What’s Not a Foundation Repair Problem?

Home ownership can be one of life’’s most rewarding experiences. It can also be frightening or frustrating when expensive repair problems show up unexpectedly. Don’’t let fear of the unknown trick you into over paying at the first sign of trouble.

When things go right, most of us only think about the parts of our homes we can see. Usually, we don’’t have to concern ourselves with what might be lurking behind the drywall or under the floors – until something goes wrong. Maybe it’’s a wall crack that wasn’’t there before – or water where there shouldn’’t be any.

Buying a home is a big investment and we all want to believe that something that expensive was built right from the ground up. The majority of builders out there are reputable folks who honestly want to give you good value for your money. The fact is that no matter how good the workmanship is, hidden conditions in your home’’s environment can cause structural changes that even the best builders couldn’’t prevent.

Because humans have to use heavy tools to work them, we tend to think of materials like wood, masonry and a concrete slab as solid and immovable, but they’’re not. Over time, very slow and subtle forces like air, temperature and moisture can cause them to change and shift and the effects may not become visible in the living areas of the house for years.

An honest foundation repair contractor isn’’t going to automatically push their most expensive solution on you at the first sign of trouble. The truth is that many common signs of settling and aging in a home don’’t require foundation repairs at all. Here are some examples:

1. Cracks in masonry. Normal thermal stress can cause superficial cracks in brickwork. Simple repairs to grout or expansion joints will usually do the trick. Horizontal cracks on longer spans (like over garage doors) may mean that support members are overloaded and may need a little reinforcement. The same may apply to cracks around beams in vaulted ceilings.

2. Sticky doors. While this can sometimes be a symptom of bigger problems, usually it’’s just a matter of repairing hinges or waiting for the wood in the jambs to finish drying naturally.

3. Uneven floors. If your ground floor is noticeably uneven, the slab or formwork may have been slightly out of level during construction. Quarterly elevation monitoring should be enough to make sure that there’’s no abnormal slab movement going on.

4. Gaps in woodwork or drywall. This can often be caused by normal material shrinkage. Wait about two years for the shrinkage to subside, then patch or refloat as needed.

These conditions can and do show up when there are more serious foundation problems in the background, but by themselves they often do not necessarily require expensive repairs. While we do encourage you to have them checked out by a professional to be sure that something more serious isn’’t going on, a simple cosmetic repair might be all that’’s needed once the normal settling process has run its course.

Here at Olshan we provide trustworthy, durable and clearly documented foundation assessments, but we’’d much rather have you as a customer for life than push a foundation repair on you that you don’’t really need. Keep this in mind before you commit to a more costly rehab program. Over the long run a well maintained home will provide you with far more treats than tricks.