How to Spot Signs of Foundation Damage

Did a crack appear on your wall? Maybe your doors suddenly won’t close all the way? Or your window frames look a bit crooked? Before you drag out all your woodworking tools and start looking for a good carpenter to fix these problems, take a moment. These problems might be symptoms of some other problem with your home, something more, well, foundational.

Like your foundation.

A damaged foundation will gradually affect other structures in your home — floorboards may warp, hairline cracks may appear in walls and your home may smell musty. It’s easy to dismiss such problems as part of a home’s natural aging process — the house is just settling a bit, right? — but these subtle changes in your home’s interior may mean your foundation needs immediate attention. That’s why it’s important to understand how to spot signs of foundation problems.

When you think of water’s ability to carve canyons and reshape the Earth, it’s not surprising to imagine that water can destroy a home’s foundation. Proper grading around your home and clean gutters will help prevent water from accumulating around or under your home’s foundation. Gutter downspouts should empty several feet away from your foundation, too.

Sometimes, factors beyond your control may threaten your foundation. Mature trees that you might value for their aesthetic beauty can create cracks in plumbing lines near foundations. In regions of the country where soil has a high clay content, soil may expand and contract, exerting excess pressure on — or inadequate support for — your foundation. Even the weather can affect a home’s foundation; in times of severe drought, soil can shrink away from a foundation, causing it to shift and crack.

The Effect of Expansive Clay Soils on Foundations

If you live in an area known for clay-rich soils, or if you have mature trees growing near your home, be alert for the common signs of foundation damage. If you suspect something, hire a professional to inspect your home and its foundation. Catching foundation damage quickly can help you avoid extensive and costly repairs to fix symptoms while the (literally) underlying problem remains and worsens.