foundation settlement or foundation problem

Do I Need Foundation Repair or Not? Settlement vs. Problems

You see some cracks in your walls and someone mentioned that you might need foundation repair. But you’ve also heard people talk about some foundation settlement being “normal” but you’re not really sure what normal means for something like a house foundation.

Anchor Foundation Repair

At Anchor Foundation Repair, our *normal* is working on foundations every day for the past 35 years or so. We can tell you what is nothing to worry about, what should be repaired, and how to tell the difference. 

We don’t like fixing things that don’t need fixing and can give you some good indicators of how to decide if foundation repair is right for you right now.

In this article, we will describe cases where foundation repair is needed and not needed. We will also cover some scenarios where it could go either way and what you should do about it. Somewhere in there, you will see what foundation repair situation you relate to the most.

Causes and Signs of Foundation Settlement and Problems

Here’s some quick background on foundation settlement, like the super speed version. Foundation settlement really means foundation movement. 

signs of foundation settlement

Your house moves and interacts with the expansive clay soils under your home depending on whether that soil is wet or dry. When the soil gets really dry, the house can sink. Settlement is a nice way of saying your house has sunk down. Then, you start to see some signs of foundation settlement that *sometimes* turn into problems. For example:

  • Diagonal cracks in drywall coming off of door and window frames
  • Stair-step cracks in exterior brick mortar
  • Doors that don’t lock or latch properly or are hard to open/close
  • Trim or other fixtures/finishes separating from walls

Just to confirm that what you are seeing around your home are foundation-related issues, learn to sort out the true and false signs of foundation problems with confidence. Check out this picture guide article, “Is Foundation Repair Needed? Real and False Problems Signs.”

Deciding If Foundation Repair Is Needed

You can’t avoid the dirt or the weather so you can’t really stay away from foundation movement in your home altogether. Some foundation movement and settlement are to be expected. Most importantly, it is not always a major problem. Now you’re thinking, “Well, how can I tell if it’s a major problem or not?”

This is a tough question,  but we’ll do our best to answer it. It can’t be listed out in a nice little bulleted list with absolute certainty because it’s difficult to define in simple, quantifiable terms. We know it when we see it (or hear it) though. Here are some things that tip us off one way or another in figuring out if a foundation is failing to perform or doing its job alright.

do I need foundation repair or not?

Cases Where Foundation Repair is Not Needed

Settlement happens. If you live in this area of Central Texas, it could happen to you. It does produce some small flaws in your otherwise perfect home. 

These are the kinds of things that you might notice as a homeowner because you are in the house every day, but they are not really bugging you. A visitor or guest in your home would not notice them at all, barely notice them without a thought, and wouldn’t pass judgment over your home quality because of them if they did notice.

“I think of normal settlement as more like small hairline cracks in walls or drywall tape joints that ripple or shear just a little. A slight separation at brick frieze that could use just a touch of caulk and paint. A mortar crack that is so small you almost don’t even see it. Window separation you don’t notice until up close.”

-Craig Tripp, Anchor Foundation Repair President, Owner, CEO, Foundation Repair Extraordinaire

With these small flaws, there are no measurements involved. Like if the crack is X inches long it falls in the settlement range, if it’s Y inches long then your home needs foundation repair. There’s no “pass/fail” measuring stick you can put on these.

Little things that are not very noticeable and do not affect the functionality of your home fall into the range of “to be expected” and likely do not need to be addressed with foundation repair. You can still open and close your doors, you can caulk the trim, you can only see the mortar crack with a magnifying glass and it’s not really bothering you. All is well.

Homeowners also ask us about small flaws in their homes that they think are foundation-related but aren’t. It’s helpful to keep those false signs of foundation problems in mind too.

Cases Where Foundation Repair is Needed

signs that foundation repair is needed

The “normal settlement” line gets crossed when it starts to affect how the home performs. Is it performing the job of keeping you safe, secure, warm, dry, etc.?

But also, is it doing its job to make you feel safe, secure, warm, dry, etc? Notice the word “feel” being used here. Deciding when a foundation needs repair is often a feeling of the homeowner as well. 

If your home and foundation are not giving you the *feeling* of safety and security, it’s not performing well. In other words, you still can’t quantify it in numbers or measurements, but it’s still failing to perform its job for you to feel safe, secure, warm, dry, and happy.

Here is a list of some things that might cross the “failing to perform” line and why. These are in no particular order and there are probably more examples that I can’t think of right now so it’s not an exhaustive list.

  • Cracks in walls that are really “scary looking” – you don’t feel safe
  • Doors that don’t lock, latch, close – you’re not safe or secure
  • Brick separation or cracks that let in air, water, and bugs – you’re not warm (or cool, we do live in Texas still), not dry, and not bug-free
  • Anything that can’t be covered with a small amount of caulk and paint – you don’t feel secure or happy with your home

“We also cross that line when the owner starts to have reasonable doubt, worry, or unhappiness with their home. These things are more feelings-based vs. an engineering amount of settlement that is acceptable or unacceptable by some measurement.”

-Craig Tripp, Anchor Foundation Repair President, Boss Man, Errand Boy, Bill Payer, Foundation Repair Master

Sometimes the Case Differs from Homeowner to Homeowner

Foundations don’t clearly “pass” or “fail” to perform in some cases because there is a spectrum of homeowner tolerance involved in the decision process. Sometimes the case is not clear because it is based somewhat on the homeowner’s opinion and how they feel about the problem.

According to Anchor Foundation Repair owner/CEO/El Presidente, Craig Tripp, the definition of passing vs. failing or settlement vs. failure can be a gray area.

This “not so clear” line between what is deemed normal settlement and foundation performance failure is not going to be the same for every home and homeowner. Everyone’s tolerance to physical flaws, performance flaws, and general feelings about their home will be different. 

does this need foundation repair?

Here’s a few examples of these settlement vs. failure gray areas:

  • One man with some serious OCD might be overly bothered by a crack in the wall and another guy doesn’t really think or worry about it at all.
  • One woman who lives in the country is not worried about the fact that her door doesn’t lock. While another lady lives in a less isolated area and wants her door to lock without fail.
  • One child is really scared of bugs and doesn’t want any of them coming into their room. Another child is excited to see a few insects arrive through a crack in their wall because they are going to grow up and study bugs for a living.

Okay, that last one isn’t a perfect example but the point we are trying to make is that people are bothered and not bothered by different things. So sometimes the decision to do foundation repair depends on how you feel about the particular symptoms of foundation settlement you see in your home.

Feelings Matter In Foundation Repair, But So Do Professional Opinions

If the last feeling-filled section of this article didn’t make it clear, YOUR feelings are a part of choosing foundation repair for your home or not. Even after reading this compelling narrative filled with masterful wisdom, some homeowners might not feel solid enough with their thoughts and still need or want a professional opinion.

in home inspection for foundation repair

Guess what? We are full of professional opinions and have 35+ years of expertise in assessing foundation problems as well as foundation repair in the Brazos Valley. It would be kinda weird to call this business Anchor Foundation Repair otherwise. We are absolutely ready to help you sort out your feelings on your foundation whenever you are. 

To help you know what to expect, here’s the lowdown on what generally happens during a foundation inspection where you can get a professional opinion from a foundation repair expert on what’s going on with your home.