As a home or property owner, the words “you need a foundation repair” can be pretty overwhelming. After all, you might have immediate visions of heavy machines and all kinds of disruption inside and outside of the building. After all, the foundation is, well…the foundation! It is the “thing” your house or building rests on, and problems or work on it can seem very scary.
The good news is that knowledge is power, even with foundation repairs, and when you know what a repair typically involves, a lot of the fear about the process evaporates. Let’s take a few minutes to learn about the most common and basic steps in foundation repair so you are no longer worried if you believe you might need some.
Why Are Repairs Needed?
Of course, before you know how it is done, you might benefit from knowing why repairs are required. Essentially, the need for repairs evolves out of any number of reasons, but most are due to water and soil. Usually, some unexpected changes in the soil around the home or the amount of water in the soil can cause some sort of shifting or pressure. This leads to cracks, and cracks mean problems.
This is usually when an expert is called in, and if there is one word of advice that applies to any foundation issues, it is this: The sooner they are repaired, the better the outcomes.
Steps to Take
Repairs involve an inspection by a foundation expert, explanations of why there are problems and what repairs are needed, and even engineering reports to ensure the ideal outcomes.
After that, the professionals should effect the repairs and clean up the site to make it seem that no work was done or needed.
The work itself is often done in four different phases. They include:
Prepping the site – This can mean everything from removing plantings to disconnecting utilities in preparations for the next step, excavation.
Excavating as needed – Don’t believe that your entire home is going to look like a castle with a moat throughout the work. Sometimes the work is done around the entire perimeter, but sometimes much smaller sections are excavated to effect the repairs.
Repairs – This could be everything from lifting the foundation back into place or simply applying sealants to and better compacting soils. Any number of steps might be added, including the addition of piers for stabilization to steel shims beneath the walls could be included in the work.
Restoration – After all of the repairs are done, a good foundation crew will refill the excavation and ensure that soil is compacted to the proper degree. They may even use a different fill if the original materials were part of your problem. Then, the property is cleaned up and restored to its original, pre-excavation conditions.
Now that we’ve outlined the standard foundation repair process, here are the most common red flags to watch out for:
Large Cracks on the Exterior
Small, light cracks are quite normal, and many properties will develop them over time. However, if larger zig-zag cracks start to appear on the exterior of your home, it’s a warning sign of a potential problem with your foundation and shouldn’t be ignored.
Issues with Windows and Doors
Are you finding that windows and doors throughout your home aren’t lining up or closing as easily as they did? If this is happening to more than one window or door, it could also be a serious indication that the foundation has shifted, which can alter the frames and cause the windows or doors to stick.
Sagging Ceilings or Floors
One of the major signs of foundational issues is sagging ceilings or warped floors. This can happen during freeze and thaw cycles as the soil shifts and causes the support beams to pull apart. As a result, the floors and ceiling could shift too as the weight becomes uneven throughout the home. If you notice a tilt in your floor, contact a foundation expert to take a look.
Rotten wood beams are never a good sign and should be inspected by a professional. This could indicate multiple problems, such as high humidity in the basement, moisture problems or even pest issues with termites or carpenter ants – all of which could make the foundation vulnerable to damage.
Cracks in Tiles
A variety of factors could cause cracks that develop in your kitchen or bathroom tiles. Foundational trouble could be one of them. If there are only a few small, light cracks, it might not be serious. But if they develop in multiple tiles and are quite large, have your foundation looked at.
Persistent Musty Smells in the Basement
Having a persistent musty smell in the basement isn’t normal and could be a cause for concern. When this smell keeps occurring, it usually points to a problem with mould and mildew. Aside from mould being hazardous for you and your family, it can also highlight a moisture problem, either with the plumbing or with the foundation. Water is the nemesis to the structural integrity of your home, so make sure to call in a foundation expert to identify the cause and perform any necessary repairs before problems escalate.
To minimize the risk of foundational problems, here are some steps you can take to maintain and improve the structural integrity of your home:
Try to Keep The Ground Moist
You should never let the soil around your home dry out completely because problems can occur with the foundation if there are changes in the soil’s moisture levels. As the soil dries out, it can cause shifting and cracks, placing more pressure on the foundation walls. Homeowners can minimize this from happening by maintaining a consistent moisture level as much as possible, especially during those drier summer months. An automatic sprinkler system or a rock bed installed at least 2 inches from your home can help to achieve this.
Inspect Your Property Regularly
It’s good practice to take a walk around and through your property on a regular basis to inspect it and keep an eye out for any red flags. This way, if you do notice anything that could be of concern, you can have it looked at by a professional and avoid serious, more costly repairs in the future.
Some key areas to inspect include cracks in the walls, deteriorating mortar joints, broken or missing shingles on the roof, signs of interior water damage, and pooling water near the foundation.
Pay Attention to Downspouts and Drainage
Proper drainage is essential for protecting your home and minimizing moisture damage. Always monitor the drainage systems to ensure they are working properly. Specifically, pay attention to the eavestrough and downspout. Have them cleaned out regularly so that excess moisture can flow freely through the gutters and down toward the street storm drains. If they are damaged, have them repaired or get the downspout extended if it’s draining too close to your property.
Don’t Plant Too Close to Your Home
If you love to garden, one tip to keep in mind is to plant at least 2 inches from your home base. Also, if you plan on adding any trees to your landscape, keep these at least 15-30’ from your home. If they’re placed too close, they could dry out the soil, impacting the foundation’s welfare over time.
Invest in a Sump Pump
A sump pump can be a good investment to help prevent flooding in the basement and damage to the foundation. The sump pump kicks in when water reaches a certain level, draining and directing it towards storm drains to protect your property.
At the first sign of trouble with a foundation, even a tiny crack in an interior wall, it is best to get in touch with experts and get the problem fixed. The team at The Foundation Experts offers a comprehensive range of services for any issue and repair.