Are small cracks starting to appear over the doors and windows at your business location? Does the basement or crawl space beneath your home have a musty odor? If so, the foundation may have developed serious problems that need to be addressed before the property loses equity and even becomes unsafe.
Like roofs and windows, building foundations are susceptible to environmental stress. Excess moisture, poor drainage, and expansion and contraction of the surrounding soil can all threaten its stability, causing it to gradually crack, shift, or settle unevenly.
Fortunately, most foundation problems can be detected soon after onset, if you know what to look for. Below is an overview of common signs that warrant calling a foundation repair specialist as quickly as possible.
Cracks in the foundation
Cracks in the foundation walls are one of the more obvious signs that you’ve got a problem. While some cracking is normal (harmless shrinkage cracks can appear in a newly poured foundation within the first year after construction), those that develop years after the property was built suggest that something is wrong.
There are three types of cracks that you may come across during a foundation inspection:
- Vertical cracks: Large cracks that run upward are usually due to soil settlement, which applies pressure to the foundation wall. Left unrepaired, they can admit large amounts of water and further weaken wall integrity.
- Horizontal cracks: These cracks are another indicator of heavy pressure from water-saturated soil. Unless you contact a Boulder foundation specialist, the walls could eventually buckle or even cave in.
- Stair step cracks: Soil settlement or pressure can cause the wall to crack along the mortar joints between individual blocks, forming a stair step pattern. Like horizontal and vertical cracks, they are signs that your foundation needs critical repairs.
While you’re examining the cracks, look for other signs of damage, such as flaking concrete, water stains, mold, gaps, or buckling. These are all signs of moisture ingress and need to be investigated by a professional.
Cracks in walls or above windows and door frames
Cracks in your drywall and plaster are another sign of foundation problems. If you notice cracks that match any of the criteria below, your foundation is probably shifting and settling.
- The cracks reopen after you’ve repaired them.
- Cracks appear around the doors and windows.
- Any wall cracks are wider at the top, which is a common indicator that part of the foundation is falling away.
- You notice nail pops, which are a form of drywall damage. If the drywall is shifting, mud that covers the screws and nails can pop off.
Avoid filling any cracks until a repair specialist has inspected the damage and determined whether the foundation needs to be stabilized. Otherwise, they may have difficulty lifting the foundation back into place.
Floors are uneven
If the concrete floors in your basement are uneven or sagging in the middle, the usual cause is foundation heaving or settlement. Upstairs floors that are out of level could be caused by sagging floor joists (more common in buildings with a dirt crawlspace) shifting basement or crawlspace columns, or a foundation settlement problem. If uneven flooring is accompanied by any of the following issues, have your foundation inspected by a professional.
- Floor cracks
- Interior doors sticking and jamming
- Mold in the crawl space
- Heaving or sinking concrete slabs
Doors and windows are sticking
If your door and/or windows are sticking when you try to open or close them, investigate further. While this can be a common issue with older buildings, it’s rarely seen in newer structures. Potential causes can be humidity-related warping of the wood frames, a worn-down mechanism (with windows), or a sinking or settling in the foundation.
If the door or window frame in question isn’t majorly skewed, which is an obvious sign of foundation problems, get a level from your local hardware store and place it on top of the frame. If it is level, the door or window may be faulty. If it isn’t, have your foundation inspected.
A cracked foundation can let water and moisture seep into your basement and crawl space and cause several issues, including:
- Mold growth
- Musty and offensive smells
- Uneven floors
Moisture is the primary cause of slab foundation upheaval. It can become trapped beneath the slab after a heavy downpour or a major plumbing leak. When the surrounding soil gets wet, it becomes heavier, and the weight can force the foundation upwards. This is when you notice that your doors are sticking and that steel columns and even fireplaces are heaving upward, all signs that you need foundation repair service.
Contact a Foundation Repair Professional
If you’ve noticed any of these foundation issue warning signs, take action now. The experienced professionals at Van Matre Construction, LLC will inspect your home or business, identify the problem, and carry out whatever repairs are necessary to correct the damage. Depending on the cause, this may include:
- Carbon fiber reinforcement: These strips reinforce your basement wall and act as a buffer against pressure exerted by soil movement.
- Tree root barriers: Metal or plastic barriers that deflect tree roots away from your foundation walls and prevent them from applying more pressure.
- Helical piers: These piers provide a more stable anchor for your home’s foundation. After being placed under failed footings, a bracket is used to secure them to the footings and building.
- Push piers: With push piers, a steel bracket is installed under the footing of the building to secure interlocking sections of steel piers. Hollow piers are then installed in sections and then driven through the brackets until they reach stronger soil. The building weight is passed through the piers into the soil, strengthening the foundation.
Van Matre Construction, LLC, specializes in foundation repair services and has been serving homes and businesses throughout Denver, Boulder, and Lafayette since 2001. To schedule an on-site inspection and free, no-obligation quote for repair, please call 303-668-2222 or contact us online.