Most home re-sales have one issue or another. Thus, it is wise to call a certified home inspector if you are considering buying a house. You can also speak to a lawyer for any concerns that you might be having. Remember to proceed with caution, most particularly if the house has foundation issues.
How Can You Tell if a House Has Foundation Issues?
The first thing to check is the presence of cracks in the walls. In brick or block walls, the cracks show as cuts through the whole bricks of blocks. Inspect the block joints. Do the cracks have an angle of inclination? Say 450? That shows that a part of the wall has dropped. In some cases, the crack cuts through an internal corner, even cracking up the entire length.
For new buildings, expect slight structural movement because the building is still settling under its weight. With an old building, that is not to be expected. Cracks that appear on an old building are a sign of foundation issues, and more so if the cracks continue to widen.
If you already own the house, here is one way to test:
- Get a piece of glass.
- Insert it through a crack.
- Inspect the piece of glass after a week.
Does the glass have cracks? If it cracked, then structural movement might be taking place in your home.
There are many reasons why structural movement is happening. It can be that:
- The concrete footing foundation is low grade.
- The foundations are out of the horizontal plane or below the level of the soil around your home.
Shifting and settling cause the structure to bend. That, in turn, causes:
- Siding to collapse
- Doors and windows to become too hard to open or close
- Bricks to crack
- Ceramic tiles to separate (or crack) at grout joints
- Drywall and plaster to crack
Moisture or extreme temperatures can also cause these issues. So it is unwise to hastily conclude it is about structural movement without inspecting the problem first. An expansion crack or wood swelling may be caused by factors other than structural shifts or bends.
Is There a Way to Fix Bad Foundation Issues?
If the CMU or concrete masonry unit cracks, or you have a cracked basement wall, but it is not out of plumb, the house may have only settled into the soil. The process compresses the ground underneath and causes the foundation to crack. Talk to an engineer. This process is a natural process taking place because of gravity. In such a case, your engineer will tell you that there is nothing to worry about and solve the problem by using caulk or epoxy.
If you live in an earthquake-prone area, you want to start looking for a local building inspector. Ask the inspector if reinforcement is needed, or you need to consider hiring a professional home repair service. Older stone or block foundations may have cracked if the building material reacts with soil material. It can also be a result of the mortar drying out. Or the material is porous and undergoing chemical reactions with acids in the soil. If this is the case, the engineer can perform tuckpointing or damp proofing to correct the issue.
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