Recognizing Foundation Settlement Problems...Why Do The Cracks Keep Coming Back?
If you are among those who are fortunate enough to own a home, you already know it's your most valuable asset. Protecting your equity is certainly worth the time and effort; after all you've invested a great deal financially and continue to do so in maintaining your home and property.
Besides normal wear and tear, some homes experience foundation settlement problems. Many homeowners believe symptoms of foundation failure to be only cosmetic repairs and become frustrated when they repair a wall crack only to have to repair it again and again. Sometimes the cosmetic repair is only hiding the true cause of the problem, it's almost like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.
How do you spot a potential foundation repair problem? Some of the most common problem signs seen inside the home include: doors and windows that stick, cracks in brick or sheetrock, and floors that slope or are cracked. Outside the home you may see cracks in the stucco, cracks in the foundation, stair step cracking in block homes or shifting in the walls (rotating in or out).
Just like any problem, the more symptoms you have the greater the chance of having a foundation repair related issue. To some extent, all homes have some of these problems as seen as normal settlement. What you should be looking for is differential settlement. This occurs when one area of the home has settled more than the rest of the home.
Most of the time differential settlement occurs because of an excess or absence of water. Moisture beneath the center of your foundation remains consistent unless aggravated by the introduction of excess moisture, such as plumbing leaks or sub-surface water movement. As evaporation and transpiration cause the soils to dry and shrink around the perimeter of your foundation, the structure begins to move. Uneven moisture causes uneven movement; it’s this that can cause both structural and cosmetic damage to your home.
Evaporation from Arizona’s continued draught causes soils to constrict underneath the foundation. As the moisture in the soil is evaporated, the volume from that moisture decreases and the soils compact. The soils are then unable to support the weight of the home and the foundation settles. Transpiration from tree roots desiccates the soil, having a similar effect as evaporation (what this means is that the tree roots rob moisture from the soil underneath the foundation). Plumbing leaks deposit excess water and can cause expansive soils to expand and contract.
Improper drainage adds water to the soils around the home and can cause a shrinking and swelling of the soil around the foundation. Inferior ground preparation or foundation construction can also be a problem on a cut and fill area, where the ground has been leveled to build on. Finally, in areas active clay soils expand and contract as the moisture content increases or decreases.
If you have already patched a crack and it comes back, you notice cracks expanding, begin to see multiple problem signs or are in a location with expansive soils, it will be a good idea to have it checked out as soon as possible. It will be well worth your investment to hire a qualified expert for a nominal fee to perform a detailed and thorough evaluation of your foundation. In addition to his/her evaluation, you should make sure that they provide you with a detailed report on the current status of your foundation.
This report should include a footprint of the home that includes measurements taken from a monometer denoting where the home is sinking, locations of problem zones and a plan of action. A manometer is a device used to take elevation readings (+/-) throughout the home (ground level only) showing where in the home there is settlement if any. This data used in conjunction with the visual problem signs is what a quality foundation contractor will use to diagnose a foundation settlement issue. Armed with this information you will be able to make an informed decision on whether cosmetic or structural repairs are needed.
Because of our experience with countless projects, we've developed innovative solutions involving piers, pressure grouting, soil suction, cut off walls and many others including some unheard of solutions.
The flexibility and portability of these systems allow us to provide cost effective solutions to major renovations requiring work in tight or restricted environments.