Lately, you’ve noticed thin cracks climbing up your foundation and interior walls like vines. Your doors and windows are becoming increasingly difficult to pry open, and your floor is slowly turning into a slide. What could be causing these unusual problems?
It could be your home settling. While settlement is normal and happens to all homes, in some cases, a foundation can sink to a concerning degree. But how do you know what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to foundation problems?
To help you better understand how settlement works and how it presents itself, we’ll provide a brief introduction to settlement and teach you what you need to know about the three different types of foundation settlement.
Foundation settlement is when a structure sinks slowly into the soil below. This occurs due to soil compression. All soil compresses to a certain extent, which means that every foundation, unless it’s built on bedrock, will settle.
Understanding how soil compression works can help you understand why homes sink. The soil beneath a structure contains voids, or pore spaces, which are made up of air and water. When a structure is built on the soil, it puts thousands of pounds of pressure on the dirt and presses it down. This reduces void space and makes the soil denser. This isn’t all bad, as compacted soil is stronger and will support your home better. The problem is when the soil settles, so does everything built on top of it.
When settlement occurs slowly, evenly, and minimally, it rarely causes permanent harm to a building. But if a foundation settles too quickly, unevenly, or severely, it can compromise the structural integrity and safety of a home.
The composition of the soil beneath your home plays a big role in settlement. There are several factors that can lead to weak, unstable soil, including:
When soil particles dry out, they shrink, crack, and settle, causing the home above to sink into the ground with them.
Wet soil can also cause settlement. When soil is saturated with moisture, it gets softer and weaker. Eventually, it becomes incapable of supporting the weight of your home. Water can also wash away some soil, creating gaps in the ground that cause the soil to sink.
Before a structure is built, the soil beneath needs to be pre-compacted. This is essential for long-term stability as it strengthens the soil so it can adequately support the heavy, permanent load placed atop it. Homes built on poorly compacted soil are more likely to settle and experience harsher forms of settlement.
There are three forms of settlement. Each presents differently, and some forms are more severe than others, but all can damage the home. Here’s what you need to know about the three different types of foundation settlement.
Uniform settlement is when all portions of a foundation settle at the same or similar rate. This causes the structure to move down vertically. This typically occurs when the soil beneath the home is all one type or when the load on the home is uniform in all areas. Uniform settlement has minimal effect on the structure and safety of a building. However, it can damage the building’s utilities, including the sewage and water supply. This can result in leaking and other problems that a professional will need to address.
The next type of foundation settlement you should know about is tipping settlement. Tipping settlement is when one side of a foundation slab remains in place, and the other side settles uniformly. A good example of tipping settlement is the since-stabilized Leaning Tower of Pisa. This form of settlement doesn’t normally cause cracks, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. If the home isn’t properly stabilized, it can tip over.
This is the most severe form of settlement. It occurs when the soil under a home expands, contacts, or shifts away. In differential settlement, one portion of a foundation settles faster than the other portions, or non-uniformly. This can result in severe damage to the home, including cracks in the foundation and interior walls, stuck doors and windows, sinking exterior stairs, tilting chimneys, and leaking through sunken slabs. In some cases, though rare, it can also cause a home to fail and collapse.
Generally, settlement occurs in the first few years after construction, but it can happen at any time if conditions are right. Most settlement is normal, but sometimes it’s not. Keeping an eye out for the signs of dangerous settlement can help you catch symptoms early. Here are just a few symptoms to watch for:
If you’ve noticed the signs of foundation settlement lurking in and around your home, you may wonder, “What do I do next?” Many people treat foundation problems like a toothache. At first, they ignore the pain, hoping it will go away. But it doesn’t. It only gets worse and worse over time. By the time they reach out to a dentist, it’s spiraled out of control, and the cost to fix it is phenomenal.
If your house is hurting, don’t wait to have it looked at. The earlier you notice, assess, and treat the symptoms of foundation settlement, the less damage your home will sustain and the less you’ll need to pay to get it back in shape. Reach out to a professional repair company like Foundation Tech. We specialize in home foundation repair. We can examine the symptoms and find a permanent solution to your foundation problem at a cost that won’t break the bank. Contact us at (661) 294-1313 to discuss your foundation issues, or visit https://foundationtechnology.com/ to learn more about our inspection and repair services.