Causes and Signs of Failed Foundations


Most foundation problems are caused by the soil surrounding a home. Throughout the year the soil expands and contracts from moisture and temperature levels. Foundations fail when there is too much water or not enough. Sections of the soil can have different moisture levels causing the soil to swell and shrink at various locations. Some sections of the soil can become much drier or wetter than other parts causing stress on your home's foundation. These inconsistencies in the soil generally result from:

Most foundation problems are caused by the soil surrounding a home. Throughout the year the soil expands and contracts from moisture and temperature levels. Foundations fail when there is too much water or not enough. Sections of the soil can have different moisture levels causing the soil to swell and shrink at various locations. Some sections of the soil can become much drier or wetter than other parts causing stress on your home's foundation. These inconsistencies in the soil generally result from:

  • Transpiration: The soil dehydrates because of tree roots beneath the home. Soil shrinks because of this loss of moisture. The soil shrinkage causes homes to settle. 
  • Plumbing Leaks: Water can seep into the soil from leaky pipes. This causes too much water in the soil and can contribute to unneeded stress on the walls of the home's foundation.
  • Drainage: Poor drainage both on the exterior and interior of your home's foundation can cause excess moisture to build up in the soil. This may cause soil heaving. 
  • Poor Building Site Preparation: Commonly on building sites, soil is removed from part of a building and piled on other soil. The soil needs proper stabilization before the structure is built; otherwise, the soil may move below the structure.

Common Signs of Foundation Failure

waterproofing your home
Leaks in your basement may be a sign of structural problems.

The inward bowing of a basement or retaining wall is the simplest indication of pressure. The bowing generally occurs when the external forces exceed the wall strength. The most noticeable bowing will often occur near the center of the wall because the adjoining perpendicular walls provide support in the corners. If bowing becomes severe, these walls can collapse inward.

Cracking can occur when the pressure exceeds the strength of the concrete or block wall. Cracks can also show up around the entirety of your home; on ceilings, floors, walls, and more. For block walls, the cracks move along the mortar joints in a stair-step pattern. Often these cracks end at a long horizontal fracture that parallels the basement floor.

Some amount of settlement can be tolerated in most homes provided it is within specified limits. Small amounts of settlement are anticipated in most design work. When homes experience excessive settlement, special procedures must be used to stop or limit the amount of settlement. These foundation repair methods use helical piers and steel push piers to fix the foundation failure.

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