5 Common Questions (and Answers) About Your Home’s Foundation

Laura Hennigan
Written by Laura Hennigan
Updated January 27, 2022
The exterior of a house on a sunny day
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Highlights

  • There are three main types of foundations—basement, crawl space, and slab.

  • Cracks either upstairs or downstairs can be a sign of a possible issue.

  • Help protect your foundation with additional landscaping.

  • Keeping gutters clear will also help your foundation.

  • There are several DIY preventative measures you can take.

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There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the foundation of your home. Because foundations are all different, both in materials and structure, you’ll need to figure out a few important points before tackling any problems or necessary repairs. 

If you have concerns about your foundation, don’t delay investigating or calling in a pro. Many issues will worsen over time, potentially causing future headaches. Here are the most common questions homeowners have about their foundations.

What Is a Foundation?

The foundation of your home is a vitally important component, designed to be sturdy and carry the weight of your home and everything in it. While foundations are frequently built below-ground and include extra space, others sit on the ground and support your home. Foundations are almost always made of concrete since it’s durable, hard, and not highly affected by moisture. Some concrete foundations are also reinforced with steel or wood. 

What Are the Different Types of Foundation?

There are three main types of foundations that homes are built on. The kind you have (or choose to build) depends on your location, climate, style of the house, and budget. 

Homes with basements are generally in regions with frequent precipitation, such as the Midwest and Northeast. Crawl space foundations are good for dry climates, while slab foundations are usually in warmer climates where there is rarely a freeze.

Basement Foundation

A basement is dug out of the ground, extending below the frost line, and typically matches the floor's perimeter above it. Basements are generally at least 7 to 8 feet deep and include structural foundation walls to support the house. A basement is the most expensive foundation option, so expect to pay between $10,000 to $30,000.

Crawl Space Foundation

Like a basement, crawl space foundations are dug out of a house below, usually 3 to 4 feet deep. They are supported with short walls made of concrete blocks, allowing access to ductwork, pipes, and wiring. Opting for a crawl space foundation will cost you between $7,000 and $21,000.

Slab Foundation 

A slab foundation is created directly on the ground, requiring little to no digging. Made with poured concrete, this foundation design is the most budget-friendly option, costing between $5,200 and $13,000.

How Do I Know If I Have a Foundation Problem?

Fortunately, foundation problems are easier to discover than you may expect. You can keep an eye out for a few signs of foundation trouble. Start by looking for cracks in the walls, both upstairs and in the basement. Cracks upstairs, often accompanied by hard-to-open windows and doors, often mean your foundation is settling. 

Cracks downstairs could indicate settling or signal basement walls that are bowing inward or possibly crumbling.

These are serious problems that can affect a home’s structural integrity, so you will need to call in a local foundation repair pro as soon as you can. 

How Can I Prevent Potential Foundation Problems?

A beautifully landscaped garden in front of the house
Photo: Marje / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

You can take several preemptive steps to ward off potential foundation issues. Several are straightforward projects that you can easily do over the course of a weekend.

Landscaping

Some simple landscape changes and additions can prove to help prevent foundations issues down the road:

1. Mulch: Adding several inches of mulch around your home's foundation will help soak up excess moisture and protect the foundation. Organic materials like wood chips are a good choice, and rubber mulch will work well if you are nervous about termites or other bugs.

2. Flowers: Planting flowers or small bushes near the foundation will also help absorb water. As a bonus, this will up the curb appeal of your home. 

3. Sloping: If possible, gently build up the ground around your foundation with dirt and grass. Since water runs downhill, you’ll help direct it away from the house and keep it away from the foundation.

Clean Out Gutters

Debris that backs up in your gutters can cause clogs, leading to leaks in the foundation. Ward off this risk by regularly checking and cleaning out gutters, downspouts, and drains. Yearly clean-outs are recommended, with more possibly being necessary depending on how many trees tower over your roof. 

By hiring a local gutter cleaning company, you can take this project off your plate and ensure you get a thorough and professional cleaning. 

What About DIY Foundation Repair?

Some foundation issues can be DIY projects if you have the right tools. Always research your foundation project before starting through reading and watching instructional videos. A professional should always address any serious or pressing issues, though these small maintenance projects are usually good for DIY. 

Repair Cracks

Superficial or cosmetic, cracks do not present a structural concern. These types of cracks are typically found near the edges of doors and windows, run vertically or diagonally, and are about 1 to 2 millimeters wide. 

You can usually repair superficial cracks with a store-bought epoxy sealer. By spreading the sealer along the crack then injecting it with epoxy, you can patch up parts of the foundation as needed. Expect to pay between $50 to $400 for a full repair kit from a big box store.

Waterproofing

While waterproofing is less about the foundation and more about basement protection, it can still be a worthwhile project. Interior waterproofing involves stripping away any paint, gently scrubbing the walls and floors, then applying a sealant coating to combat moisture. DIY waterproofing tools are easy to find and will cost anywhere from $40 to $300, depending on the method and the size of the space.

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