How to Spot Signs of Foundation Damage

Signs of foundation damage are usually not obvious, but if left undetected, they can be costly. The list of expensive home repairs is topped by foundation issues, with the average cost going over $10,000. It can break the bank if other parts of the home are damaged too. Identifying foundation problems on time is a critical component of prevention.

When assessing potential damage, it’s important to identify cracks in ceilings, floors, and walls. But the absence of a crack doesn’t mean there isn’t one or that there isn’t one forming.

Here are the most common signs of foundation damage and ways to find a solution.

Stubborn Doors and Windows

A door or window that takes work to open might be an easy fix, but it could indicate the presence of damage. You might have foundation problems if you notice several doors and windows getting tougher to close. Unstable foundations move, deforming the frames and making the windows and doors hard to latch. Eventually, they will jam completely.

While some settling is normal, a door that’s really hard to close and has cracks in the wall above should be checked out by a professional. Also, watch for uneven floors. A sure sign of damage is spilled water flowing in one direction only. The floor gradient shouldn’t be more than two inches per 15 feet.

Inspect Mold Sources

Mold in wall and window corners mean moisture is accumulating, as does mildew in the basement. Don’t rush to dehumidify. Inspect moldy areas to eliminate any foundation-related gaps and cracks through which water might be seeping in.

A basement or crawlspace that smells musty shouldn’t be ignored. The culprit is usually mildew, and the basement walls might be leaking. Faulty plumbing might be the reason, but it can be caused by outside moisture seeping in through foundation cracks.

Foundation issues related to the basement are associated with blocked gutters. You need to make sure yours are in good working condition. If they are clear but the basement is damp and moldy, it can help to install downspout extensions. Those will shift the water away from the foundation of the house. Downspouts should be more than 10 feet away from the house.

Inspect your sump pump regularly. To avoid water leaking into the basement, test the battery backup and clean any debris in or around the pump.

The Expansion Joints are Separating

Changes in wind, humidity and temperature and shifting of the ground are compensated by installing an expansion joint in structures. If the foundation is failing, the joint will fail too because joints separate, leading to large cracks. A failing joint can cause a failing foundation.

Warped Ceilings

Sagging ceilings can signal a foundation problem. As the foundation shifts, support beams and walls separate or come closer together depending on the direction of the foundation's movement. As a result, the home's weight sits unevenly in certain spots, leading to warped ceilings and floors. Monitor your house's slope now and then using a level. Contact the professionals at Foundations First if you notice a continual change in one direction only.

Watch for Bowing Walls

Your foundation might be shifting if you see exterior or interior walls starting to bow. Please note there is a difference between paint damage and bowing. Water or heat damage to your drywall and paint are typically unrelated to foundation issues, which isn't to say they don't require attention. If you see an exterior wall detaching from the house, call in a professional right away. The wall might collapse if not fixed promptly.

Gaps Between Walls and Exterior Windows

Gaps between your windows and front door and the exterior of the house could signal a shifting foundation. When the foundation moves, it pulls them apart. Then, water and insects can enter the house through the cracks, ultimately inflicting even more structural damage.

Chimney Movement

A moving chimney signals foundation issues like nothing else. If it's moving too much, it can fall, posing a great risk to your home and any people there. Contact a professional to repair and stabilize your chimney if it seems too tilted or otherwise off.

Rotting Beams and Piers

Rotting beams and piers can indicate a poor foundation, among other things that need to be addressed. Your crawlspace or basement could be too humid. Carpenter ants or terminates might have attacked the beams, or the piers could have been flooded.

Check for Nail Pops

When nails start to pull away from the wall, you see small, round cracks. If this happens often, it could signal more significant foundation issues, which are making the wall move. 

Zig-zagging, long interior sheetrock cracks merit a visit from a professional. Contact an expert if you see cracks where the wall meets the ceiling or if the wallpaper is pulling away from the wall.

Diagnose Floor and Wall Cracks

As mentioned, cracks in floors and walls are a sign of foundation issues, perhaps the most telling one. Normal weather-related expansion of drywall usually causes small cracks near window and door frames. However, the following signs merit professional intervention:

You should measure cracks once every three months to see if they’re getting bigger, especially those in window frames and door frames. Call Foundations First and make an appointment if you see cracks in a concrete floor or ones that seem to be deeper than your drywall or paint. This will save bigger expenses in the long run.

When to Contact a Professional

When you suspect a major foundation problem, don’t hesitate to contact a professional. It’sIt’s better to be safe than sorry. If you ignore foundation issues, they will only get harder and more expensive to fix over time. 

It’s best to call an expert to put your mind at ease if your house shows any of the signs described in this article. Our professional team will diagnose the problem and tell you what foundation repairs your home needs. You can count on our experienced technicians to make your foundation strong and stable again.