False Signs of Foundation Problems

Pier and Beam Foundation Problems: 5 False or Confusing Signs

You have some *issues* going on with your pier and beam home that you think are foundation-related problems. But when you pull up a list or article about pier and beam foundation problems on the interwebs, the stuff you’re seeing in your home isn’t on the list.

What could be going on here is that you have some misleading signs in your home. These signs make you *think* you have a foundation problem, but you actually have an issue with another root cause.

Anchor Foundation Repair

Since 1985, homeowners have asked Anchor Foundation Repair about signs they see in their home that turn out NOT to be foundation-related issues. We’ve seen and heard it all during the thousands of crawl space foundation inspections we have performed over the years on Brazos Valley homes.

This article will list and describe 3 common false signs and 2 confusing signs that commonly come up on pier and beam types of foundations. We will also discuss the alternate causes so that you can figure out what might really be going on with your home and find the right repair contractor for the job.

3 False Signs of Pier and Beam Foundation Issues

When we are asked by homeowners to come and look at their house for foundation problems, they often point out things that they are concerned about that turns out are not actually foundation-related issues. This set of symptoms *could be* seen in a home that also has foundation issues, but they have other more likely root causes. They are as follows:

pier and beam foundation repair BCS
  1. Vertical or Horizontal Seams Popping in Drywall
  2. Straight Ceiling Cracks or Sags
  3. Tenting or Popping Hardwood Floors

These false signs are not definitive indicators of a foundation settlement problem, especially if they are the only symptom(s) you are seeing in your home.

1. Vertical or Horizontal Seams Popping in Drywall

What You Will See: Straight line vertical or horizontal cracks along drywall tape joints, tape joints popping or crumbling

misleading signs of foundation problems

Why It’s Not a Settlement Problem: Just because a tape joint is coming off doesn’t mean there’s any significant settlement going on. Foundation settlement essentially means sinking. Old drywall tape can fail in this manner with no elevation changes in a home’s foundation.

What’s Really Going On: Cracking, popping, and crumbling tape joints are most commonly an “age of home” problem. Pier and beam homes are often older homes and the tape dries out through the years and begins to fail and come away from the wall. In a newer home, this symptom can be a poor workmanship problem instead.

Who to Ask for Help: If failing tape joints are the only kind of sign you are seeing in your home, it’s more likely a job for a drywall contractor to address.

2. Straight Ceiling Cracks or Sags

false signs of pier and beam foundation problems

What You Will See: You might have small or large cracks or sags in your ceiling in the middle of rooms, or cracking along the edges of rooms.

Why It’s Not a Settlement Problem: Ceiling issues are rarely caused by settlement. Ceiling cracks can be caused by the same issues as the situation above with vertical and horizontal seams. Attic framing can crack, break, or expand/contract and cause ceiling wallboards to become unsecured and then crack or sag.

What’s Really Going On: Ceiling cracks are more likely caused by temperature extremes, age, or framing or sheetrock workmanship issues than by a foundation problem.

Who to Ask for Help: If ceiling cracks are the only sign your home is experiencing, it’s possible that you have a framing issue or drywall problem rather than settlement. Check with a general contractor that knows about both issues for advisement.

3. Tenting or Popping Hardwood Floors

What You Will See: In the middle of a room or hallway, floorboards will create a speed bump or pop up into a tent shape. Boards can also begin to cup where the edges of each board become raised. Individual boards can also begin to pop off the floor surface, and may occur on one end of the plank as shown in the photo.

confusing signs of pier and beam foundation problems

Why It’s Not a Settlement Problem: This is a very specific and sudden problem caused by a combination of factors: wood floors + excess moisture under the home + hot/humid weather + A/C units running overtime. Not a foundation problem at all, but a flooring issue.

What’s Really Going On: When it’s hot outside but it is also a wet and rainy season, the A/C system is pulling air and moisture up from underneath the house. The force of air getting pulled into your A/C system is bizarrely strong. This causes floorboards to warp on the edges or tent and pop at their weakest junctures (i.e. usually in the middle of rooms). 

Who to Ask for Help: This is a hardwood flooring problem that needs to be addressed by an expert wood floor contractor. We have a whole article on this hardwood flooring issue! We get calls on it a lot when it’s hot but also rainy, most recently in the swampy summer of 2021.

2 Confusing or Misleading Pier and Beam Problem Signs

These problem signs are *kinda funny* because they can feel and act like foundation problems in a pier and beam home but technically have another root cause.

  1. Wood Rot and Moisture Decay
  2. Termite Damage
crawlspace home

Both of these misleading problems are failing wood issues with a non-foundation settlement cause. These confusing signs around your home might also be more isolated to particular rooms or areas rather than running throughout the entire home.

The thing that makes them funny is that these wood failures are often repaired using the same approach that a foundation repair contractor would use to address settlement issues. So these problems can get repaired the same way as settlement issues AND can be repaired by foundation repair companies, but just have different causes. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Wood Rot and Moisture Decay

What You Will See: Bouncy floors, floors that make things rattle when you walk by, floors that feel spongy or take a significant slope (perhaps towards a plumbing fixture).

rotted wood removed from a pier and beam foundation

Why It’s Not a Settlement Problem: Whether you have dry rot or rot from excess moisture or leaks, the wood under your home begins to fail and become crumbly or soft resulting in the looseness and sponginess feelings. Floors can show similar signs when settlement occurs from expansive clay soils, but expansive soils don’t cause decay.

What’s Really Going On: Old wood can rot and wet wood can rot, so the best way to tell the difference between a wood problem and a settlement problem is to look under the home. You could have a long-running leak, excessive long-standing moisture, or just old wood.

Who to Ask for Help: If you have excess moisture due to poor drainage, you might need to get that looked at first. If you have a plumbing leak causing decay, that will need to be fixed by a plumber. For the wood replacement and stabilization, a house leveling/foundation repair contractor can address that aspect of the needed repairs.

2. Termite Damage

What You Will See: Bouncy floors, floors that make things rattle when you walk by, floors that take a significant slope towards a wall.

termite damage on pier and beam foundation

Why It’s Not a Pier and Beam Foundation Problem: Termites degrade wood and no settlement has to occur in a home for termites to eat wood. A wooden part of the home’s foundation structure is failing and crumbling from termites, not because a part of your home is settling from soil movement.

What’s Really Going On: Any part of your wood pier and beam foundation could be under attack by termites. If it’s an important main sill beam that is intended to carry the weight of walls, the beam might be compromised. A pier and beam foundation is complex and interconnected, if even a small piece of wood is damaged, it has broader effects.

Who to Ask for Help: An active termite infestation is the first thing that needs attention here, so contact your preferred pest control company. Then, a foundation repair company that does house leveling can come in to replace termite-damaged wood and secure the pier and beam structure.

What Are the True Signs of Pier and Beam Settlement Issues?

Now that you know things are NOT necessarily signs of foundation settlement for pier and beam homes, you might wonder what IS a true sign. Pier and beam foundation settlement typically presents itself in 3 ways around your home:

  1. Diagonal Cracks in Drywall Off of Door and Window Frames
  2. Door Fit Issues
  3. Bouncy, Loose, Rattling Floors or Floors with Highs and Lows
true signs of foundation problems

For 35+ years, Anchor Foundation Repair has been helping Brazos Valley homeowners like you get to *the bottom* of their foundation issues. That’s why we provide a Learning Center to answer all your general questions until you are ready to talk to someone about your specific house leveling needs.

Anyway, we’ve got a whole article on the Top 3 Problems Signs for Your Pier and Beam Home’s Foundation that you can check out for more details.