How to Identify and Solve Problems Related to Foundation Sinking and Settlement
Friday, October 16th, 2015 by Thrasher
Have you noticed cracks in your foundation walls, uneven floors, or sticking windows in your home? If these sound like problems you've experienced, you may have a sinking or settling foundation.
Signs of Foundation Settlement
Signs of a settling or sinking foundation can be very subtle at first. In fact, many homeowners go months or years before noticing a crack in their foundation. The long-term damage from foundation settlement, however, is ongoing and will lead to more severe foundation problems.
As a foundation settles, visual signs will become more apparent. Below are five signs to look for that may be signs that your foundation is settling.
1) Stair-Step Cracking
Stair-step cracking is one of the surest signs of foundation settlement and is very common in brick in concrete block walls.
As the settlement continues, vertical cracks may widen or become uneven as wall sections tilt away from each other, indicating more severe displacement. Keep an eye out for cracks that are wider at the top than at the bottom, as this is a sign of advancing settlement.
2) Tilting Chimneys
Tilting chimneys that are separating from the home are one of the most intimidating and dramatic signs of a settling foundation. Sometimes a chimney is built on a footing that isn't connected to the home, making it even more at risk of settlement.
More information about tilting, leaning chimney repair.
3) Damaged Doors & Windows
An opening cut in any wall is a weak point, so signs of foundation settlement often show up around door and window openings.
Door and window frames may be racked out of square. Cracks may extend from the corners above doors and windows. Doors may separate from the framing or exterior finish. Other signs of foundation settlement include sticking or jamming doors and windows, and locks that stop working.
More information about sticking windows and doors.
4) Slab Floor Cracking
Cracks in your concrete floor slab can be a sign of foundation settlement, but they may also be a sign that the slab floor alone has settled. There are times when your slab floor may sink or lift independently of the foundation walls, damaging the floors but not necessarily the walls.
More information about slab floor crack repair.
5) Drywall Cracks
Cracks in drywall throughout the house are reliable indicators of foundation settlement. Cracks will often be larger and more obvious in the home's upper levels. Typical drywall cracks during foundation settlement are commonly located at the corners of doors and windows and along drywall seams. Drywall tape can also be a good indicator, especially if it's ripping or coming loose. Drywall cracks can also be a sign of sinking crawl space supports, sinking floors, and heaving floors.
How to Repair Foundation Settlement
At Thrasher, we fix foundation settlement issues by installing steel foundation piers. These piers will extend beneath the foundation, contacting strong supporting soils that will permanently stabilize your structure.
At Thrasher, we recommend installing foundation piers to stabilize, repair, and restore a foundation that's been damaged by issues related to foundation settlement and poor supporting soils.
There are several different types of foundation piers. Each one is designed to address a different kind of foundation problem. We install three different kinds of foundation piers: push piers, helical piers, and slab piers. Below are links explaining each of these types of foundation piers.
Foundation Push Piers
Foundation push piers are straight, steel piers that attach to your foundation and extend far below the structure to strong supporting soils. During the installation, a section of the foundation footing is exposed and cut to attach to each pier's bracket. This is possible from either inside or outside of your foundation.
Foundation brackets are secured to the footing, and tubular pier sections are hydraulically driven through each bracket. Pier sections continue to be driven downwards until the piers meet competent strata.
When all the push piers have been installed, they will work in unison to transfer the weight of the structure to the strong soils or bedrock below. If possible, the home is also lifted back to its original, level position.
More about installing foundation push piers.
Read more about our push pier system.
What Not to Do
Like all home improvements and repairs, some methods work better than others. On the other hand, some methods seem to hardly work at all. In fact, at Thrasher, we find that many of our foundation repair jobs are actually just fixing the unsuccessful repairs of other contractors.
Based on our experiences throughout Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri, here are three "fixes" that we do NOT recommend:
Total Foundation Replacement
To completely replace your home's foundation, the soil will have to be removed from around your home and your home will be jacked up and placed on temporary supports.
Next, your foundation walls are completely removed, and a new set of walls are constructed.
This is expensive, time-consuming, and extremely disruptive for a family. Even worse, it doesn't even address the real problem: the soils around your foundation. Many homeowners remove and replace their foundation without addressing the problem that caused the foundation issue in the first place. When this happens, they often find that after several years, they're facing the same problem all over again.At Thrasher, we address the problem with warrantied solutions that will fix your problem once and for all.
To install concrete underpinning, the soils must be excavated from around the foundation. Larger concrete footings are poured beneath the existing footings. Once the concrete has cured, the soil is backfilled.
When it comes to foundation footings, "bigger" is not necessarily "better". Most of the time, the underpinning will not extend beyond the problem soils under your home. If this is true, the larger footings you just paid for will continue to move and cause damage. Concrete shrinks as it cures, and small gaps can form between the new and old footings. Open gaps beneath a home are never a good thing.
When concrete underpinning is installed and fails to solve the problem, it is much more expensive to repair. Before installing a new foundation system, all that added concrete will need to be removed.
To install concrete piers under a home, the soil will first need to be excavated from around your foundation. Short, 6"-8"wide concrete cylinders are then pushed into the soil on top of one another, strung together by a wire. Shims are then placed between the top of the concrete pier and the footing, then the soil is backfilled. Blunt, wide concrete cylinders are difficult to push deep into the ground, making it very difficult to extend them past the poor supporting soils under your home. Concrete can also crack and break under pressure or wide temperature changes. This makes concrete piers a flimsy, temporary repair method.
Additionally, there is nothing to guide the direction for the pier, which means they might not be installed straight. So how will they support your home? Because of these and other reasons, very few companies will recommend this kind of approach.
Contact the Foundation Wall Experts
At Thrasher, we can identify and repair any issue you may be having with settling, sinking foundations. We have a wide variety of solutions for foundation repair that have been tested and proven effective throughout the United States and Canada through the Supportworks network of foundation contractors.
Each of our foundation solutions includes a free, written foundation repair quote, and includes a personal consultation with a foundation expert, an in-person inspection, and a free copy of our 90-page foundation repair book. To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, call or email us today! We proudly serve Grand Island, Bellevue, Council Bluffs, Norfolk, Fremont, North Platte, Kearney and nearby areas.