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What Is Foundation Settlement?

brick home with crack, displaying signs of foundation settlement

Foundation settlement is more common for homeowners than you may think.

But what exactly is foundation settlement, and why does it occur?

This phenomenon refers to the gradual sinking or shifting of a building’s foundation, a process that can compromise the structural integrity of the entire building.

From the natural settling of soil beneath a property to more abrupt changes due to environmental factors, understanding the causes and types of foundation settlement is crucial for maintaining a safe and stable home.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of foundation settlement, exploring its various causes and the different types that can affect buildings, ensuring you have the knowledge to protect your property effectively.

Types of Foundation Settlement

Differential Foundation Settlement

homeowner dealing with sticking doors and windows

Differential settlement is a condition that occurs when different parts of a building’s foundation settle at varying rates.

This uneven settling can be due to a variety of reasons, such as inconsistent soil conditions beneath the structure, variations in soil moisture levels, or uneven loads being placed on the foundation. The majority of foundation issues are due to differential foundation settlement.

Unlike uniform settlement, where the entire foundation settles evenly, differential settlement can lead to significant structural problems, including cracks in walls, floors, and foundations, doors and windows that stick or won’t close properly, and even a tilting or leaning of the entire structure.

Understanding and addressing the causes of differential settlement early can prevent extensive damage and maintain the integrity and safety of a building.

Uniform Foundation Settlement 

Uniform settlement occurs when a building settles at the same rate throughout all portions of the structure. If the entire structure rests on the same kind of soil, then uniform settlement may occur. Luckily, uniform foundation settlement typically causes less structural damage compared to other types. 

Common Causes of Foundation Settlement

Understanding its common causes is crucial for prevention and timely intervention:

  • Soil Type: Certain soils, like clay or silt, can expand when wet and shrink when dry, leading to uneven support for the foundation.
  • Improper Soil Compaction: If the soil beneath a foundation hasn’t been compacted properly before construction, it can settle unevenly under the weight of the building.
  • Changes in Moisture Levels: Variations in soil moisture, due to factors like prolonged drought or excessive rainfall, can lead to soil expansion or contraction, affecting foundation stability.
  • Erosion: Water flow from rain, flooding, or poor drainage can erode soil away from the foundation, causing it to settle or shift.
  • Excessive Load: Overloading a building’s design capacity can stress the foundation, leading to settlement.
  • Tree Root Growth: Large trees planted too close to a structure can remove moisture from the soil, causing it to shrink and the foundation to settle.

Addressing these issues promptly can prevent significant damage and ensure the longevity of your property’s foundation.

How To Repair Foundation Settlement

Repairing foundation settlement effectively often involves focusing on two key methods: piering and proper water management.


AFS team installing piers at a home

This method addresses foundation settlement by installing deep foundation elements, such as push piers or helical piers, into stable soil or bedrock beneath the affected area.

These piers are designed to transfer the weight of the structure from unstable or settling soil to a more secure depth, stabilizing the foundation and correcting any misalignment.

Piering not only offers a long-term solution to foundation settlement but also minimizes disruption to the surrounding landscape.

Proper Water Management

Managing water flow around the foundation is crucial in preventing additional settlement. This includes ensuring that gutters and downspouts are functioning correctly to direct water away from the foundation, installing proper drainage systems to prevent water pooling, and adjusting the landscape to ensure that water flows away from the building. Proper water management helps maintain consistent soil moisture levels around the foundation, reducing the risk of settlement caused by soil expansion or contraction.

Together, piering and effective water management form a comprehensive approach to addressing and preventing foundation settlement, ensuring the longevity and safety of the structure.

Secure Your Foundation: Choose AFS

Addressing foundation settlement issues doesn’t have to be a daunting task when you partner with AFS.

With our proven, engineered solutions and the backing of long-term warranties, you can trust that your home’s foundation will be repaired with the highest standards of quality and durability.

Our nearly 25 years of experience in the field reflect a proven track record of success and customer satisfaction. By choosing AFS, you’re not just getting a repair; you’re securing peace of mind knowing that your home is in the hands of the best in the business.

Don’t let foundation problems undermine the safety and value of your home. Reach out to AFS, and take the first step towards a stable and secure foundation for your home.

Schedule a free inspection today.

Ted Dryce

Ted Dryce

Content Writer

Ted is an SEO Content Writer who has been with Groundworks since 2021. He’s covered home repair topics ranging from crawl space encapsulation to regional soil conditions. When he’s not working, Ted is performing improv comedy and working on his own creative projects.

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