You’ve got a crawl space type of foundation, like a pier and beam or block and base home, and you’re wondering if you have a foundation issue or something else. Do you need house leveling and/or pier and beam foundation repair?? Most of what you find out there on the interwebs is for slab foundation homes and you want something specific to your type of elevated foundation.
Look no further, the complete picture guide to pier and beam foundation problems is here!
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been inspecting and repairing pier and beam foundations (and slabs!) since 1985. We’ve seen all the signs and symptoms that people worry about in their homes and even see them in our sleep when we close our eyes at night. We’ve seen so many signs that we can surely make a picture guide to show you what to look for.
This ultimate picture guide will reveal the top 8 real signs of pier and beam foundation problems and 6 misleading or confusing signs that make homeowners think they have a foundation-related issue but it’s something else.
About Pier and Beam Foundations and Repair Terms
Just some quick *housekeeping* here on all these terms. The thing about crawl space foundations is that they go by several different names and none of them are widely and consistently (or accurately) used. Many people refer to crawl space foundation homes as pier and beam homes, but technically not all crawl space homes are pier and beam.
All the different ways that people refer to this type of foundation are kind of inter-changeable in our eyes and we use all of them just for variety. So think of it this way: pier and beam = crawl space foundation = block and base. They are all about the same if you’re not being too technical (and we’re not gonna be too technical).
If that wasn’t enough with the confusing terms, there’s also the term *house leveling* out there causing problems. I don’t know who invented the term house leveling, but it basically means the same thing as crawl space foundation repair.
Here’s another equation for you: house leveling = crawl space foundation repair = pier and beam foundation repair = crawl space repair = home leveling, etc etc etc.
I sorta feel like house leveling is a term to help differentiate between foundation repairs for a crawl space type home and a slab foundation type of home. But if you’re being super-literal, house leveling can describe slab foundation repair too. It’s just a lot of words that mean close to the same thing to most normal people.
Sorry we make it so confusing for you! Just use whichever terms you like best, and try not to confuse yourself. Moving on to the *more exciting* stuff . . .
Top 8 Signs Of Pier and Beam 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 pier and beam foundation repair. Here’s a quick list in no particular order:
- Diagonal Cracks on Interior Walls
- Doors Sticking or Not Latching
- Movement of Wood Trim/Built-Ins
- Evidence of Movement on Other Inside Fixtures
- Loose or Bouncy Floors
- Floors Feel Spongy, Soft, Like a Roller Coaster, or About to Cave In
- Exterior Stair Step Brick Cracks (Brick Homes Only)
- Exterior Trim Gaps or Separation (Brick Homes Only)
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 on a portion of the wall and cracking the wallboard.
2. 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.
3. Movement of Wood Trim/Built-Ins
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 can cause moving walls to force cabinets or trim work off of their secure wall position.
4. Evidence of Movement on Other Inside Fixtures
What: countertop and backsplash separation, shower and tub surround separations
Where: kitchens and bathrooms, where tile meets another material
Why: Walls or floors moving can create gaps in the area between tilework and countertops or other locations where wall tile meets another surface.
5. Loose or Bouncy Floors
What: floors that rattle and feel bouncy, knick-knacks on shelves shake when you walk by
Where: any flooring surface in the home, typically a larger open area in the middle of rooms
Why: Undersupported original construction: the need for shaker sills, lack of subfloor or improper joist spacing, settlement or movement in piers and sill beams
6. Floors Feel Spongy, Soft, Like a Roller Coaster, or About to Cave In
What: floors that give and feel spongy, go up and down, or like you are going to fall through
Where: any flooring surface throughout the home, homes with low ground clearance, or isolated to certain wet areas
Why: wood rot due to leaks or drainage issues, dry rot due to low clearance and/or poor ventilation, termites, subfloor failure due to excessive moisture
7. Exterior Stair Step Brick Cracks (Brick Homes Only)
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 exterior concrete beam will settle down and mortar cracks along a stair step path in the direction of settlement and an indication of a foundation problem.
8. Gapping or Separation of Exterior Trim (Brick Homes Only)
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.
More On The Top Signs Of Pier and Beam Foundation Problems
Most true signs of foundation issues 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 settlement occurring or a foundation in need of repair. Issues on horizontal surfaces are not usually the most telltale signs of foundation problems, but . . .
There is one exception to this rule for pier and beam homes and that’s the signs you see with your floors. Floor issues are only more of an indicator of foundation problems in crawl space homes and are not typically a strong indicator in slab foundation homes.
If you see several of these kinds of symptoms listed above, it’s likely that you need house leveling or at least need an inspection of your pier and beam foundation.
We have another article that zeros in on the Top 3 Problem Signs For Your Pier and Beam Home’s Foundation. 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.
6 False Foundation Issues Pier and Beam Owners 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 pier and beam 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 in need of house leveling services. *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
- Flaws in Concrete Perimeter Beam (for pier and beam only)
- Cracks in Floor Tiles and Grout
These signs are common ones that we get asked about during In-Home Assessments that don’t always *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.
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 and something besides house leveling is likely needed for the repairs.
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 or the need for house leveling 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 crawl space foundation problem on its own.
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, framing, or sheetrock workmanship issues than by a crawl space problem. Call a drywall repair company for help with this kind of 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. Flaws in Concrete Perimeter Beam (for pier and beam homes only)
What: flaking, spalling, or honeycombing of concrete
Where: exposed concrete surfaces on a perimeter concrete beam
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 need for house leveling.
6. 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 can often be a poor prep, workmanship, or material use issue that is not indicative of crawl space issues. In general, tile in a crawl space home is prone to grout cracking due to moisture and humidity in the crawl space. You might not have a foundation issue, but you might need better drainage or more ventilation in your crawl space.
Look Out For Combinations Of Pier and Beam Problem Signs
Just one sign does not tell the whole story of your crawl space 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 an issue that requires house leveling.
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 you likely have a pier and beam foundation issue. 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 Your Pier and Beam 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. We will be the first to tell you if we think you have a true problem or not.
Anchor Foundation Repair has inspected and repaired thousands of homes 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” and that includes crawl space, pier and beam, and block and base homes for Brazos Valley homeowners.
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.
If you want to get our opinion on the signs you are seeing around your home, then your next step is to contact us for a quote and learn about what to expect in an In-Home Assessment for your pier and beam home with Anchor Foundation Repair.