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Five Signs of Foundation Settlement

Friday, October 7th, 2016


Watch out for these signs that your foundation may be settling.


1. Stair-step cracking

  • This is a typical sign of foundation settlement, and it is common in brick and concrete block walls. The cracks may widen as a home continues to settle, and this indicates that the wall is rotating outward.

2. Chimney Separation

  • Sometimes homeowners notice that their chimneys have begun to separate from the rest of the home. This happens because chimneys are sometimes built on a different foundation than the rest of the home, and this makes it more at risk for settlement.

3. Separation of Doors and Windows from Framing or Exterior Finish

  • If your home is settling, you may notice that there are cracks between the wall and your doors or windows. This separation shows that the foundation has shifted from the position it was in when those doors and windows were installed.

4. Drywall Cracks

  • These are often seen extending from the corners of doors and windows inside the home. They also may be more obvious in the upper floors of a home.

5. Doors and Windows Sticking

  • Have you noticed that your door is a little more difficult to open than usual? This can be a sign that your walls and door frame are no longer level, so the door doesn’t exactly fit anymore.

One sign of foundation failure is dry wall cracking.Causes:

Foundation settlement is often caused by the soil present under a home. The home moves or shifts when the soil underneath can no longer support its weight. When some types of soil (e.g. clay) get wet, they expand, and when they dry out, they shrink and crack. Trees with long roots that extend under a home can also suck moisture out of the soil, and drought will have the same effect.

Wetting and softening of soil is another cause of settlement. If there is a heavy rain or flood or your downspout drains onto the lawn next to a home, the soil around it will become soft and muddy, and the structure may begin to sink.

It is also common to create flat, level lots to build houses on. Home builders often remove soil from hills and fill it into valleys to create these lots. If this soil is not compacted well, it can become more compacted under the weight of a home and cause it to sink and shift.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service of Ohio states that over 750,00 acres of the state is made up of “Miamian” Soil. This is a classification which includes a 5 to 10-inch-thick topsoil layer and then an 8 to 35-inch-thick layer below that which is very clay-rich (NRCS). And, as we've seen above, soil with clay particles is the most common to cause foundation settlement.

Stair-step cracks are a common sign of foundation settlement.


Steel Push Piers: These are steel piers driven deep into the soil to the bedrock or stable soil layer below. Push piers can be installed from the exterior or interior of a home and can provide an opportunity to lift the home back to its original position. This often closes cracks and improves the operation of doors and windows that were sticking before.

Helical Pier System: These are also steel piers, but they are screwed into the ground to lift and stabilize a house and stop foundation cracks. This is typically a solution for smaller, lighter structures such as porches and decks.

There are also other forms of foundation failure other than settlement. These are sagging floors above crawl spaces and wall failure. We have products to repair these foundation issues as well. These include: IntelliJack, Wall Anchors, and IntelliBrace Beams.


Works Cited:

NRCS. "Soils." Natural Resources Conservation Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture, n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2016


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