by Shawn Kyles
Periodic inspections of your home’s foundation can help prevent structural damage and the need for costly repairs. Homeowners should conduct their own inspections whenever possible.
Indicators of foundation issues include sloping floors, windows and doors that don’t open or close properly, wall cracks, broken tiles and bowed walls. Your property should be evaluated on a regular basis by an experienced foundation professional.
A foundation contractor will look at many areas in and around your house, and provide you with valuable feedback on any maintenance or repair that is needed. A professional can spot less visible problems, and can also give you tips on how to avoid future issues.
Foundation inspections often begin with the exterior of the house. A seasoned inspector will look at the overall soil and site conditions, along with any evidence of settling and drainage problems. Water that pools on rooftops or accumulates on the ground can cause significant foundation damage. A foundation inspector can determine if you have a water problem and recommend solutions to remedy the situation. An inspector will also look for cracks on walls, stucco and bricks, and around doors and windows. Cracks are often a sign that the foundation has moved. Any wall or brick separation will also be noted.
After the exterior of your home has been inspected, the inside of your home will be examined. Interior evidence of foundation damage includes bowed walls and windows, uneven floors and wall cracks. Windows and doors that don’t work or close properly can also be an indicator of a foundation issue.
In addition to a visual inspection of the property, a foundation repair expert will review any available history of the home in regards to settlement and movement. A qualified foundation professional will also be able to draw on their experience to spot conditions without significant visual indicators.
Here is a checklist for diagnosing foundation problems:
1. Uneven or sloping floors. This is one of the most common indicators of foundation problems.
2. Wall cracks. When cracks are wider at the top than bottom, it is usually a sign of foundation settlement. Exterior wall cracks that run diagonally along joints can also indicate problems.
3. Wall separation. Walls that are separating from windows, doors, garage doors, floors and ceilings are often evidence of foundation problems.
4. Wall bulging. Any masonry walls that bulge above the ground are dangerous and could result in structural failure.
5. Wall rotation. Settling can cause walls to rotate outward as the structure sinks.
6. Nail Popping. Nails can pop out of sheetrock or gypsum walls when there is a foundation settlement problem.
7. Floor and foundation cracks.
8. Doors and windows that don’t open properly.
9. Weak Soil. A foundation can sink when it is built on weak soil.
10. Leaning chimneys.
11. Poor Soil Compaction. Many houses are built using fill soils. If the soil isn’t properly compacted, it can cause structure settlement.
12. Excessive Soil Moisture. Typically caused by poor drainage and water leaks, moisture can soften soil. Settlement damage occurs when the soil can no longer support the weight of the structure.
13. Soil Consolidation. The weight of a structure can cause additional soil compression and settlement after the house has been built.
Once the entire house has been inspected, you will be given a summary of what was found, along with recommendations on how to address specific issues. Problems that need immediate attention will be pointed out, especially ones that affect the structural integrity of the building. Detecting these potentially serious conditions can be critical when it comes to avoiding a collapse.
If you are already aware of a foundation problem, contact a professional repair company for advice on how best to correct the problem. There can be many ways to address a particular situation, depending on the severity and extent of the damage.
Shawn Kyles is an expert in foundation repair & house bolting, and a partner at Julian Construction (http://www.julianconstruction.com) in Los Angeles. He has inspected over 15,000 structures, working with engineering firms & local departments of building & safety. Julian Construction is a “no middlemen” model–no salesmen or subcontractors–you get the principals of the company & its workers under your home. See what they offer at http://www.julianconstruction.com/services/index.html