Best Case Scenario For Your Foundation
Let us start off with the optimistic situation where a condition improves. A great deal of foundation movement is related to seasonal factors, in particular rainfall and temperature. For example, if every summer cracks open up on one corner of a home, and then close again when the fall rains come, it is almost guaranteed that the damage observed in the summer will disappear in the fall. Conversely, if every winter cracks open up and then close in the summer (this happens when an area is pushed up by wet clays and lowered when the clays dry out in the summer) winter damage will almost certainly close in the summer. If damage is solely being caused by seasonal factors, it will correct itself. The cosmetic damage caused by seasonal movement will not completely disappear, it will simply come, and to a lesser extent, go as the seasons’ pass.
Seasonal Factors On Your Foundation
In some cases, the damage is caused by a mix of seasonal factors and progressive factors. As an example, let’s consider a home that has seasonal drywall cracks and brick cracks in the summer. The house also has two trees in the front yard. Over time, the seasonal cracks get larger each year, but still close in the winter. What is happening? As the trees get bigger, each summer they use more water than in the previous years. Because the soils are getting progressively drier each summer, courtesy of the trees, each summer the house settles farther. Eventually, the house will go down so far that it will not return to a completely level position during the winter. In such situations, to a limited extent, the damage caused by the trees can be counteracted by watering.
Foundation damage can correct itself, or it can gradually worsen. In some cases, there are no seasonal factors and movement simply gets worse every year. To illustrate this case, think of a home built on a lot with fill dirt. If the fill dirt is not properly compacted, then as the fill compacts, the house will settle. Fill can consolidate slowly over a period of many years. While fill is consolidating, every year damage gets worse. The opposite happens when a home is built on a fully compacted fill that is drier than it should be. As the fill gradually absorbs water, it expands. The result is that year after year some portion of a home goes up.
Where movement is related to a process that has a logical conclusion, and the endpoint has been reached, the progression stops, the damage neither worsens nor improves. From our prior example of a house on fill, once the fill is fully consolidated, the movement stops. If the condition of a home is such that the occupants find it acceptable, then no repairs are needed.
There are many conditions and factors that affect foundation movement. Some are seasonal and some are not. Some of the factors to consider are:
- Was a lot scraped, filled, terraced, or cut
- What was the soil moisture content when a foundation was poured
- What trees are on a lot, how large are they, and what are the species
- What is the drainage
- Are there water line or sewer leaks
- Is there currently a drought or an unusually wet spell
- What are the characteristics of the foundation
- how thick are the beams
- is the reinforcing post-tension or rebar
- where are the beams and how many are there
- Did the builder install piers?
- Have there been any changes to a lot (removing a large tree, adding a pool)
- How long has the movement been going on
Progressive Foundation Damage
If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from progressive foundation damage, then the longer you wait the worse the damage will become, and the more costly the repair will become. As foundation movement gets worse, there are consequential damages that also worsen. The most common is plumbing damage. If a home has settled less than two inches, there is rarely any plumbing damage when lifting takes place. If settlement exceeds three inches in an area with plumbing, there is often damage. If there has been an unusual amount of movement, say ten inches or more, then it is often necessary to make expensive repairs to the plumbing. Such damage can add thousands, or even tens of thousands, to the cost of a repair. The more extreme movement becomes, the more likely it is that a home will develop roof leaks, twisted door frames, broken windows, larger cracks in brick and stucco and sheetrock, cracked floor tiles, etc.
If you are having seasonal foundation movement and the cosmetic damage does not bother you, then there is no need to make repairs. On the other hand, if the damage does bother you and you want it to stop, foundation repairs will be needed. In some situations, such as a pending sale, a buyer may require that repairs be made before proceeding with a sale.
To determine to the extent reasonably possible, if a problem is seasonal, stable, or progressive, call a professional and have your home examined. The technician should a thorough examination of your home and ask questions about the history of your home. The more information that is available, the better an assessment can be.
Here is an actual case study. A home in North Richland Hills was being inspected. The home had five additions. The current owners, descendants of the original owners knew the history of each addition. In the center of the home was a windowless room that measured about 10 by 12 feet. The technician noticed that the walls of the doors into the center room were 18 inches thick. When this fact was brought up, the owners stated that the center room was the original cabin built when the land was homesteaded in the 19th century. The conclusion was that the damage was progressive and related to the ongoing settlement of the original log walls.
Sometimes, it is pretty obvious when your house has had foundation movement. Whether or not there has been related foundation damage is often not so clear. In order to ensure your home stays safe and sound for you and your loved ones, it’s important to leave this work to the professionals. Contact Advanced Foundation Repair today for a free, precise inspection. With years of experience, a transferable lifetime warranty, and the willingness to work with you on a payment plan to make sure your home gets the repairs it needs, you won’t be disappointed.