Whether you are buying or selling a house, the first place to look when checking a home’s condition is at the bottom. Read about inspecting a home’s foundation…
When you are buying or selling a home, the first place to look when checking a home’s condition is at the bottom. Savvy home buyers today will get a home inspection. Many people selling a house will also get a home inspection. I strongly suggest buyers and sellers ALWAYS get an inspection.
Please do not confuse a home inspection with a foundation inspection. Home inspectors are usually who finds the possible foundation problems that require an expert.
If you have owned a home for several years, have you looked at the foundation lately? Foundation problems don’t usually happen overnight.
House foundation issues usually start small. By the time an issue comes to your attention, it might be too late. You can easily inspect a foundation to recognize problems while they’re small and cheap.
You don’t need to be an expert to recognize a foundation problem. Foundation problems can mean expensive repairs.
Let’s look at some signs of foundation problems:
Floors Are Not Level
The first sign of a bad house foundation is if the floors are not level. Sometimes it is as simple as just walking from one side of the room to the other. You can use a tennis ball or marble and see if it stays in place but this only works some of the time.
Floors that are not level do not always indicate a problem with the foundation. You just need to investigate the cause for the floor not being level.
Windows and Doors
The doors and windows of your house were plumb when it was new. So if they are out of alignment, the foundation may have problems.
If a door has been scraping the floor when it opens, you should check the floor. Like I just said, a slanted floor can be evidence of house foundation problems.
Windows should open and close easily. If windows stick or won’t close completely, you need to determine why. It could be the window or it could be something more!
Look at the Walls
The first sign of problems with the house foundation can be as simple as cracks in the walls. Look for bumps or bulges in the walls. The walls should be flat and level from bottom to top and side to side. Stand at one corner and look across at the other corner. Take a level and check to see if the wall is leaning.
Check both the interior and exterior walls in the same way.
Poke Around the Foundation
Another simple and easy way to check for problems is to check the foundation with a screwdriver. Poke the foundation firmly with the screwdriver. You should not be able to dig a hole in the concrete. It should be hard enough to prevent you from causing any damage.
You do not need to use a lot of force. You are checking if the concrete is strong but not checking to see if it is indestructible!
If you can chip or break the concrete, it could be deteriorating or weak. Weak or bad concrete has no remedy short of a new foundation.
Cracks are common in the exterior of foundations. Don’t freak out if you see a few cracks. Little hairline cracks between concrete blocks are not normally a problem. Cracks on areas where the concrete stair-steps down to follow a slope are also not a big deal.
Small cracks don’t have to create foundation troubles to be a problem. Termites can slip through a crack that’s only 1/64 inch wide. This is something to remember if you live in an area where termites are common.
Small cracks are usually caused by concrete shrinkage. As concrete cures, it shrinks slightly. Paint over small cracks with concrete waterproofing paint to see if they are still growing. Because of the termite issue, you may want to seal and paint all small cracks.
Concrete shrinks and expands with changing temperatures. It shrinks when it is cold and expands when it is hot. Most of these cracks are no big deal.
However, some cracks can be a sign of serious foundation problems. Especially if the wall is bulging. Stair-step cracks on the walls are a bad sign. Stair-step shaped cracks are a bigger issue and need attention ASAP!
Horizontal cracks in the concrete near the soil are very serious. They can indicate that moisture in the soil is working into the foundation. This moisture is putting pressure on the concrete. Water-saturated soil can freeze and expand, pushing in and breaking the foundation.
You also need to look for cracks inside the house over doors, windows, or where the walls meet the ceilings. Cracks in vinyl or ceramic tile over a concrete floor are also a sign of potential foundation issues.
There is more to a foundation than just the perimeter wall. There are also piers ( posts and concrete supports or blocks ) in your basement or crawl space. The piers should be straight and firmly planted underneath the beams they support. Piers should sit firmly on concrete footings.
Call a Foundation Expert
It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to problems with a foundation. This is why you should get a foundation inspection if you see a possible problem with your foundation. Please do not think that patching cracks in your foundation is the same thing as repairing a problem.
Check for ANY of the following conditions:
- Cracks in foundation walls or floors
- Cracks in walls or floors that change in size
- A wall that bows or tilts inward
- Stair step cracks in concrete block walls
- Uneven floors above a crawl space foundation
- Cracked brick on a building exterior
- Concrete slabs that have cracked and shifted
- An exterior precast stairway that has sunk or shifted
- A tilting chimney
- A damaged retaining wall
If you find any of these conditions, I suggest you have a foundation inspection. A house foundation inspection is a written report by a licensed and experienced expert. This person should be able to diagnose and solve foundation problems.
There is a difference between saying I THINK you have a problem with your foundation and saying you DO have a problem and I can fix it.
Water draining back toward the home is one common cause of issues with a foundation. It often leads foundation movement, cracking or settlement. It is important water drains away from the house at its perimeter so you do not have issues with the foundation. Gutters and downspouts can helps drainage problems when installed and working properly.
Look for standing water around your home during, or immediately after, it rains. If your downspouts are dumping water close to your house, it’s a good idea to buy gutter extensions.