How do you know if you have foundation problems or maybe it’s just foundation settlement as *they* like to call it? How can you figure out if you have a problem or not? Is there any way for someone to figure it out on their own without having to call someone right now?
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been assessing and repairing problem foundations in the Bryan, College Station, and surrounding Brazos Valley communities like Brenham and Caldwell since 1985. We are *more than qualified* to fill you in on this topic and we can easily explain how we do it. It’s not a secret we are trying to keep quiet or anything.
This article will detail exactly how we figure out if a home has foundation problems that need to be fixed. We will go over what tools we use and why. Get ready for the *real dirt* on how to know if you have foundation issues.
How to Identify Foundation Issues in a Home
We use a few important methods and tools to determine if someone has a foundation problem when we come out and perform our In-Home Assessments aka foundation inspections. They are not really fancy techniques or equipment either. We use the following:
- A Level
- Some History
Yes, that’s it. We realize this is not very *groundbreaking* information. We don’t use “zip levels” or any other sort of gadget to evaluate and assess how well your foundation is doing its job.
Speaking of jobs, what IS the job of a foundation anyway? Let’s explore that for a sec before we go any further.
All foundations have a few basic purposes for you. The first is to support the rest of the structure of your home. Foundations provide a way to keep groundwater away from you and the rest of your stuff. They also serve as a vapor barrier to both the water and soil under your home. These are all good things that keep your home solid, stable, and dry.
We Use Our Eyeballs To Identify Signs of Foundation Settlement
Some very specific cues signal foundation settlement in a home, things like:
- Diagonal cracks in drywall,
- Stair-step cracks in exterior brick,
- Doors or windows that don’t open, lock, or latch right,
- Trim boards that are separating from their original positions, and
- Fixtures like cabinets, built-ins, countertops, separating from walls.
Most of the top signs of foundation settlement, particularly in slab foundation homes, appear on the vertical surfaces of your home. Observing telltale signs of foundation problems in a home is the biggest tool we have in our arsenal. There’s no reason you can’t take a tour around your home and look for these foundation settlement signs too.
Another big part of determining foundation problems is home functionality. Your home is supposed to “work right” for you. If any signs of settlement cause a functional problem, like a door that won’t open, then that’s an issue that needs repair.
We can easily see cracks and trim or cabinetry separating from your walls, and so can you. It’s obvious when a door or window is stuck so you do not need an “expert” to confirm this. A high-tech device is not needed either when your eyes can tell you that your home has moved or settled by picking up on the signs your home is giving you.
For more information on all the signs and even the misleading signs, check this out: Is Foundation Repair Needed? Real and False Problems Signs (Picture Guide).
Also, we have a special article written for the top signs of foundation settlement in a crawl space home, in case you have that type of foundation instead.
We Listen With Our Ears For Foundation Concerns
Homeowner feelings play a part in determining whether a foundation should be repaired. Homes are supposed to make us feel safe, secure, happy, and (my favorite) cool and dry. If any sign of foundation settlement is making a homeowner feel unsafe, unsecured, unhappy, or unpleasant, then your home is not doing its job and needs to be fixed.
This is a bit of a gray area in assessing foundation problems because everyone is different and has varying tolerances for imperfections in a home.
When we come out to look at your foundation and you get a quote for repairing it, we are listening to how a homeowner talks about the issues they see. Are you distressed or scared? Are you supremely annoyed and sick of looking at the issues? Are you embarrassed about the problems and don’t want to invite people to your house because of them?
Think about how you really feel about any foundation settlement signs or symptoms going on in your home. If these things are bothering you quite a bit, you should seriously look into getting things repaired. If you’re not stressed about it, then it’s okay to wait a while for foundation repairs too.
Just keep in mind that if you are looking to sell your home someday, prospective buyers might have different *feelings* about it than you . . .
We Use a Level to Confirm Foundation Issues
A study that I read once (can’t remember where I read it, otherwise I would link to it) said that homes are built with an average elevation deviation (i.e. slope) of 1.21 inches. That makes sense because according to the Post Tensioning Institute’s 2015 Evaluation Guidelines for the Performance of Slab-on-Grade Foundations, the acceptable engineering deviation limits allow for up to 1.5 inches of slope.
You might wonder: How did anything on your house end up straight then?
When most homes were built, the builders used and still use a 4-foot framing level. This is a very effective tool to ensure that the stuff you come face to face with each day is level, square, and plumb (i.e. straight vertical).
Even if your floor surface ends up slightly out of level, builders compensate for these elevation deviations by ensuring all the stuff put on top of your foundation is level. They shim stuff, they lift stuff, they cut stuff to fit.
Even when they can’t make everything fit perfectly, they cover it up with trim and make it appear as though it fits right and looks level!
The builders used a level to make sure that your walls were plumb. They made sure that every vertical thing that is placed on your home is plumb and they make sure that any horizontal thing that is placed on your home is level, even when your floor is not level.
A good example here is a countertop or even cabinetry. Let’s say your floor elevation is somewhat sloped. But when the cabinets and countertops are installed, they make it level anyway.
Your framing and trim are checked for square and plumb and adjusted at build time. So all the important *bits* should have started out square/level/plumb even if your floor elevation is a little off. If this kind of finish, fixture, and trim work is not level now, then something has changed in the home’s history.
Using the History of the Home to Evaluate Foundation Issues
Based on the last section and taking a historical perspective, we assume that most of the finishes on your home were straight to begin with, even if the floor was slightly sloped. Then we look for changes from there to determine where things have or are moving.
So the massive takeaway here is if something in your home has changed, moved, shifted, sunk, or fallen due to foundation settlement, these home parts that were put on straight at build time will reveal a settlement issue quickly and reliably. The best part is that it’s something you can do on your own too.
Using our eyes we can see the signs of settlement and problems. Using our ears we can hear when people are feeling or saying that their home is not functioning for them. Finally, using the 4-foot framing level, we can confirm the historical story of movement from the home’s original elevation that our eyeballs are already seeing.
Why not take a stab at this with your own slab?
We Can Use Video to Check Your Home for Foundation Problems
If you have tried it out and feel like your home foundation situation needs professional help, we are here for you and can make it easy. You now know that we assess foundation problems using visual cues and some engaged listening. We can actually get most of the information we need over a video call and can give you a pricing estimate quickly.
Anchor has been evaluating and repairing foundations since 1985, but now that everyone is comfortable with video technology we can give estimates using your phone or computer to make sure that you are comfortable with costs before we visit your home to confirm and finalize things.
To learn more about how we conduct a FREE pricing estimate by video, check out this article: Assessing Foundation Problems Phone/Video: Saving Time with Anchor.