Home problems are the worst. You sort of feel helpless and at the mercy of others, because let’s face it, you don’t know a whole lot about construction and whatnot . . . adding to the mix of emotions is that this is about your home’s foundation (which you know can be a pricey repair). Overwhelm, anxiety, and confusion take over and spiral.
I like to call this “awfulizing.” *trademark pending* It’s that super fun feeling of sitting there not doing anything on the outside, but on the inside, your mental fires are burning hot with overthinking. Let’s stop this crazy train and get some answers to your question of:
Do I need foundation repair?
Fortunately, you have found this article by means of the almighty interweb oracle and can peer into the depths of the world of foundation repair and foundation problems to figure out what might be going on.
Here at Anchor Foundation Repair, we want to educate and help homeowners understand what is happening with their home just as much as we want to repair it *home foundation repair is what we do, after all.* BUT, we don’t want anyone spending time, money, and effort on a repair that is not needed.
Our goal is to empower you with information so that you can feel confident about your decision to move forward with foundation repair (or not). After 35 years in the industry and community, we have “been there, done that, and got the t-shirt” when it comes to inspecting for foundation issues.
We can show you what kinds of symptoms we normally see in the thousands of homes we have assessed and repaired. We also frequently get asked about signs that are not a signal of foundation problems and can show you those too. Lots of pictures will be involved.
This article will review and show pictures of the most telltale signs of a foundation problem and also go over common false signs that make homeowners think they have an issue when they don’t. We will also direct you to some more articles that go into more detail on the whys and hows.
Top 6 Signs of Foundation Problems
Let’s start with the “not as good” news first and review the major symptoms around your home that point to the need for foundation repair. Here’s a quick list in no particular order:
- Diagonal Cracks on Interior Walls
- Exterior Stair Step Brick Cracks
- Doors Sticking or Not Latching
- Gapping or Separation of Exterior Trim
- Movement of Wood Trim/Built-Ins
- Evidence of Movement on Other Inside Fixtures
1. Diagonal Cracks on Interior Walls
What: diagonal cracks in drywall/sheetrock walls
Where: coming off of door and window frames
Why: Settlement forces are pulling down or pushing up on a portion of the wall and cracking the wallboard.
2. Exterior Stair Step Brick Cracks
What: stair-step crack pattern in brick mortar
Where: exterior walls, location varies but most often near window openings
Why: The bricks resting on the cracked foundation will settle down or get pushed up and mortar cracks along a stair step path in the direction of settlement and an indication of a foundation problem.
3. Doors Sticking or Not Latching
What: doors sticking or not latching right
Where: top or bottom edge of the door
Why: The door frame has been pulled “out of square” due to movement in the foundation.
4. Gapping or Separation of Exterior Trim
What: gapping or separation of wood trim work
Where: brick frieze or another long horizontal piece of trim
Why: Any brick or exterior wall movement causes trim boards to lose hold of original placement points and pop off the exterior wall.
5. Movement of Wood Trim/Built-Ins and Other Inside Fixtures
What: cabinets or built-ins pulling from walls, chair rail separation
Where: built-in cabinetry or bookshelves, kitchen and bathroom cabinets
Why: A settling foundation will cause moving walls to force cabinets or trim work off of their secure wall position.
6. Evidence of Movement on Other Inside Fixtures
What: countertop and backsplash separation
Where: kitchen and bathroom tile lines
Why: Walls or floors moving can create gaps in the area between tilework and countertops or other locations where wall tile meets another surface.
For More Details on the Top Signs of Foundation Problems
You might think that foundation problem signs will show up on floors, ceilings, or other horizontal surfaces. But the true signs of foundation issues actually tend to show themselves on the vertical surfaces in your home. Places like walls, door frames, and finishes placed on walls are the ones that tell you there’s a foundation in need of repair.
If you are seeing several of these kinds of symptoms, it’s likely that you need foundation repair or at least need an inspection from a foundation repair expert.
For more information about why these things happen and why they signal a foundation problem, refer to our article “Do I Have a Foundation Problem? Top 5 Signs Repairs are Needed.”
We offer more photo examples and explanations so that you can verify if the signs you are seeing in your home fall into this category. This article can give you a deeper understanding of the settlement forces working around your home.
9 False Foundation Problem Signs Homeowners Ask About
Homeowners ask us all the time about a particular home scenario and they want to know if it’s a sign of a foundation problem or not. Here are the most frequently “asked about” symptoms.
The good news here is that if you are seeing things like the following (especially all by themselves), it’s probably not a foundation issue. *I mean, it’s probably something . . . just not something that signals a foundation problem.*
- Seam Breaks
- Nail Pops
- Ceiling Cracks: Large and Small
- Doors Sticking on the Handle Side of the Door Frame
- Normal Brick Expansion Joints
- Cracks Above a Garage
- Hairline Cracks in Concrete Floors
- Flaws in Concrete Surfaces
- Cracks in Floor Tiles and Grout
These signs are common ones that we get asked about during In-Home Assessments that don’t really test positive for foundation issues every time. They are listed in no particular order and usually have more to do with craftsmanship, home age, or just normal wear and tear.
1. Seam Breaks
What: visible, cracking, or flaking of seams
Where: interior walls showing in straight vertical or horizontal patterns near studs or on edges
Why Not: These problems can indicate an age of home or workmanship issues in a home but do not typically signify a foundation problem by themselves.
2. Nail Pops
What: circular nail pop bumps, one or several in a row
Where: interior walls showing in straight vertical or horizontal patterns near studs or on edges
Why Not: This can indicate an age of home or poor material choice in a home but does not usually signify a foundation problem by itself.
3. Ceiling Cracks: Large and Small
What: large cracks along seams, small cracks
Where: large expanses of an open ceiling for large cracks; small cracks or flaking anywhere
Why Not: Ceiling cracks are more likely caused by temperature extremes, age, roof leaks, or framing or sheetrock workmanship issues than by a foundation problem.
4. Doors Sticking on the Handle Side of the Door Frame
What: rubbing points, no gap, or sticking between door and frame
Where: on the handle side of a door frame
Why Not: A more likely cause is a screw loose in the hinge or a hinge falling out of a failing or degrading wood frame.
5. Normal Brick Expansion Joints
What: brick expansion joints
Where: breaks in the brick pattern on long walls, or missing grout lines
Why Not: Brick expansion joints are a normal part of the construction and are in place to allow for thermal expansion and wind forces.
6. Cracks Above a Garage
What: pattern of cracks in brick around a garage
Where: cracks over the center or similar on both sides of a garage door opening
Why Not: Support angle iron (brick lintel) over garage door could be compromised by rust or water intrusion or failing due to the weight of bricks over the open area.
7. Hairline Cracks in Concrete Floors
What: hairline cracks in concrete floors, no gap or level difference between sides
Where: floor under carpet or garage floor where concrete is exposed
Why Not: Hairline cracks are a normal part of drying concrete, you don’t know it’s even there until you take up the carpet, and does not indicate movement or settlement of your foundation.
8. Flaws in Concrete Surfaces
What: flaking, spalling, or honeycombing of concrete
Where: floors or other exposed concrete surfaces
Why Not: Cosmetic concrete conditions are usually a sign of workmanship issues or conditions at the time of installation and do not typically indicate a foundation problem.
9. Cracks in Floor Tiles or Grout Lines
What: cracked tiles or failing grout in floors, kitchens, or bath/wet areas
Where: any tile expanses, the larger the area, the more susceptible to cracking
Why Not: Rigid tilework is susceptible to even the slightest or normal/expected movement of a home. Grout cracking is more likely a workmanship or material use issue that is not related to a foundation problem.
For More Details on the False Signs of Foundation Problems
False signs of foundation problems still cause homeowners to worry. You could also be seeing some signs that are more indicative of foundation issues and some that are falling in this “not to worry so much” category.
To gain a bit more understanding of why and how these symptoms are not “sure signs” of foundation problems, check out “Do I Need Foundation Repair? 5 False Signs Not to Worry About.”
We offer more photo examples and detail so that you can verify if the signs you are seeing in your home fall into this category. This article can give you a deeper understanding of the reasons why you might be seeing these signs, and why they are not necessarily foundation-related concerns.
Just to be clear on these, we’re not saying that these are things you don’t want to do something about or still repair. We’re just saying that the root cause of these problems likely has a “non-foundation-issue” explanation.
Bonus Material: 2 Symptoms That Could Go Either Way
There are a couple of symptoms that fall into the “need more information” category. These symptoms can sometimes signify a foundation issue and sometimes not so they are in a category all on their own.
1. Corner Pop
What: corner of slab cracks heavily or separates completely from foundation
Where: outside concrete corner of the foundation, near the ground of a home
Why or Why Not: Corner pop can be part of a larger foundation problem (brick or non-brick) OR can be caused by opposing expansion forces of masonry and concrete in a brick home which does not indicate a foundation issue on its own.
2. Ghosting Doors
What: doors that swing or move on their own without touch
Where: interior doors around the home
Why or Why Not: Sometimes ghosting doors can be attributed to foundation movement affecting door frames or can be caused by a simple hinge problem.
If these signs are appearing as stand-alone symptoms, it’s probably a “not to worry” kind of thing *or possibly your house is haunted but that’s a whole other article*. If they are happening along with some of the other definitive signs, then it contributes to the overall story of foundation settlement in your home.
Look Out for Combinations of Problem Signs
Just one sign does not tell the whole story of your foundation, it takes a combination of several signs and symptoms acting together to reveal a true problem. You will never see “just one thing” and that’s it if you have a foundation issue.
You might see some things that make you think you have a foundation problem, and you might also see a few things that are falling into the “not a foundation problem” category as well.
If you are seeing multiple signs, more of which are falling into the category of true signs, that’s when you know that foundation settlement has occurred. If the signs cause you anguish and worry, that’s when foundation movement brings you to the level of “repairs needed.”
Need Help Getting to the Bottom of Possible Foundation Issues?
We realize this is a lot of information and you still might not be feeling confident about the next step. If you have looked over the other two articles recommended here and are either still feeling unsure or are thinking you want someone to come out and take a look, then we are here to help.
Anchor Foundation Repair has inspected and repaired thousands of foundations in Bryan, College Station, and beyond for the past 35 years and counting. We serve as the voice of trust and expertise in “all things foundation related” for Brazos Valley homeowners. We will be the first to tell you if we think you have a true problem or not.
We don’t fix things that don’t need fixing. Our goal is to make sure you have all the information that you need to make the best decision for you and your home.
Our Customer Process includes a free phone estimate where we can listen to you describe your home’s symptoms and your concerns. Oftentimes we can confirm or deny the presence of a foundation issue over the phone with pictures and a discussion.
If you want to get our opinion on the signs you are seeing around your home, it’s time to learn how to get a bid or quote from Anchor Foundation Repair.