As a homeowner, you should routinely look for any sign of foundation problems and keep good notes. Here’s how:
Walk Around the Exterior of Your Home
Take a stroll around your property and check out the following:
Walls and Foundations
Look for any signs of bulging or leaning that indicate an uneven load on the foundation. Both the foundation and home walls should be flush and level.
Check for pooling water, water damage, or cracks in concrete. If you find any moisture or erosion on the exterior of your home, make a note of it.
Pooling water can indicate broken pipes or an issue in the foundation. Water can rot wood and shifts soil, both of which can cause serious damage.
Cracks and fissures can be hard to diagnose. You'll mainly need to keep an eye out for any cracks that are greater than a quarter inch in size.
Horizontal cracks can indicate stress on the foundation. You can apply waterproof paint over the crack and see if the paint cracks or chips. If it does, it suggests the crack is growing, and the foundation is shifting.
Look for Warped Floors or Ceilings
Inspect the floors. Look for any cracks, buckling, bulging, sloping, or warping. A sloping floor is a telltale sign of foundation issues; use a ball to see if it rolls to test how level your floor is.
If you notice that your floors or ceilings are not leveled, it can be a warning sign of foundation issues.
When a home’s foundation shifts, it pulls walls and support beams apart. This results in uneven movement and sagging of floors and ceilings.
Examine Your Walls for Cracks, Leaning, and Bowing
Inspect the interior walls and ceilings to check for any noticeable cracks. Cracks or separations larger than a quarter of an inch may indicate issues with the foundation. On the other hand, hairline cracks are harmless and can be easily repaired with spackling paste.
Look for any bowing, bulging, or leaning walls. Sometimes, cracks may not be present but walls will still be out of place due to shifting foundations.
Check Your Windows and Doors
Check your doors and windows. They should all open and close smoothly. If you notice that a few of your doors and windows are stuck or are difficult to close, the foundation may have moved.
Gaps between the wall and doors or windows could mean the foundation is shifting. These gaps can also allow water and insects into your home, causing structural damage in the long run.
Scan the Foundation
Be sure to check the structural elements if you have access to your foundation.
Check concrete slabs and piers for any noticeable damage.
Examine supported beams and load-bearing elements.
Make sure that everything is leveled and nothing is buckling in the foundation.
Inspect metal or steel piers for rust—which can be a sign that there is moisture in the basement or crawl space.
Look closely at the tops of piers for any broken connections or movement.
Look for Water Damage
If your home has a crawl space, inspecting the area for water damage or mold is important.
Look for any moisture or mildew you see in warped or rotten wood elements.
If you smell a musty odor in the basement corners or crawl spaces, it can signal foundation damage. While the problem could be plumbing-related, it can also indicate that outside moisture is seeping through cracks in your foundation.
You should check mold-prone areas to see any foundation-related cracks or gaps that could be letting in water before turning on the dehumidifier.
Pay Attention to Your Chimney
If you notice that your chimney is tilted or cracked, this is another telltale sign of foundational damage. If your chimney shifts too much, it can collapse entirely, posing a serious threat to your family and your property.
If you find a few warning signs of foundation problems during your initial inspection, it’s time to contact a professional to put your mind at ease.
The goal of a professional foundation inspection is to determine if the underlying base of your home is structurally sound. A state-licensed structural engineer looks at these points:
If you need foundation repair or modification
If the foundation acts as intended
If the foundation follows building codes
A structural engineer will prepare an inspection report for your foundation repair pro. The report should include the extent of the foundation damage (if any), the services recommended, the approximate repair costs, and the turnaround times.
It's a good idea to check your foundation every season—at least twice a year, if not every quarter. Extreme weather conditions and the change of water content can cause the soil around your foundation to change, whether because of melting snow or drought.
Either condition can cause soil to expand and contract in response to weather and result in foundation shifting.
A structural engineer inspection consists of three stages:
Pre-Inspection Discussion: You will talk to the engineer about what you found, and they will ask questions about the structure of your home, which should help the structural engineers know where to look first.
Visual Inspection: The inspector should look at the exterior and interior of the home. They will inspect the surrounding property and look for signs of any old repairs since it could indicate previous foundational issues.
Post-Inspection Report: A licensed structural engineer will prepare a comprehensive report that discusses any current or potential structural damage to the building. In addition to providing detailed descriptions of specific damage points, these reports offer recommendations on the best type of foundation repair for your home
Solutions: The engineer should list in their report solutions to the problems uncovered, which in most states are required when obtaining a building permit. Make sure you ask the engineer to outline what needs to be done to remedy the structural problem.