Foundation settlement can occur in many different ways over a very drastic time frame. Some symptoms of foundation issues can be misleading, while others are a telltale sign that a foundation repair is needed.
Determining the root of the problem when dealing with foundation issues is a significant step in the repair and should be done by a professional. However, as a homeowner, there are some common symptoms that, if spotted early, can help in the assessment and identification process.
Knowing the difference in concerning symptoms and ordinary wear and tear is also an essential factor in identifying foundation issues. At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have found that the best customer is an informed customer.
After 30 years in the foundation repair business, our repair team has seen nearly every issue a home can have. Checking around the house every few months for common signs of foundation can lead to less cost if damages are found early on.
Finding common issues of foundation damage is the first step in the repair. There are many different signs of foundation damage, and almost always, there is more than one. There are many different factors that affect a foundation, and that almost all repairs differ in some way. Let’s take a look at the most common signs of foundation damage in a home.
1. Slanted or Diagonal Cracks on Interior Walls
Diagonal cracks on the interior or exterior of a home are among the most common and almost guaranteed signs that the foundation is damaged. The reason diagonal cracks are so scary is because of how the drywall was installed during construction.
Door Frames, windows, and other cut pieces of drywall are common places to find diagonal cracks running. Diagonal cracks mostly form on parts of the home where the drywall has been cut into an “L” shape. The cutting of the drywall weakens it, allowing for tearing instead of stretching to occur.
For example, take a piece of paper and pull it at each end. Stretching occurs in the paper, but ripping and tearing the paper is hard to do. Now, cut a square into the middle of the paper and pull. Tearing will occur on the corners in a diagonal motion easily.
In the example, the paper represents drywall on a home, and the pulling is the foundation shifting. It is easy to see how movement can affect the wall of a house when looking at the paper as a home’s foundation.
Under no circumstances, can cracks in drywall running slanted or diagonally be caused by poor workmanship or aging in the material, making diagonal cracking the number one sign a foundation has shifted.
2. Doors becoming stuck or opening on their own
A door sticking comes from the movement or settlement of a foundation. Door sticking or jamming is precisely how it sounds. Over time doors in a home may become hard to open due to settlement of the foundation or a hardware issue.
Often the foundation has settled, and the movement forces the door “out of frame.” Another problem that may occur is the opposite of jamming, and that is the doors “ghosting” or swinging open on their own.
Ghosting doors often open toward the direction that the foundation is settling in while door jamming can show movement in different directions based on how the door is jamming, either hinge side or the opposite of the hinge.
If a door is ghosting or jamming, it can be a hardware issue, however. Normally telling the difference between a hardware issue and a foundation issue is simple. Hardware door frame problems typically occur in only one or a few doors around the house.
There will also be no other signs of foundation problems around the home. Foundation related problems to doors will affect most of the doors in the home. Foundation damage on the door will be shown at the top of the door, hardware issues will appear on the top sides of the door and framing problems will show around the bottom and mid-frame of the door.
3. Shifting Trim (Door Frames, Backsplash & Running Boards)
Trim shifting is an interesting sign of foundation movement. To fully understand why trim is essential and why the movement is a sign of foundation damage, it is essential to understand the process leading up to the trim being installed in the home.
Installing trim is one of the last procedures done in building a house. Being one of the final tradesmen on the job comes with some territory of becoming detail-oriented and noticing when small details are out of line. The extreme detail that goes into installing trim is the reason why using it to find foundation settlement is so helpful.
When trim, a backsplash, or running board, if installed by a professional, is out of line, there is a reason for concern. Now, not all out of line trim or backsplash mean foundation damage is the cause. There will often be more signs than just shifting trim.
It is important to remember that when noticing out of line trim, take into consideration who installed it when it was installed, and are there other signs of foundation damage around the home.
4. Exterior Walls with Stair Step Cracks
Exterior walls of a brick home can sometimes be hard to determine if the movement and cracks on walls are natural or if they are due to foundation settlement. Vertical or horizontal cracks are often not too concerning.
Oftentimes the number of cracks around the exterior is not the problem either. Faint cracks around a foundation are common and should not be of concern. The major concern with exterior cracks comes from the size of the cracks and which direction they are headed.
The most concerning crack on an exterior wall is a stair-stepping crack. These cracks form around windows typically and wherever the crack heads towards is often the place of settling in the foundation.
A key place to look is in the corner of windows outside a home. This is the most common area that exterior cracking occurs and is a telltale sign that a home has foundation damage. Remember, if a crack is large in size and/or running like stair steps, it is probably a sign of foundation damage.
5. Brick Frieze Running Along the Top of the Home
Brick frieze installation occurs on the top part of the home. Its sole purpose is to cover or conceal the top brick. These bricks are vertically installed for strength and stability purposes, whereas traditional brick lays horizontally.
A common sign for foundation damage is the separation of the brick frieze. The most common installation of a brick frieze is at a 45-degree cut connecting two corners. A brick frieze will always be on a corner of a home.
Brick frieze separation is only the sign of a few common problems around the home, making it a great way to tell if foundation movement is occurring. The size of the gap on the brick frieze is a good indication of the amount of damage.
Large gaps mean that the foundation is stretching lower and more settlement has occurred. It is important to know that brick frieze separation can be caused by other things, but if large separation is occurring, the damage is probably due to foundation damage.
6. Tile Cracking Around the Home
Tile cracks around the home are low on the list for a reason. In most cases, there are previously mentioned signs of foundation damage around the home. Tile is one of the last signs that a home is experiencing damage.
Tile cracking can be a misleading sign when regarding foundation settlement. The rigid nature of tile makes finding the root of tile cracks challenging. In small quantities, tile typically lasts longer than if a house has large areas covered in tile.
Cracking in areas that have small amounts of tile can sometimes be a sign of foundation damage. Like all other indications, there are other possible reasons why tile might crack. In spaces with large amounts of tile, cracking is more common because of the rigidity.
If only tile cracking is occurring, that may be a false indication of foundation damage. Always check for other foundation signs when a cracked tile is visible.
5 False Signs that don’t indicate foundation damage
Some symptoms that may look like foundation damage can be a false indication of damage. These false indications are often smaller details being wrong or purposely designed spacing between bricks.
When looking at false identification, there are a few things to remember. Commonly more than one problem is apparent when dealing with foundation damage. Finding small cracks or minor details being off around the home does not mean the foundation needs repair right away.
Always look for more common signs then transition into possibly contacting a foundation repair company. If further damage is discovered, the foundation may need repair, but rarely are the signs below going to lead directly to a foundation problem.
1. Minor Cracks in the Foundation
Yes, cracks can be both nothing to worry about and a significant concern in the home. Cracks that are not immediate concerning are in the concrete slab. Most small cracks, in general, are not a concern.
Just because hairline cracks and most cracks in slabs are not concerning large major cracks spanning across the foundation may need to be inspected. Often, a foundation will need repair and not even show any cracking in the foundation, and other factors are involved in determining the damage.
A foundation does not always break. When a foundation breaks, a crack is formed, and this is common, but foundations can also bend. Bending of the foundation may occur, causing the repair to be needed; however, there are no cracks.
Bending and warping foundations are common but sometimes can go unnoticed. It is important to check for other foundation signs before worrying about hairline cracks or minor breaks in the foundation.
2. Seams in the wall
Seams in walls are confusing. These are large vertical “cracks” running up along the interior wall of a home. The reason they are typically NOT a sign of foundation settlement is because of where the crack occurs.
Poor workmanship and old material can be a cause of the seam in the wall. Depending on where the vertical seam is located will determine what the issue is. If the vertical seam is toward the middle of a wall with no doors or windows, it is not a foundation issue.
Going back to our example of the paper being the drywall in #1 on the blog. Pulling a non-cut piece of paper and tearing it vertically in the middle of the paper is very hard. It can happen, but more often than not, the foundation is fine, and the installation or material is bad.
Suppose vertical seams can be seen in the house check for other signs of damage. Finding better symptoms of foundation damage would be recommended before calling a foundation repair company.
3. Vertical Control Joints (expansion joints)
Expansion joints are gaps on the exterior of brick homes that a mason installs to account for foundation settlement over time. These small gaps around the house will give the brick space to move over the years of the settlement, so the exterior brick is not cracking always due to minor movement.
Gaps will look like traditional “lines” in a brick wall. The goal of expansion joints is to try and control or contain the movement of a home’s foundation. If done properly, expansion joints increase the longevity of a structure.
Cracking being different sizes than one another is common and just reflects the expansion joints are constructed properly. Cracks are common in bricks, and understanding which cracks are dangerous and what isn’t is an essential task, and if a large number of cracks are found around the home, look into some masonry articles for a better understanding of brick cracks.
4. Cracks in ceiling
A crack in the ceiling does not mean that you have a foundation problem cracks in ceilings, most of the time point to another issue. Common found issues with ceiling cracks are framing issues, underbuilt roofing, and sagging throughout the ceiling.
Underbuilt roofing and sagging are common in older homes. Ceiling cracks take years to develop and appear suddenly, causing concern from homeowners, but because of the continued development of the crack, a foundation issue is rarely the case.
Ceiling cracks will never be the only sign for a foundation issue. The ceiling is one of the last things to be affected by foundation movement and rarely occurs. Often, foundation repair professionals will not even look at the ceiling because there are so many better options to determine foundation movement.
5. Cracked Tile
Cracked tile can be one of the most misleading symptoms in an home aging. In homes with large amounts of tile or other rigid floorings, cracking is common and expected after years of wear and tear on a home.
As previously stated, the amount of tile in a home is one aspect to consider when looking for cracked tile as foundation damage. Small areas are more concerning then large areas of cracking tile.
Checking for other signs around the home is recommended, and if none are found, consider looking into the flooring being the problem. Often when new flooring is installed, small cracks are found underneath the tile. These are not concerning to the foundation typically.
Now, occasionally tile cracking can be a sign of foundation settlement as stated above, however many other issues listed above will be apparent, and if a cracked tile is the only symptom, it is safe to assume it is not foundation damage.
Wondering if You Need a Foundation Repair?
When looking around the house for foundation damage signs, be sure to remember that only one of these symptoms being apparent may mean there is another problem. These are just the top signs of foundation damage, and there are many more signs and symptoms of foundation movement.
Many other factors go into foundation repair and is a craft mastered overtime. At Anchor Foundation repair, we have been in the business for 30 years and have seen nearly every sign of foundation damage.
Suppose you are looking for more information on the process of foundation repair and methods used in the repair. Check out our blog article “What is foundation repair?” to get a better understanding of the industry.
As always, any damage found should be done by a professional. If a home in the Brazos Valley area has some foundation damage signs, contact us below to schedule a consultation with our team. Check out our services page to see if we can help with your home’s problems.