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Foundation Settlement

Cracked drywall, window gaps, and basement wall cracks are all potential signs of foundation settlement that should not be ignored.

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If you want to ensure the health of your home, foundation settlement is something you can’t ignore. It’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, otherwise it could compromise your home’s structural integrity. In some extreme cases, it can even cause the structure to collapse. 

But let’s take a few steps back. What exactly is foundation settlement? For various reasons, the soil underneath your home can shift, causing gaps in the ground. This will cause the foundation to lose support, become weaker, and eventually start to settle into the ground. Foundation settlement is a serious issue and can impact not only your home but your quality of life, too. 

illustration of a settling, sinking foundation structure with a tilting chimney and cracked foundation

What Causes Foundation Settlement? 

As mentioned, foundation settlement happens when the soil underneath your home shifts and creates gaps. But what causes this movement? Here are three potential reasons why your foundation is settling. 

Shrinking Soils 

When the soil under your home is left without any moisture, its particles begin to shrink, leaving gaps behind. Most often soils dry when there are prolonged dry periods. Clay soils shrink considerably during droughts, causing the foundation to settle downwards.  

Maturing trees may also be the reason why the soils are shrinking. Keep in mind that their root system is usually twice the size of their visible part. Therefore, if you have trees going over your home, they are probably going under it as well. Since a large root system can draw up large volumes of water each day, it will dry out the soil and cause it to shrink. 

Softening of Soil 

Just as droughts can impact the soil beneath your home, so can large volumes of water. When they become overly saturated, soils tend to soften. As a result, your home is no longer properly supported. So, when does this happen? During heavy rains and flooding large volumes of water soak the soil. When clay soil gets in touch with water, it holds on to it and softens. Clay soils are not strong and heavy objects such as buildings can sink into them. 

Another reason why the soil beneath your foundation has become soft and caused settlement is poor drainage. If water pools around your home every time it rains, you need to address that problem. Poor soil grading, leaking gutters, and other factor can soak the soil around your home. If your home was built on clay soil, it will surely sink when the ground becomes saturated. 

Poorly Compacted Fill Soil 

During construction, builders can sometimes bring in loose soil from some other place to fill the hollow areas in the ground. This way, they can make a level surface convenient for construction. The soil that comes from other locations is much “fluffier” than the original soil. To solve this problem, builders will compact the fill soil thoroughly to make it denser. If they skip this step for some reason, or fail to do it properly, foundation settlement issues will most likely occur. 

If you have noticed any signs of foundation settlement in your home, do not hesitate to contact AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists. Our services are available across Birmingham, Chattanooga, Huntsville, Knoxville, Mobile, Montgomery, and Nashville

Signs of Foundation Settlement 

Foundation settlement is not a death sentence for your home and it’s no reason to panic. Just like any other problem, if it is caught on time, it can be easily solved. The best way to protect the integrity of your home is to pay attention to the signs of settlement. Therefore, keep your eyes open for the following symptoms: 

Cracked Drywall
  • Cracked Drywall 

Cracks in the drywall are usually a problem most homeowners try to repair on their own, not realizing that the underlying problem can severely damage their home. If you spot cracks around door frames, the ceiling, or along the wall, contact us as soon as possible. Your foundation might be in serious trouble, so do not postpone that call. Cracks in the drywall usually mean that the soil underneath your home is shifting, which is never good news. 

  • Window Gaps and Cracks 

Gaps and cracks around your windows are a telltale sign that something bad is happening with your foundation. When the soil underneath your home shifts and your home settles, you will notice these gaps. 

  • Stair-Step Basement Wall Cracks 

Most of the time, basement wall cracks indicate that your foundation is settling. If you ignore them, these cracks will only widen in time and the cost of repairs will only grow. If you have noticed wall cracks in your basement but are not sure whether they are just a cosmetic problem, contact your local experts and have them inspected. 

Types of Foundation Settlement 

Not all homes settle in the same way. Some settlements are more dangerous and cause much more damage to the structure. Here are three types of foundation settlement you need to know about. 

Uniform Settlement: As you can assume, uniform settlement happens when the whole foundation settles equally and at the same pace. Luckily this type of settlement won’t compromise your home’s health in any way. 

Tipping Settlement: This type is far more dangerous and it can even cause your home to collapse. During the tipping settlement, only one side or corner of the house settles into the ground. 

Differential Settlement: There are several soil layers in the ground and they can cause different parts of the house to settle at different rates. This puts a massive strain on the home’s foundation and cracks can quickly appear. If this problem is not repaired quickly, your home could collapse. 

Foundation Settlement


Understandably, some homeowners want to repair things around their homes on their own. However, when it comes to foundation damage, it is always better to leave things to the professionals. First of all, if your foundation has been severely damaged, moving through your basement or crawl space can be very dangerous. Not only can you put your life in danger by trying to fix the foundation on your own, but the work that needs to be done is probably too much for one person to bear. 

Lack of Required Tools and Materials 

Fixing your damaged foundation and making it stable once again is not a small project. It requires a full-exterior excavation. If you do not have the needed tools for this, you can spend weeks digging out your foundation. Of course, rain, snow, and your other obligations can drastically slow down this process. 

To permanently stabilize your home you will need to invest in piering solutions. There are various piers on the market, some better than others, and discerning the difference between quality ones and bad apples requires experience and knowledge. Also, even if you purchase needed piers, you will have an extremely hard time installing them. To do this properly you will need to dig down below your foundation until you reach stable bedrock. Installing piers in a way that will ensure that they offer proper support to your foundation is most likely not something you will be able to manage on your own. 

Making Mistakes 

Stabilizing your foundation is not something you can do without proper tools, skills, and experience. If you try to repair the damage on your own, you may do more harm than good. It is very easy to make things worse. If you mess things up and end up calling an expert to fix them later, you may wind up spending more money on repairs than you would if you just called the professionals in the first place. 

When they arrive, your contractors will first need to completely remove the solution you tried to implement. Only when that solution is completely gone will they move on to fixing your settling foundation properly. If you want to get the job done and save money on repairs, contact your local contractor as soon as you notice signs of foundation settlement and schedule an evaluation.

While you cannot control the amount of rain that will fall or whether there will be droughts, you can control the water flow around your home. When water pools around your home it causes the soil to soften, which leads to foundation settlement. Luckily, there are protective measures you can use to make the soil beneath your home more stable. 

Keep Your Gutters in a Good Shape 

Gutters and downspouts collect water from the roof and help you control the flow of water around your home. While these are rather simple fixtures, they need to be properly maintained, otherwise, they might malfunction. One of the most common problems regarding gutters is clogging. When these fixtures become filled up with leaves, debris, and dirt, they get blocked and water can no longer flow through them. Instead, it pours over the edge and pools around your home. Cracks and holes in the gutters can also get damaged with time and begin to leak. Also, badly sealed gutter joints can separate and cause leakage. 

If your gutters are not sloped downward water will remain trapped in them and they will begin to sag under its weight. In addition, be sure to check on the hangers, nails, and screws which are used to keep the gutters in place. If they begin to rust and get loose, they can cause problems. If possible, invest in gutter guards around your home to avoid clogs. Also, check with your local contractor whether they can install underground downspouts if your standard ones disconnect often. 

Redirecting the Water Flow 

To keep water away from your home, you should check your property’s grade. Your yard can have a positive or a negative grade. If it has a negative one, rainwater will always flow toward your home’s perimeter. On the other hand, a positive grade will direct water away from the house. If water often pools around your home, contact a professional who will re-grade your yard and limit the amount of water that comes into contact with your home. 

If you are worried that solutions that need to be implemented to stabilize your home will harm your landscaping, contact a professional landscaper in addition to a contractor and see what they recommend. Together you can develop a landscaping plan that will agree with waterproofing solutions and foundation repair methods.

Foundation Settlement Solutions 

Here at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists, we only use the best products to ensure the safety and stability of your home. Depending on the problem, we will create customized solutions that address your home’s repair needs. We don’t believe in half-cocked solutions. Instead, we proudly offer permanent solutions for your peace of mind. 

When it comes to foundation settlement, it is important to address this problem as soon as it occurs. Repairing your home on your own is not recommended, since even the slightest mistake could result in a catastrophe. Thereby, contact your local contractor who has the tools, skills, knowledge, and experience to repair your foundation and schedule an inspection. 

At AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists, we offer piers of the highest quality to our customers who are dealing with foundation settlement, so do not hesitate to schedule a free inspection

Push piers 

Our team will install push piers in bedrock, as it is the most stable soil level, to permanently solve the problem with foundation settlement. Instead of just stabilizing your foundation, our piers go one step further and even raise your home back to its original level, therefore closing cracks and improving window and door functionality. You might be worried that this repair will destroy your landscaping and disrupt your comfort, but you can relax. With portable equipment, we make sure the mess we make during installation is minimal. 

Push piers can be installed both inside and outside your foundation walls and you won’t even see them once the project is complete. 

To install push piers, our experts will excavate the soil around the foundation until the foundation footing is exposed. Next, they will secure the heavy-duty steel foundation brackets to the footing. Afterward, galvanized steel piers are driven through the bracket to bedrock. With push piers, the weight of the home is transferred from the unstable soil to stable bedrock, permanently stabilizing your home’s foundation. 

If needed, your home can then be lifted back to its original position. Our push piers are strong, durable, and made of galvanized steel, so they will not rust.  

diagram of a helical pier foundation repair

Helical piers 

Helical piers, also known as screw piles, are screwed into the ground to permanently stabilize the home’s foundation. Just like push piers, they can not only stabilize your home but also lift the foundation back to its original position. Since they are galvanized, there is no need to worry about corrosion. Our pier installation won’t disrupt your daily routines or your comfort in any way. The entire process is rather quick and simple, and you won’t have to clean up piles of dirt and debris after the contractors are gone. 

The first thing our experts will do is expose the foundation footing and prepare it for the bracket. Afterward, they will screw round-shaft helical piers into the soil and secure the bracket to the footing. After the weight of the home is transferred to more stable soil, your home can be lifted back to its original position. 

Slab piers 

When the slab begins to settle, some homeowners believe that replacing it is the best solution. However, the problem lies in ill-supporting soil, not the slab. Therefore, the problem will surely occur again. In addition, replacing the slab is not only a poor solution, but it is also messy, expensive, and disruptive. 

With slab piers, you can permanently stabilize your foundation. While other solutions such as mudjacking cannot get to stable soil layers, these galvanized piers are driven into the ground until they reach strong, competent soil. A great thing about slab piers is that they can lift your foundation back to its original position, thereby closing gaps and cracks and removing tripping hazards that occur as a result of the settlement. 

At AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists, we offer slab piers made of galvanized steel, so there is no need to worry about corrosion. Our solution will surely stand the test of time and you won’t find yourself fixing the same problem repeatedly. Since slab piers can lift your foundation and eliminate tripping hazards, they will restore your home’s market value. 

We understand that having contractors on their property can disturb many homeowners and disrupt their comfort, which is why we have developed an installation process that is easy and low stress. When the job is complete, slab piers won’t be visible.


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