both sides of the girder beam are supported and level.

From there, our production team shims any posts and pads, as well as replaces girder beams if necessary.

D. Concrete Foundation Repair
Concrete repair often coincides with foundation repair.    

Concrete R&R

Concrete removal and replacement (R&R) has two steps:
  1. Removal – We sometimes have to destroy concrete to get to your home’s footing. That way piers can be installed on your concrete footing.
  2. Replacement – we’re not going to leave you to do the dirty work. That baby will be replaced! Fresh, smooth, and left to cure.

Concrete Footing R&R

Sometimes the rebar in your concrete footing starts to rust and expand. This makes your footing more susceptible to water damage. Your footings may also be compromised by seismic forces. And age-related damage will deteriorate your footings. Parts of the footing look as though it’s rotting or has a major tooth cavity. We’ll remove those deteriorating sections and replace them with fresh concrete.  

Concrete Flatwork R&R

Flatwork is any concrete that is on a horizontal plane such as:
  • Patios
  • Pool decks
  • Driveways
    • You’ll be surprised how many people think their driveway is a foundation.
  • Parking lots
  • Sidewalks
  • Anything that is 4-6 inches thick of concrete.
Flatwork cracks can be caused by roots, weather, and seismic activity. Flatwork can also be damaged by expansive soil settling or heaving. Thankfully, flatwork is easy to remove and replace. It will be so flat that Air Bud could play basketball with you without worrying about stepping on a crack. And there won’t be a tripping hazard from parts of the concrete being at different levels. For more information about concrete R&R for driveways, start your engines and read our article How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Driveway vs Repairing one?

VII. Book a Foundation Inspection Now

Now that you know the many signs and symptoms of a home in need of foundation repair, you can schedule a FREE evaluation with one of our foundation inspectors. They will take measurements and inspect the foundation of your home for any signs and symptoms of your home needing repair.

And yes, they’ll even go into your crawlspace so you don’t have to deal with any potential creepy crawlies. 

 

Note – the crawlspace will have to be a minimum of 18-inches. Any shorter and our guys won’t go in.

 

When it comes to inspections, we know EXACTLY what to look for. We’ll come up with a plan and have your foundation repaired for your peace of mind.

If you live in Southern California or Arizona, call (877) 360-9227 or click the button below to book your free evaluation today!

Orange County Foundation Contractor

Are you ready to learn more about what’s happening to your home’s foundation

We offer free, no-obligation foundation inspections to homeowners.

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