You’ve just had your foundation inspection and you’ve been told that you have interior settlement. Well, what exactly is interior settlement? How is this different than other foundation problems? What do I need to know about interior settlement when it comes to foundation repairs?
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been inspecting and repairing foundations for 35+ years and many homes have interior foundation settlement that we look at and repair. We can give you all the details on what interior settlement means and how it can be handled.
This article will answer the top questions homeowners have when interior settlement and problems are affecting their homes. By the end of this article, you will understand how this type of foundation issue is different, what can be done to repair this problem, and other concerns about how this affects your home and the repair process.
What Is Interior Foundation Settlement?
Let’s just make sure we’re clear on some definitions. There’s foundation settlement and interior foundation settlement. What’s the difference?
We’ll define the term foundation settlement first. Settlement means two things:
- Movement, and/or
Most of the time foundation movement is in a downward direction. So *sinking* kinda covers it but it’s an overly dramatic word that instills fear. Settlement is a better term because it’s not meant to be dire or scary. Your home is not sinking into a bottomless pit, it’s just moving more than you would like in a downward direction.
When the word *interior* gets thrown into things, we’re talking about under which part of the home the settlement is happening. Interior settlement is sinking or movement under the interior (or under the middle) of your home rather than on the perimeter (or outside edges) of your home.
It’s a little confusing because there are many common signs of foundation settlement and problems that you see *inside* your house, on the walls, with your doors, cabinetry, or tilework. But we’re not talking about whether the signs you see are on the interior or the exterior of your house, we’re talking about what is causing those signs and the source location of the movement.
Interior foundation settlement is happening underneath the middle of your house. Settlement can be happening on the perimeter too, but interior settlement has some additional signs that tell us that there is soil movement under the home.
What Causes Interior Foundation Settlement?
The things that cause interior foundation settlement are the same as what commonly causes any foundation settlement. Here are the top sources of settlement listed from most common to least common:
- Expansive Clay Soil,
- Under-Slab Plumbing Leaks,
- Lot conditions like drainage or slope, and
- Lot Preparation and Original Construction.
By far, the most common cause of foundation settlement is clay soil + weather + time. Foundation problems develop very slowly over many years of fluctuating rainfall and seasonal changes that wear down the structure of your foundation.
Under-slab plumbing issues often get blamed for interior settlement. But under-home plumbing problems are a little confusing since sometimes under-slab plumbing leaks are caused by settlement, but also settlement can cause the leaks. It’s hard to know which issue *came first* and point to one direct cause.
While under-slab plumbing leaks can sometimes contribute to interior settlement, it’s most often a combination of factors that contribute to settlement in a home.
But if you must know if leaks are to blame, then there are ways to determine if leaks are present under your home. You can contact a plumber, get a hydrostatic pressure test, and/or have a camera look for leaks in your drain lines. If a supply line is leaking, your water meter will continue to run even if all the water is off in the house – which you can check on your own.
BTW, we perform hydrostatic testing on slab foundation raising to check for leaks. We will never leave a home with active under-slab leaks because that will cause future problems. It’s just one of the many ways that Anchor stands out from other foundation repair companies.
How Common is Interior Foundation Settlement?
Interior foundation settlement is common, but it doesn’t happen to everyone. About 10 to 15% of the homes we repair each year have interior settlement that requires interior foundation repair work.
Could I Have Prevented My Interior Foundation Settlement?
There are always a few things that homeowners can *try* to prevent foundation settlement, but none of them are guaranteed to work. Our view is that no one homeowner can singlehandedly prevent foundation settlement of any kind if it’s going to happen.
Some people think that if you just water your foundation, then you will never have settlement. Foundation watering is a myth that cannot change the results of decades of weather fluctuations, widespread systemic drought, or a home that was poorly constructed.
You can’t control the weather, you can’t control the dirt, and you can’t control everything about your lot situation or who and how your home was built. You also can’t see pipes under your house leaking since you don’t have x-ray vision.
There are always preventative measures you can take and hope for the best. But there’s likely nothing you can do to prevent foundation settlement from happening at your home. Humans cannot keep the strong forces of nature from taking place.
How Can Interior Foundation Settlement Be Fixed?
There are a few ways to handle interior foundation settlement at your home. I will elaborate on these in a minute but let me list them out first. You can:
- Do nothing,
- Stabilize the exterior only,
- Stabilize the exterior, monitor for changes, and consider doing the interior later, or
- Stabilize and raise the exterior and interior at the same time.
Ok, let’s explore these options next.
Do Nothing to Handle Your Settlement Issues
You can decide not to take action on handling your interior settlement. It’s always possible that your home will stop moving or it’s done settling and is going to stay still now.
You might continue to monitor the movement in your home to see if it gets worse while you save up for some sort of foundation repairs in the future. Just remember that if your house continues to settle, more collateral damage to your home might occur resulting in higher extra costs.
Stabilize the Exterior Only
The stabilization option includes partial foundation repairs to just the perimeter of the home and does not address any settlement under the interior. By *partial* I mean that the perimeter of your home will be stabilized to not sink further, but it won’t be raised back up to its original position.
A complete foundation repair includes both stabilizing and raising. First, the home is stabilized by placing extra support under the home to halt the sinking process. Next, the home is raised to return it to its rightful elevation at the time it was built. With this option, only the stabilization part of the job can occur by placing piers underneath the perimeter of the home.
The home cannot be raised just on the perimeter. When raising, the whole settled area of the home must be lifted at the same time. Otherwise, you raise the perimeter and the middle of your home stays where it is.
This would make things worse and create a “bowl” effect where the edges of your foundation are elevated higher than the middle. That situation would be *no bueno* and we wouldn’t do it or recommend that anyone else do that to your home either.
Stabilize the Exterior, and Consider Doing the Interior Later
Sometimes people want to see if their home will stop moving by just doing the exterior supports. Some homeowners aren’t ready to do the interior work yet and need time to save up money or just want to do the work in phases.
It’s certainly an option to do the perimeter support first and then evaluate the situation to see if interior support is what you want or really need to do.
With this option, you would want to check for further settlement by putting some tic marks on particular wall cracks that indicate interior settlement. Any diagonal drywall cracks on non-perimeter walls that are heading toward the interior of the home are the ones you would want to watch. We can show you which particular cracks to watch if you need help.
Adding supports to the exterior first and adding the interior supports later will break up the work and break up the costs into possibly more manageable bits for some homeowners. This option also allows time for further evaluation of the situation.
This article breaks down the pros and cons of just doing perimeter repairs vs. doing perimeter and interior foundation repairs. Check this one out if you are having trouble deciding which direction to go.
Stabilize and Raise the Interior and Exterior at the Same Time
This is the *whole kitchen sink* option and gets everything taken care of at once. All settled parts of the home get supported and returned to their original elevation. Yes, it’s a larger undertaking for homeowners than just having exterior (perimeter) foundation work done. You very likely would need to pack up and protect your belongings, move out of the home during the repair process, and repair or replace any flooring finishes impacted by the repairs.
The process of repairing interior and exterior settlement at the same time will call for extra time, patience, planning, extra funds, and patience. Oh did I say patience twice? That was on purpose . . .
There’s no way to sugarcoat the fact that foundation repair with interior work is an undertaking for all involved. But sometimes it’s what’s needed to get your home back to its rightful place and you back to getting enjoyment and comfort from your home instead of worrying about it all the time.
Instead of looking at handling everything at once with overwhelm, let’s think about the pros that this option can provide:
- You get it all done at once and it’s handled.
- Your home is fully repaired, nothing partial or halfway completed.
- You can repair wall cracks with confidence.
- You might get some new flooring in the process.
- It will be a fun adventure that you can tell stories about later.
Check out this article about what issues homeowners need to consider with interior foundation work for a wider view of this type of repair.
What If I Don’t Have the Interior Settlement Repaired?
We can’t ever predict what will happen with your home in the future, whether you get repairs or not. We are only foundation repair contractors, not *foundation repair fortune-tellers* so we can’t tell you exactly what happens if you choose not to address interior settlement issues.
A home can always do three things: get worse, get better, or stay the same.
Your home might continue to settle and sink lower, causing more signs of foundation problems and damage to your home. If you do perimeter repairs only, that could be enough to stop interior settlement and improve things. Or the repairs might not have an impact and things stay about the same because you didn’t address the interior.
The only thing we do know is that addressing both the perimeter and interior foundation settlement is the way to take care of the issue as completely as possible. It’s the absolute best that we can do for you. Any other option, might not be enough. Have you ever known anything to work right after only half the problem has been solved?
I’m not trying to push you in one way or another, just to think logically about possible outcomes. Partial fixes don’t tend to rectify the whole problem in my experience, but it’s always possible that *fixing some of the issues* could work for someone out there to their satisfaction.
How Anchor Handles Interior Foundation Settlement
Knowing what to expect makes a big difference when it comes to interior foundation repair work. We use the same drilled-bell bottom piers underneath the inside of your home as we do on the perimeter. But you do need to expect things like longer timelines, packing up/moving out, a construction zone in your home, and higher costs.
Rest assured though that Anchor will handle your foundation repairs with expertise. After 35+ years in business in the Brazos Valley, we know how to keep your belongings safe and protected during the process, and we use the longest-lasting, most thorough foundation repair method available.
Check out this article about what to expect with interior drilled pier foundation repairs for the full rundown on what to prepare for if you choose to get it all handled at once.