You might have just recently had a foundation inspection and were left with tick marks to monitor your foundation settlement. Or maybe you’re proactively wanting to do this on your own to keep an eye on the status of your foundation.
At any rate, you want to know how to use tick marks to track foundation movement to help you decide when the time is right for repairs.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been assessing and repairing Brazos Valley foundations for 35+ years. We use tick marks all the time to help homeowners stay informed about their foundation settlement issues. It’s a simple method that we’re happy to share to give you peace of mind about the condition of your home and future repair decisions.
This article will explain where and how to use tick marks to assess and track your foundation movement so you know when and how much it’s moving and if it’s time to take action with foundation repairs.
When Are Tick Marks Needed to Monitor Foundation Settlement?
Tick marks are often used when we have visited a home, performed a foundation inspection, and determined that some signs of foundation settlement are present. BUT, the signs are either early signs of settlement or the homeowner is not sure how long the home has been like this or if it’s actively moving.
It’s important for us as foundation repair professionals and for homeowners to know if the evidence you see in your home is from past foundation movement that has stopped or if settlement is still happening.
Tick marks are a great tool to use when:
- The foundation settlement is not severe enough to warrant immediate repairs, or
- The homeowner does not have enough history in the home to confidently report on foundation movement patterns, and
- We or you want to keep an eye on the area in question for potential repairs later.
Why Are Tick Marks Helpful to Track Foundation Movement?
Tick marks are helpful any time you are not sure that you have problematic foundation settlement. Using tick marks to establish a baseline for foundation movement will help you to see what’s happening with your home over time and through seasonal changes.
If you are not sure that you even need or are ready for foundation repairs, tick marks can help you feel more confident knowing when the time for repairs is right for you.
Rather than relying solely on your memory and random observations, tick marks give you a real point of comparison so that you can clearly see whether the foundation movement is ongoing or not. It also helps you to see if there are times of the year when conditions improve or get worse.
Where and How To Use Tick Marks to Track Foundation Issues
We typically use three different kinds of tick marks depending on the signs of foundation issues present in your home. Just a simple pencil mark line is all you need and it can be erased easily.
- At the end of diagonal wall cracks to see if the crack gets longer or opens and closes,
- At the top of a problematic door to see if the door moves up and down in the frame,
- On exterior trim or brick frieze to see if a gap in the brick shifts wider or narrows.
Once you have tick marks in place (see examples below), the best thing to do is check the areas quarterly or as the changes in seasons occur. Make a written note of the date this tick mark baseline is set and set future dates in your phone calendar to remind you when to check on things again.
You don’t need to obsess and look at this stuff every week, a few times throughout the year is sufficient.
Ideally, you would want to observe your tick marks for a full calendar year. Jot down dates and notes if you like but we’re just looking for the annual pattern right now. You could even take photos to help you keep track with visuals. Smartphones are really handy for setting check-up reminders, taking notes, and saving photo documentation all in one place.
How to Evaluate Tick Marks For Foundation Settlement
Just to make sure you have a basic understanding of what any observed changes mean, we’ll review what you might see with each type of tick mark.
For Marks At the End of Wall Cracks
- If the crack doesn’t get longer or open and close, then your home is not settling or sinking more than it already has.
- If the crack opens and closes but doesn’t get longer, then your home is experiencing cycles of settlement and rebounding but not sinking more than it already has.
- If the crack gets longer and the crack opens up more, then your home is actively continuing to settle.
- If the crack closes up some, then your home has rebounded and improved, though it may be temporary.
For Tick Marks on Problematic Doors
- If the top of the door stays in the same position matched up with the tick mark left on the door jamb, then your home is not settling or sinking any more than it already has.
- If the top of the door moves both above and below the line, then your home is experiencing cycles of settlement and rebounding.
- If the gap at the top of the door keeps moving in one direction, then your home is actively continuing to settle, and at some point, your door may begin sticking or not latching/locking properly.
- If the door starts working better than it has before, then your home has rebounded and improved, though it may be temporary.
For Tick Marks on Exterior Trim
- If the brick line stays lined up with the tick mark, then your home is not settling or sinking any more than it already has.
- If the brick moves back and forth over the line, then your home is experiencing cycles of settlement and rebounding.
- If the gap widens and moves away from the tick mark, then your home is actively continuing to settle.
- If the gap gets smaller, then your home has rebounded and improved, though it may be temporary.
When To Be Concerned About Tick Mark Activity
So watching for a year will help you to establish this baseline and have a full picture of the seasonal settlement and rebounding patterns of your foundation. After a year of observation and note-taking, you should feel more confident about:
- How much and when your foundation is moving,
- If it’s settling and getting worse or also rebounding and getting better,
- Or if it’s not moving at all and nothing has changed.
If issues just keep going in one direction and getting worse and worse quickly, then your foundation problems are progressing actively. You should contact Anchor or your chosen foundation repair contractor as soon as possible for another look.
Deciding When Foundation Repairs Are Needed With Tick Marks
Knowing when the time is right for repairs is somewhat subjective and not the same for everyone. We measure the need for repairs in terms of functionality and feelings. Is your foundation settlement causing anything in your home to not work right? Do you feel extremely angry, annoyed, frustrated, or anxious about the signs you are seeing in your home?
If the answer is YES to either question, then it’s time to seriously consider foundation repairs.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we don’t fix things that don’t need fixin’, and we don’t try to sell you stuff you don’t need. After 35+ years in business, that’s what’s best for our Brazos Valley community and for exceptional homeowners like you. We’re here to help guide you through the foundation repair process, but you’re the one in charge.
Now that you’re ready to keep tabs on your home for a while, check out Foundation Settlement Confirmed: When Is the Time Right for Repairs to further guide you in the next steps of this process should your issues get worse.