will foundation repair damage my home?

Ultimate Picture Guide to Foundation Problems (Real + Misleading Signs)

Do you need foundation repair? You see *some stuff that concerns you* around your home. You need verification on if these signs and symptoms are related to a foundation problem or something else.

How does an *ultimate (and authentic) picture guide* sound to help you figure this out?

Anchor Foundation Repair Bryan College Station

Anchor Foundation Repair has been inspecting and repairing home foundations since 1985. We can show you what kinds of symptoms we normally see in the thousands of homes we have assessed and repaired over the years with real pictures from those homes – no fancy stock photos, just real stuff.

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 photos 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 articles that go into more detail on the whys and hows. Sound good? Let’s get crackin’ then . . . 

6 Telltale Signs Of Slab Foundation Problems

Let’s start with the “not as good” news first and review the major symptoms around your home that most clearly point to the need for foundation repair. Here’s a quick list of true foundation problem signs in no particular order:

worried about foundation problems
  1. Diagonal Cracks on Interior Walls
  2. Exterior Stair Step Brick Cracks
  3. Doors Sticking or Not Latching
  4. Gapping or Separation of Exterior Trim
  5. Movement of Wood Trim/Built-Ins
  6. Evidence of Movement on Other Inside Fixtures

Now we will give you the *what-where-whys* and show photos so that you can look for similar issues in your own home.

1. Diagonal Cracks on Interior Walls

diagonal wall cracks foundation problem

What: diagonal cracks in drywall/sheetrock walls

Where: coming off of door and window frames

Why: Settlement forces are pulling down 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. Mortar cracks along a stair-step path in the direction of the settlement and is a common 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. Also common to see gaps between brick and window trim.

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.

Details On the Most Common Signs of Slab Foundation Issues

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 Need Foundation Repair? Top 6 Signs You Have an Issue.” 

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 definitely signals a foundation problem.*

confusing signs of foundation issues
  1. Seam Breaks
  2. Nail Pops
  3. Ceiling Cracks: Large and Small
  4. Doors Sticking on the Handle Side of the Door Frame
  5. Normal Brick Expansion Joints
  6. Cracks Above a Garage
  7. Hairline Cracks in Concrete Floors
  8. Flaws in Concrete Surfaces
  9. Cracks in Floor Tiles and Grout

These signs are common ones that we get asked about during our In-Home Assessments that don’t *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 between drywall sheets

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 all 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

door hinge problem

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

Brick Lintel Failure

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: The supporting angle iron (brick lintel) over a 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 compromised foundation.

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.

Details On False Signs Of Slab 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 into this “not to worry so much” category. We sometimes see both types of signs in homes with foundation problems though.

To gain a bit more understanding of why and how these symptoms are not “sure signs” of foundation problems, check out “Is This a Foundation Issue? 9 Misleading Signs Homeowners Ask 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 could have a “non-foundation-issue” explanation and are not like the telltale signs of foundation issues in the first section.

Bonus: 2 Symptoms That Could Go Either Way in a Slab Home

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 the concrete perimeter beam cracks heavily or separates completely from the 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” or “another sort of problem” kind of thing *or possibly your house is haunted but that’s a whole other article* kind of thing. 

If corner pop or ghosting doors are happening along with some of the other definitive signs, then it contributes to the overall story of foundation settlement occurring in your home.

Look For Combinations Of Problem Signs in Your Slab Home

Just one sign does not tell the whole story of your slab 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. 

signs of foundation issues
These are all from the same house.

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 articles recommended here and are either still feeling unsure or thinking you want someone to come out and take a look, then we are here to help.

looking for signs of foundation issues

Here at Anchor Foundation Repair, we want to educate and help homeowners understand what is happening with their homes just as much as we want to repair them *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 seen it all when it comes to inspecting for foundation issues. We will be the first to tell you if we think you have a true problem or not.

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.