10 Warning Signs That Your Foundation Needs Repair ASAP
“Foundation problems” are two of the last words any homeowner wants to hear. Foundation issues can be dangerous – a shifting foundation can cause serious damage to your home and your health. And, because there’s a house sitting on top of it, a foundation isn’t exactly easy to repair.
Spotting the signs of foundation problems early help you catch the problem while it’s still small enough to fix. Read on to learn what signs will clue you in that your foundation may be shifting beneath your feet.
1. Windows & Doors Are Harder to Close
One of the first things you may notice when your foundation starts to shift, is that it’s more difficult to open or close your windows and doors. This can be easy to dismiss – after all, wood does expand and contract with different weather conditions. However, contractors are aware of this issue and build rooms in their designs to accommodate such movement.
As your foundation begins to settle, window and door frames will become crooked. A door which once slotted perfectly beneath a door frame may now catch on a sagging corner. And windows become sticky in frames that are out of square thanks to a shifting foundation.
2. Floors or Ceilings Sag
In our area your house is likely built on a concrete slab, on grade, holding the total weight of your ceiling and floor. Builders set slabs to ideally keep everything level, even, and strong throughout the structure. But, as your foundation begins to shift, the slab can start moving around or taking damage.
Without proper support, your home will begin to sag under its own weight. You might notice soft spots in your floor or dips in your ceiling. You may even notice that doorways which used to sit at the same height are now at drastically different levels.
3. The Basement Smells Musty
If your home is built on a basement, you may think that you’re safe from foundation issues. After all, your basement is built into the earth, and the soil around it will support the walls and floor, right? Unfortunately, soil around basements shifts just like anywhere else, and your basement walls can begin to shift with it.
Once there’s a breach in your basement wall, water will start to leak in when it rains. At first, this may not be enough for you to see, but it will foster an environment for mold and mildew to thrive in. If your basement begins to smell musty, it’s a good sign that you have some foundation issues.
4. Mold Starts Cropping Up
As the foundation problems get worse, you may see spots of mold beginning to crop up around your home. Homes are designed to keep out moisture, but those systems are delicately calibrated. It only takes one small chink in your home’s armor to allow moisture in, giving mold its favorite habitat.
Check for mold around windows and exterior doors. You may also want to look at baseboards on exterior walls and other areas that will receive higher levels of moisture exposure. If you see mold, call a foundation repair expert immediately – you don’t want to expose your family to the health hazards mold poses.
5. Gaps Around Your Windows
There only needs to be a tiny crack in your home’s exterior to allow enough moisture in for mold to thrive. But as your foundation increasingly shifts, the pressure around your windows will increase as well. The frame may not have room to bend any more, and when this happens gaps can begin to form.
Check around the tops, sides, and bottoms of all the windows in your home. If you notice any gaps, measure them and make a note of their size and the date. Check again over the next few weeks and months; if you see the gaps growing, you’ll have some idea of how fast your foundation is shifting.
6. Walls Are Bowing
Bowing walls are never a good sign in a building, and they can indicate serious foundation issues. As your foundation moves, the frame which holds your house up gets pulled out of place. The walls aren’t getting the support they need, and they begin to buckle.
Examine your interior and exterior walls for any large bumps or signs of bowing. Do make sure you check interior walls to ensure you aren’t just seeing a paint bubble. Heat or water can damage your drywall and paint, causing a bubble, but those are often not foundation-related and are easy to fix.
7. Your Chimney Has Shifted
Most of us likely don’t pay much attention to our chimneys on a day-to-day basis. But your chimney is a unique canary in the mineshaft when you’re looking for foundation issues. Because the chimney is a tall, nearly freestanding brick structure, minute shifts in the foundation can pull your chimney out of place.
Go out into your yard and take a good long look at your chimney from multiple angles. If it’s listing off to one side, there’s a good chance your foundation has shifted underneath it. You may also want to get a chimney sweep to come to look at your chimney with a more practiced eye if you suspect foundation damage.
8. Nails Pop Out of Your Walls
You may have noticed that small round cracks appear in your drywall from time to time. Most of us might shrug, patch them over, and not think anything else of it. But these holes indicate places where nails have begun to pull away from your sheetrock as your foundation shifts.
If you’ve noticed these cracks before, try to make note of where they occurred. Look in these areas for some of the other symptoms we’ve mentioned. If you start noticing them cropping up more frequently, it’s time to call in the foundation repair experts.
9. Cracks in the Walls
Nail pops may not be the only cracks you notice in your walls. If your foundation shifts enough, it can begin to put serious pressure on your walls. The sheetrock may move to a certain extent to accommodate this, but eventually things will come to a breaking point.
Cracks that are caused by foundation damage will have a few telltale features. You should call a foundation repair expert if you notice cracks that are larger than 1/8” wide or that are wide on one end and narrow on the other. Dangerous cracks may also be horizontal or diagonal, may leak water, or may resemble a stair-step pattern.
10. Counters & Cabinets Tilt
Does it ever seem like your kitchen counters and cabinets are tilting and pulling away from the walls? If so, this isn’t just your imagination playing tricks on you. As your foundation shifts, your cabinets can’t move to accommodate this new positioning, so they start to pull away from the wall.
If you notice gaps around your cabinets or counters, break out your tape measure. Gaps that are greater than an eighth of an inch likely indicate foundation problems. Gaps that are half an inch or wider are a serious issue. Even if the gaps are small, keep an eye on them to see if they grow over time.
What To Do
So what do you do if you discover that your home does seem to have foundation issues?
If you believe the foundation problems are severe, you may want to find somewhere else for your family to stay until the damage is repaired. Serious injuries are rare with foundation problems, but you and your family need to feel safe.
The next thing you’ll need to do is to call an experienced foundation repair professional. They will be able to assess your foundation, determine what the problem is, and plan a course of action.
Depending on your home construction, they may place your home on jacks and shore up the foundation, anchor basement walls to sturdy devices buried in the surrounding dirt, or work to stabilize your foundation to keep it from shifting further.
Learn the Signs of Foundation Issues
Foundation problems are every homeowner’s worst nightmare, but catching signs of foundation issues early can make the repair process much easier and more affordable. Look for gaps and cracks in various areas of your home, and keep an eye on unexplained moisture. Bowing isn’t a good sign, and if you suddenly can’t close a door, it’s time to call in the pros.
If you’d like to get help repairing your foundation, check out the rest of our site at Childers Brothers, Inc. We have more experience than any other foundation repair company in the Texas Panhandle. Get a quote today and discover for yourself why we have more than 15,000 satisfied customers.