Signs that a house or building’s foundation may be on the way to failure.

As soon as anything is built, it’s just a matter of time until it fails. Nothing lasts forever. Fortunately with proper maintenance and upkeep, it’s easy to ensure that a building has a long lifespan. 

One of the most important parts of the building is the foundation. Without it, pretty much no other part of the building could exist. Foundations are thankfully relatively low-maintenance. They don’t need a lot of cleaning, inspection, and general care, but they do need some. If your foundation fails, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to save the building. Let’s look at some of the ways that foundations can give you signals that they are failing. Some of the signs are obvious, like visible damage, but some can be much more insidious and hard to detect.

 

Cracks

 

Cracks anywhere are bad news, whether they are in the ceiling, drywall, or stone/brick. If you notice spreading cracks in any area of your house, it’s a great idea to check the foundation. Cracks are the most telling sign of early problems with a foundation. Here’s what you should look for when cracks become apparent:

  • Fractures or cracks in the concrete foundation itself. Especially spider webbing (spreading) and large cracks that deepen and lengthen over time.
  • Crumbling/flaking concrete. This is a sign of weakness in the concrete, which could be caused by moisture in it, or general lack of structural integrity.
  • Moisture or pools of water in/around the foundation. Water is one of the biggest causes of damage to cement and concrete. Water gets inside and expands and contracts. This causes cracks, weakening and breaks. It’s even how a good deal of erosion in nature takes place.
  • Sagging floors or walls. If you notice this in any building, it means that the foundation is most likely not holding it up correctly. This could be due to bad workmanship in the foundation or general construction. It could also be due to a foundation that has become damaged. 
  • Gaps in the foundation and elsewhere. If you notice gaps that didn’t exist before, like under one part of a door, or between walls and the floor, your foundation might be uneven. Check your foundation and look for gaps that could have formed there too.

 

Door and windows that don’t fit properly

 

This may seem like something unrelated to the foundation. In America, most houses are made of wood. Wood also expands and contracts a bit during different levels of temperature and humidity. Thus, when a door or window has some issues opening and closing properly, the climate is often the culprit. However, when you notice this problem long-term, then you may have other problems. Some settling is natural, any building will shift to a certain degree after construction and during use. However, when windows have trouble sliding up and down, and doors don’t fit quite right in their frames, check the foundation. The foundation being uneven can cause the door frames to shift. This is a big problem, because door frames are often structurally integral to a building. When the foundation fails, it shows in the structure of door and window frames, so be on the lookout for unevenness there.

 

Wet basement and/or powdery walls

 

We already mentioned that moisture is a big cause of cement/concrete damage. One of the best ways to check if your foundation is in bad shape is to go down to the basement. Give it a smell. Does it smell musty, watery, and/or like mildew? If so, that means you probably have and are getting water damage. The smell of old and stagnant water in the basement means that it’s been sitting around. 

If water has been sitting around in your basement, then your foundation may have one of 2 issues. The first would be that there are existing cracks in the foundation that are letting water in. The second would be that the standing water is sitting around long enough to seep into the foundation.

 Another sign of water seepage is a white-yellow chalky substance on your basement walls. This efflorescence is a sign of water damage in cement.

 

Sloping/sagging floors and ceilings

 

If you drop something on the ground and it rolls, that’s a sign that your floor isn’t even. If your house is built on a steep hill, that’s relatively normal (it should tilt slightly into the hill). If it’s not, you may have foundational problems. 

Again, it’s normal for a building to settle after construction. But look out for excessive sloping, sagging, and warping of the floors and ceilings. These problems indicate that your foundation is no longer level, and may be damaged.

In case you aren’t sure if your floor unevenness is serious or not, here are some things you can look for:

  • Floor tiles that snap and crack, especially when walked on. Again, some settling is normal, but if tiles are broken like a shattered mirror, you may have bigger issues.
  • Warped or shifted areas. Look for individual spots that are noticeably out of line. For example, a sagging in the center of the ceiling. Another example would be crossbeams in the basement that are bowed in much more than the others. Fortunately, warping is often accompanied by cracking, so you can find these two together
  • Water damage. Water damage is a sign that a crack somewhere has become big enough that water is getting in. 

 

What to do if your foundation needs help?

 

Fortunately, there are commercial contractors who work exclusively on foundations. They can examine yours and (hopefully), prescribe a solutions. You may also want to try it yourself. Of course, if you’d rather leave it up to a professional, then Reliable Commercial Construction is here for you. We are a large, dedicated, and quality-focused construction contractor company. Our mission of relentless service will ensure you learn everything you need to know so that together we can make the best choice for your foundation. Contact us today for a free quote, and learn about our many services, from renovation to demolition.