How to Identify Settling Foundation
What warning signs are present? How is a settling foundation identified? How severe is the problem? What are the risks?
Settling foundations are some of the easiest structural problems to identify. They are usually characterized by cracks in exterior masonry or brick veneer, and they are often accompanied by cracked drywall finishes inside the house with exterior doorways and windows which cease to function properly. If left unaddressed, settlement can lead to expensive structural stabilization repairs or structural failure.
Causes of Settling Foundation
What causes foundation to settle? Any underlying factors?
Foundation settlement in the Raleigh area is almost always caused by expansion and contraction of the soils which support the home, and it is often exacerbated by improper maintenance of rainwater runoff around the perimeter of the structure. If the exterior grade is sloped toward the home, or if roof gutter downspouts discharge at the base of the foundation, water-softened soils allow portions of the home to settle and crack.
Settling Foundation Solutions
How is a settled foundation fixed? What methods are used? What are some pluses and minuses of each?
Minor settlement can often be managed by making drainage improvements around the home. Regrading soils adjacent to the foundation, installation of “French” drains or catch basins, and piping away downspouts can all help stabilize underlying soils and stop or slow differential settlement. More advanced settlement requires stabilization by deep foundation supports which bypass the unstable upper layers of soil and can allow the home to be jacked to a more level condition which will sometimes close existing cracks. Deep foundation supports are a permanent solution, and most repair companies offer transferable lifetime-of-the-structure warranties on their products, but these deep supports can be expensive.
What Happens if You Don’t Fix Settling Foundation?
What is the potential cost of inaction (financially, physically)? How does settling foundation worsen over time?
If settlement is not addressed with drainage improvements early on, then stabilization by costly deep foundation supports becomes almost inevitable. Cosmetic patching of open cracks is often attempted, but these cracks will reopen if the underlying aggravating factors which cause differential settlement are left unaddressed.