Although most responsible homeowners try to keep their homes in the best possible condition and fix problems such as a leaking roof or drafty windows as quickly as possible, many tend to neglect the foundation. After all, it is an element of the house we don’t see very often, and foundation problems won’t quickly catch our attention. This can be an issue since the foundation keeps the structure in place and ensures its stability. In addition, it is under the constant influence of different elements, which increases the risk of damage. One of the types of damage homeowners can come across is foundation settlement. It results in cracks and deformities, but the tricky thing about foundation settlement is that it is very subtle in the beginning. Unless you do not pay attention to signs of settlement, you most likely won’t notice it. This way the problem will be left unsolved until it escalates, and you end up having to pay for expensive structural repairs.
What Is Foundation Settlement?
Not all homes are built on stable soils and oftentimes, soils can shift and create gaps underneath the house. Since the foundation is no longer supported by soil, it begins to weaken. Eventually, it is no longer able to bear the load and it starts to settle into the ground. This can lead to various structural problems and significantly impact the health of your home.
What Causes Foundation Settlement?
As mentioned, foundation settlement happens due to soil shifts. When the soil expands or contracts, it leaves voids underneath the structure. But why does the soil change in such ways? There are several potential reasons:
Drying and Shrinking
During droughts, soil tends to lose all its moisture. As a result, its particles tend to shrink. When this happens, voids are created, and the foundation settles into them. This is why it is important to keep the soil around your home moist at all times, especially during severe droughts or unusually hot summers.
Wetting and Softening
Just like droughts, persistent rains can also cause a lot of damage. They soak the ground, and water finds its way under the foundation. The soil under your home can become overly saturated and soften, therefore losing its ability to bear the load of the foundation. In addition, the water can wash away some of the soil below the foundation, making space for the foundation to fall into.
Poor Soil Compaction
Another factor that can lead to foundation settlement is poor soil compaction. Not all soils are stable and when it is poorly compacted, soil can compress under the structure’s weight. When a building is being built, the construction site has to be excavated, filled, and leveled. If the contractors do a good job and properly compact the soil, it should support the building without any issues.
Signs of Settlement
Catching the problem in time can save you a lot of trouble, not to mention money. Therefore, it is extremely important to pay attention to the signs of foundation settlement. Here are the most notable ones:
Foundation cracks: These cracks can appear along the windows and door openings or anywhere there is a gap in the foundation walls.
Leaning or tilting chimney: Take a look at your chimney from time to time and see if it is leaning. If so, your foundation is likely settling.
Cracks in the concrete slab floor: In case you have cracks in your slab floor, your foundation is potentially settling.
Jamming or sticking doors or windows: Due to foundation settling the whole house will become crooked, and as a result, the doors and windows will not be able to open or close as smoothly as they used to.
Types of Foundation Settlement
There are three types of foundation settlement.
Uniform Settlement: When it comes to uniform settlement, there aren’t any major impacts on the house. This is because the whole foundation settles at a uniform rate. This can happen if the structure is constructed on the same layer of soil up to foundation depth.
Tipping Settlement: With this type, the structure looks like it is tipping over. Since only one segment of the foundation settles to a certain depth, the structural stability becomes extremely compromised and the house can collapse.
Differential Settlement: When the soil beneath the house contains different layers, it can come to a differential settlement. This means that different parts of the structure may settle differently. As a result, cracks can appear on different structural elements. In case the problem escalates, this kind of damage can lead to the collapse of an entire structure.
How to Resolve Foundation Settlement
Foundation problems should always be taken seriously, so do not try to fix the damage on your own. Instead, contact professionals in your area. There are three ways they could fix the problem with foundation piers.
Push piers: These piers can not only prevent the cracks from spreading, but they can, in some cases, even lift the settled foundation back to its original position, therefore closing the gaps permanently. Push piers are great for heavier buildings.
Helical piers: Unlike push piers, helical piers are used for lighter structures. They are used to stabilize the foundation, and, just like push piers, they can lift the foundation and restore floors back to their original position.
Slab piers: If your home was built on a slab foundation, this might be the best solution for your problem. Slab piers are installed deep into stable rock soil, which allows them to stabilize and potentially lift the foundation.
AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists serve areas in Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. If you have a problem with a settling foundation, contact us as soon as possible and schedule a free inspection and repair quote. Our experts will assess the situation and recommend the best possible solution for your problem.