By Sam Wasson
Updated Nov 4, 2022
If you’re noticing wall cracks, uneven floorboards, or stuck windows, your house might be suffering from a shifting foundation. Like termites or exposed roofs, foundation problems can lead to structural weakness and a costly price tag for repairs. A shifting foundation can also result in broken utility pipes, structural warping, and damage to multiple portions of the home if left unattended. To help you avoid this creeping catastrophe, we’ll cover everything you need to know about foundation shifting, why it occurs, and how you can best prevent it.
A foundation shift, also known as foundation settlement, is when a house’s foundation moves, sinking deeper into the ground. All homes will experience some degree of foundation settlement. Most settlements are harmless and occur during the first week of construction. However, some can last longer, up to five years, or even throughout the whole lifetime of the home. When this shifting occurs, it’s measured by the length of the shift and the shift type.
The lifetime of foundation shifts is categorized as follows:
There are two kinds of foundation shifts, uniform settlement and differential settlement.
As the name suggests, this type of settlement occurs when all parts of a home sink at the same rate and stop at the same depth. Since the shifting is mostly uniform, a home will stay roughly level throughout the settlement. Of the two types of foundation shifts, this one is the least structurally damaging, only causing harm to utility and plumbing lines. You may also see small hairline cracks along the foundation and above doorframes.
This type of settlement is the most damaging. Differential settlement occurs when sections of a home shift at different rates, resulting in the home becoming uneven. The damage from this type of settlement can include the following:
Foundation shifts can occur due to several factors, the most impactful of which are a lack of elevation, the type of foundation, and soil conditions. Furthermore, outside factors such as weather, building weight, and drainage can all affect foundation settlement. Here is a quick breakdown of the major causes of foundation shifts:
When shopping for a new home, old home, or constructing your own, keep an eye out for the following common signs of foundation damage:
The best way to prevent shifting foundations is through proper preparation by hiring reliable structural engineers and soil specialists when constructing your home. Ideally, by working with qualified professionals, you’ll be able to build your home on soil with ideal moisture and proper elevation, preventing shifting in the first place. However, if you’re purchasing a home that is prone to shifting or is beginning to shift, there are some steps you can take to minimize the damage:
If you’re experiencing foundation issues, your best bet is to contact a foundation repair expert or a soil remediation company. These foundation repair specialists will be able to assess the damage your home and foundation have already suffered and provide the best options for your situation. Thankfully, foundation damage, while a serious problem, is repairable in most cases and can prevent more expensive damage if caught early enough.
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