What are the earliest warning signs that you might have foundation problems with your home? Are you wondering how much foundation settlement you have and when to worry about the condition of your house?
You’re even thinking maybe if you catch a foundation issue early that it will cost less to fix or that you can prevent it from getting worse. All good things to think about.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have inspected and repaired thousands of homes over the past 35+ years in the Brazos Valley area. We can respect that homeowners want to catch things early but we will be the first to tell you that not every crack you see is an emergency that requires immediate action.
This article will review the early signs of foundation settlement vs. warning signs of foundation problems. We will also cover the next steps and preventions when you think you might have a foundation issue, as well as some cost considerations that go along with early repair.
True Early Signs of Home Foundation Settlement
The most common early signs of foundation movement aka foundation settlement are as follows:
- Diagonal cracks in drywall around door and window frames
- Doors that do not fit squarely in their frame that did before
- Trim separations on the exterior (brick frieze, window trim)
- Stair-step or diagonal cracks in exterior brick
Diagonal wall cracks coming off of door/window frames are the top, unmistakable sign because they do not have any other root cause besides foundation settlement. The other signs in the above list can sometimes be caused by other things, but diagonal wall cracks only have one cause.
Doors can have other issues with hardware or installation, and brick issues can be a masonry problem instead. Sometimes trim, siding, and paneling can mask the earliest signs due to their ability to flex and give just a bit or be related to material quality.
So the other three signs on the list above will need to be investigated a bit to verify that the root cause of them is foundation-related and not something else.
We have developed a picture guide that helps homeowners know what things they see around their home are true signs of foundation issues and common false signs that confuse people too. Check out, “Is Foundation Repair Needed? Real and False Problem Signs,” to see how your signs stack up.
When Early Warning Signs Appear
These foundation settlement signs do not appear overnight or suddenly while you are at work one day. Settlement signs and problems develop slowly over time where you might not even notice them. This can be over a season, or a particularly dry year, or many years.
Step 1: Search for other signs of foundation settlement
When you spot one early sign, proactively look in the surrounding areas of the first signs to see if there are any other signs from the picture guide. Rarely will there be just one sign if you have a true foundation issue. But if it’s just one thing, then that might be the earliest warning sign for your home.
Step 2: Wait and monitor for further developments
If it’s just one thing, it might also not develop into anything further. We often recommend waiting on foundation repair if a sign has first appeared and watching for a 12-month cycle to see if anything else develops, signs progress in severity, or new signs occur.
Sometimes things can improve on their own, or don’t get any worse. Why rush out to spend money on repairs right away when you don’t have to?
Step 3: Consider Foundation Settlement Preventions
If you feel that some early signs of foundation settlement are showing up around your home, it’s probably the best time to consider and employ some preventions. We have an article that details this very topic so it’s best to refer you there.
It’s too much info to try and stuff it all into this article. Check out, “Can I Prevent Foundation Problems In My Home: 3 Ways to Try.”
Early Settlement Signs vs. Foundation Issues
Every house is different, so your early warning signs could be different from another home. Many homes in our Central Texas area experience foundation settlement signs, but not every settlement sign becomes a foundation issue that then needs foundation repair.
Early signs are going to be more cosmetic in nature, as well as smaller and less noticeable.
You might be aware of them because you are in the home every day, but a friend or neighbor doesn’t even see them at all. Small cracks, stair-step mortar cracks in your brick that don’t go very far, a door sticking slightly but still working and locking, a trim board that has come away from a wall but you have to look hard at it to even see.
Foundation issues are more noticeable, larger more unsightly diagonal cracks, stair-step cracks that go much longer across a wall. Trim separations that jump out at you and that visitors to your home would spot rather than only being noticed by you.
The early signs of foundation settlement vs. the signs of foundation issues are the exact same signs, they just look different and are more/less severe. For signs of settlement, cracks will be smaller and less noticeable, things will not be causing problems for you. For signs of foundation problems, the cracks will be larger, longer, more pronounced, and things would be more problematic, and more worrisome. Wishing I could put giant red arrows and running lights around this paragraph for emphasis.
There are no official measurements or numbers that a foundation repair professional would reference to determine what is “settlement” and what is a “problem.” We cover how to determine what meets the “problem” territory in this article: “Do I Need Foundation Repair or Not? Settlement vs. Problems.”
Does it Cost Less to Repair if I Fix Foundation Issues Earlier?
You might be wondering if it will cost less if you get your foundation fixed earlier rather than later. Good question. Well, it’s time for your *favorite* answer to any question, it’s yes and no.
Reasons Why It Won’t Necessarily Cost Less to Repair Early
First, it’s probably a NO on the actual foundation repair invoice. The cost of foundation repair is determined by two main things, and neither of them is the severity of the signs of settlement or how long you have been seeing them.
Foundation repair will cost the same whether the crack in your wall is 5 inches long or 20 inches long. It will cost the same if the gap in your trim is 2 centimeters wide or 14 centimeters wide. Because the cost is determined *mostly* by:
1. Your selected method of foundation repair.
There are different methods of foundation repair and because of their different materials, features, installation process, etc, right away costs vary depending on the chosen method.
Naturally, we’ve got an article that covers the cost differences between pressed piles and drilled piers (i.e. the two primary methods of foundation repair available in our Central Texas area).
2. The size/shape of the settled area of your home.
The size or shape of the settled area of your home will not likely change drastically over time. Whatever has cracked or separated from the rest of the foundation is not going to get bigger, it will just sink lower.
Cost is directly tied to the number of supports (piers or piles) that need to be added to your home to stabilize and raise the sunken area. You will need about the same number of supports added now or in the future. It’s not like early you will only need 15 piers, and then later you will need 30.
An earlier repair could result in one or two fewer support locations, but that is not going to make a huge cost difference compared to the overall price.
Reasons Why It Might Cost Less to Repair Early On
Repairing your foundation early on when you see the first signs of settlement, could result in less cost for you, but maybe not in the way that you think. Inflation and collateral damage can make things cost more in the future, saving you money if you do repairs sooner.
One of the big things that affect costs in the construction and repair industry is inflation and higher material/labor costs. A typical foundation repair project completed in 2020 is very likely going to cost more in 2024.
This is not because more work was done, but because the cost of everything involved will probably increase. So you could save money if you repair earlier.
2. Collateral Damage Repair Costs
Sometimes there are extra costs that stem from foundation repairs. Collateral damage from foundation issues are things like sheetrock repair and other fixes that you might do after the foundation is repaired that are not part of the scope of work for the foundation repair contractor.
For example, waiting to do foundation repairs can create more sheetrock damage. Foundation repair companies don’t actually fix the sheetrock for you (we only close the cracks, but don’t repair the drywall). That bill is paid separately to another contractor.
You have to get a sheetrock person to patch and possibly repaint things. The more cracks, the longer the cracks, or more wall damage, the higher your sheetrock repair invoice will be. So fixing your foundation earlier can potentially save you money on other collateral repair invoices.
Plumbing drain line problems are more of a late sign of foundation issues. So if you were to wait on doing foundation repairs, plumbing lines could eventually become damaged that you could have possibly prevented with an earlier repair.
Plumbing repairs are done and paid for by a homeowner directly to the plumbing company and are not included in foundation repair costs. So repairing early could save you money in the long run by preventing or minimizing extra plumbing costs. It could also possibly prevent the need for under-slab tunneling to access the point of plumbing failure.
There’s More to the Cost of Foundation Repairs
Now you know what early signs of foundation issues to look for. You even know steps to take when you see a sign of foundation settlement. We’ve covered that catching foundation problems early may or may not make foundation repair cost any less.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we believe in 100% transparency in our communications about all things foundation-related, including costs. After 35+ years in business, we know that homeowners want to know how much things cost and we don’t bury the facts.
We’ve covered a couple of the main things that go into the price of foundation repair, but it helps to understand all the factors that contribute to the cost. We’ve got an article that details 6 factors that determine the cost of foundation repair. Check it out!