Spot the early warning signs of foundation problems to keep your home on solid ground
Foundation problems aren't always obvious, they seem like they’re related to another home issue, or you may shrug them off as general “house stuff.” However, there are some signs of foundation problems you shouldn’t shrug off. Let’s examine what you should look for so you can determine whether it’s time to call in a foundation repair pro.
1. Doors Stick or Don't Latch
If interior doors stick or don't close properly, it can indicate a foundation problem, especially if the doors are dragging at the top. You may also find that doors appear uneven, with one side looking a little higher than the other. And, if you've got French doors, they won't meet properly in the middle and may not close or latch properly.
2. Large Cracks on Walls
Hairline cracks are very common and are generally nothing to be overly concerned about; they're just indicators that your property has undergone a period of normal, minor settling. Most properties experience some form of minor foundation settlement at some point. However, cracks 0.25" wide or larger are cause for concern, as are zigzag and horizontal cracks.
Large cracks can indicate significant foundation problems, including excessive water pressure or a shifting foundation. If the cracks persist, water or insects can work their way inside and significantly increase the cost of repairing your foundation.
Another subtle sign of foundation problems is cracking around window frames, particularly at the top, and around doorways, especially above the top trim. Plus, check your brickwork, as cracked bricks are almost always signs of foundation problems.
3. Cracks in Floor Tiles
Like cracks in the walls, cracking ceramic or porcelain floor tiles is a key early indicator of foundation issues. Floor tiles crack because of uneven pressure caused by a shifting foundation. While a single floor tile can crack for all kinds of reasons (like dropping a pan on it), multiple tiles cracking suggests you should hire a contractor to check your foundation.
4. Windows Sticking and Pulling Away
Like doors, when there are foundation problems, windows can start to stick when you try to open or close them. Or, they may not latch correctly as the increased pressure from the stressed walls causes them to shift or bulge slightly. You may also notice the window frames starting to pull away from the surrounding brick.
5. Overall Structure Looks Uneven
Take a look at your property from the outside, at a distance. If there is any sinkage or settling, you may be able to see that the house or the roofline is no longer straight and even. Usually, if the sinkage is already fairly severe, you'll easily spot that one side of your property is lower than the other.
6. Bouncing Floors
There are numerous causes of bouncy or spongy floors, but if you notice this in a new property or you suddenly find your home develops bouncy floors, particularly if accompanied by popping or creaking, it's time to hire a local structural engineer. They'll be able to assess whether the bouncing floors are due to foundation problems or something as small as needing an extra brace beneath the floorboards.
7. Nails Popping Out of Drywall
Nails popping out of your drywall might not seem like a big deal, and in fact, it probably isn't if it's only the occasional nail. However, if it happens regularly and in different areas of your home, it could be a sign that the foundation of your home is shifting or undergoing increased stress and pressure.
8. Walls Pulling Away or Bowing
If you look at the outside of your house and any wall appears to be bowing outwards, it’s a strong indicator you have foundation problems. Similarly, inside your home, if you notice kitchen cabinets or worksurfaces separating from the walls, the walls may be shifting along with the foundation.
If you suspect that you may have foundation issues or you're buying a new property and have questions about the foundation, hire a structural engineer to carry out an inspection. They'll either put your mind at ease or identify problems so you can correct them before they become more serious.