Sagging floors, sticking doors, and cracks galore! Unhealthy foundation symptoms are plaguing your home, or maybe you are not sure if what you are seeing is a sign of foundation issues or some other “home health” problem.
Right now, you are wishing there was a handy-dandy symptom checker for your home like they have on WebMD for your body. If only there was a foundation doctor that makes house calls . . . oh wait, there is . . .
In the past 35 years, Anchor Foundation Repair has assessed and diagnosed thousands of homes in the Brazos Valley for possible foundation issues. Some homes really do need repair and remedies, others don’t. We know what signs to look for that point to a true foundation problem and also know that some symptoms are not what they seem.
While we do want to fix foundation problems for homeowners, we are not in the business of telling people they have a problem when they don’t. Here’s a rundown of the top 5 signs that your foundation is unhealthy and in need of some doctoring.
- Diagonal Cracks on Interior Walls
- Exterior Brick Cracks
- Doors Sticking or Not Latching
- Gapping or Separation of Exterior Trim
- Movement of Wood Trim and Other Inside Fixtures
Let’s go over these signs in a little more detail so that you can decide if what you are seeing in your home is going to need further diagnosis and eventual treatment.
1. Diagonal Cracks on Interior Walls
There are certain types of interior wall cracks that would indicate a foundation problem. Cracks that are heading in a diagonal direction off of the corners of door and window frames are a big sign. There can be cracks in other locations besides coming off of door and window frames, but this is the most common and telltale sign of possible foundation issues.
Vertical cracks that run along the edge of a section of drywall are not necessarily an indication of foundation settling. It’s the diagonal or slanted cracking that is the signal and a guaranteed sign of settlement.
Whenever a foundation cracks and settles or sinks, the framing inside the wall drops down with it and pulls the sheetrock or drywall as well. One part of the wall is still in its original position and the section on top of the sinking foundation is pulling the wall down.
The weaker and most vulnerable parts of the wall are at the corner points around a framed opening like with windows and doors. So things tend to crack at the weakest points in the structure. This stretches the drywall more than it can handle and causes the cracks to appear.
Besides cracks in walls being one of the most common signs of foundation movement, it is also one of the most bothersome for homeowners because this symptom is visible on the interior, and you are reminded of it frequently during your normal daily activities at home.
The larger and longer the crack line is, the longer the problem has likely been going on or the farther the foundation has sunken down. Smaller more subtle cracks should be monitored for changes. Keep an eye on cracks and make note of how quickly or slowly they grow.
2. Exterior Brick Cracks
Brick homes offer an extra sign to homeowners that there might be a foundation issue. A very common symptom that shows up on brick exteriors is stair-step cracking of mortar moving diagonally up or down a wall. This can also be at points where doors or windows are framed out but the stair-step pattern can be spotted in other locations just as commonly.
This type of exterior sign usually indicates the high point of the crack in the foundation and things are sloping away from it. These kinds of cracks tend to happen right where the problem is located.
Stair-step cracks can be faint and hard to see at first and become more visible over time. Typically, the higher up or longer a crack runs, the larger the separation becomes and you can begin to see gaps between bricks that are significant.
The size of the crack will determine the severity of the settlement. Bigger cracks equal more settlement or sinking of that section of the foundation.
3. Doors Sticking or Not Latching
Doors that do not lock, latch or close properly or doors that occasionally stick in a particular season can be an indicator of foundation issues. When foundations move from their original position from settling, it takes door frames “out-of-square.” Meaning that the door frame opening no longer has 90-degree angles at each corner anymore.
This condition may cause doors to stick because the door didn’t change shape, the frame did. And the door no longer fits right into the frame shape anymore.
A good way to diagnose this problem is to step back 4 to 5 feet away from the sticking door in question and look at the top edge of the door in the frame. There should be a consistent gap between the door and the frame all the way across from left to right. If one side has a larger gap than the other side, then the door is “out-of-square.”
Out-of-square doors are one of the most common signs of a foundation problem. The actual issue is more likely a foundation settlement problem than the door itself. If you are experiencing doors not working properly throughout the house, it is best to have a professional take a look.
4. Gapping or Separation of Exterior Trim
On a brick home, a common area affected by foundation problems is in the “brick frieze”. I know, what in the world is that? The brick frieze is a trim piece that bridges or covers the gap between the top of the brick exterior wall and the overhang of your roof.
Pictures are better for this because it is hard to explain in words. Here is an example and there’s another one farther down.
If your home is not brick, then it’s that same piece of trim that bridges the gap between the vertical wall and the overhang of the roof. For some reason, it has a fancy name when it’s on brick and it’s just trim when it’s on wood or other siding material. Go figure . . .
No matter what the special (or not so special) name of this piece of exterior trim, if it’s separated at the corners as shown in the photos, you might have a foundation problem.
5. Movement of Wood Trim and Other Inside Fixtures
There are some other indications of foundation movement that might show up inside your home that are not showing up on a wall or door. Any trim or finish gapping, damage, or separation can be a sign of movement and settlement.
A backsplash, for example, might begin to crack or to show a gap on one bottom corner between where it ends and the countertop begins.
Theoretically, a backsplash goes all the way down to the countertop when it is installed. If a gap begins to appear, it might mean that a part of the foundation is sinking in that area. The lower cabinets and the countertop are moving with the foundation, and the backsplash is staying put.
If it’s not the backsplash, it could be other inside fixtures or finishes that might give you the sign:
- Chair molding in a dining room separating from the wall
- Countertop or cabinet separating from the walls
- Separation and cracks in bath or shower areas where there is a lot of tilework
You will probably see more than one of these signs in your home.
Typically, you would see a combination of these signs around your home. It’s never going to be just one thing that tips you off to the unhealthiness of your foundation. It’s usually a series of cues pointing in a direction that confirms or denies a settled home.
After reading this article, look carefully over the entire home inside and out and make note of any irregularities. You might have thought that a trim piece that is falling just needs to be nailed back into place. Think about the underlying movement or force that might have created that situation, rather than it being a simple nail failure.
These things don’t typically happen on their own, there is usually a pulling force behind the damage points causing things to come apart.
Do you see some of these unhealthy signs and some other stuff you are not sure about?
You have gathered enough of a collection of unhealthy symptoms to be concerned, you might even see some other damage points that you are not sure are signs or not. Maybe you are also seeing things like this:
- Larger vertical cracks in walls or ceilings
- Doors that swing on their own
- Gapping of expansion joints in exterior brick
These symptoms may or may not be indicators of foundation settling but that is why it might be a good time to get a professional opinion to help you sort this out.
Are you ready to see the foundation repair specialist now?
You and your home (i.e. the patient) will know best when it is time to take the next steps based on the pain points and your overall discomfort with these symptoms. Much like personal health problems, homeowners have different tolerance levels when it comes to these issues. Some will prefer to wait it out, and others will want to get treatment right away.
We want to set you up for long-term home health so that you can enjoy and live in your home for a lifetime. We can effectively observe the aches and pains your home is experiencing and determine if it is a real systemic foundation concern or something that just needs a band-aid.
We have served as the “good doctor” of foundation repair in the Bryan/College Station and Greater Brazos Valley area since 1985, taking care of your home in the best way possible is our #1 priority.
If you feel you are ready to make an appointment for further diagnostics with a free estimate phone call and In-Home Inspection, Anchor Foundation Repair is here for you. Much like a doctor understands how a body is built to work, perform, and function, Anchor understands those same things in your home.