When Is My Home Just “Settling” and When Do I Have a Foundation Problem?

Settling is inevitable for all homes, regardless of where or how they were built, and there are significant differences between harmful foundation issues and mere settling. Most homes will naturally settle at least a few inches over the course of their life, but more rapid settlement with new homes should ideally not occur.vertical-foundation-crack

Some of the most common settlement issues with new homes have a lot to do with climate, weather patterns and soil. Most home builders tend to operate on a regional basis, in which case they should be familiar with the type of soil on which they’re building and the local weather patterns.

Homebuyers can run into problems with a new home that was built without taking soil into account or prevailing climatic issues.

Georgia is a pretty wet state in general, averaging nearly 50 inches of rainfall a year, which is about 11 more inches than the national average. Let’s say, for example, that there were two exceptionally wet years of 55 inches each, followed by a drought year of 35 inches.

If the home were built during the wet years, it was built on very saturated soils and clays. During the following dry year, that expanded, swollen soil and clay will retract as it dries out, which will result in greater than normal settlement of the home.

If the builder took these changes into account and adjusted the soil below the home accordingly then your foundation should be fine. If they didn’t, you may run into foundation problems within five years of your home being built.

The Difference Between Settling and Real Foundation Issues

Seeing cracks in your foundation may or may not be an issue. Some cracks are to be expected in foundations, and small cracks are likely not indicators of serious problems. Before you really start worrying about the health of your foundation, look for these signs. Keep in mind that just one of these issues may not be indicative of a panic-worthy foundation problem, but in combination, they are certainly signs that there are negative settling issues occurring.

Cracks in Walls and Foundation – Jagged cracks, especially those running at roughly 45-degree angles, are often indicators of serious foundation failure.

Poorly Closing Doors and Windows – If you have doors and windows you struggle to close or seal despite the fact that they’re new or properly lubricated it may be a sign that your foundation is shifting. Window and door openings should be perfectly squared off, so if they closed properly at one time but no longer do, that may mean shifts in your foundation have knocked things off-kilter enough that they no longer fit as they should.

Don’t Neglect Upper Stories – People often assume they should look at the foundation itself or floors to see if things are shifting, but oftentimes the most obvious changes are in the upper parts of your home. Inspect the interior and exterior of your upper floors for cracks, especially above window frames. Brick-constructed homes will often show stair-like cracks along the mortar.

Foundation Cracks – If soil moisture is the culprit of your foundation issues you may see horizontal cracks along your home’s foundation. These may be a sign of hydrostatic pressure, or excess water pressure affecting the foundation.

If you are unsure as to whether your home is just settling or experiencing more serious foundation issues, contact Atlas Piers of Atlanta. Our foundation experts know all about Georgia soil and foundation problems and will thoroughly inspect your foundation and home to identify any issues before providing comprehensive solutions to address them.

When You Should Worry About Cracks in Your Foundation

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If you have noticed a crack in your home’s foundation wall, you’re likely asking yourself, “How concerned should I be and how serious is this problem?” While many homeowners are knowledgeable and like to perform some DIY repairs around their home, being able to judge the severity of foundation cracks and knowing what to do about them is typically not common homeowner knowledge. The good news is that not all cracks are cause for concern, although some certainly are.

What Causes Foundation Damage?

  • Excessively wet or dry soil
  • Frequent changes in temperature
  • Poor construction
  • Loose soil
  • Earthquakes
  • Poor drainage

Cracks often occur when concrete cannot shrink evenly. Foundation cracks can usually be separated into three categories:

  • Cosmetic – No further repairs needed
  • Monitoring Needed – Watch for changes or worsening of conditions
  • Significant – Requiring immediate repairs

Cracks in your home’s foundation are certainly unattractive and aren’t usually easy to fix. In addition to causing structural damage, foundation cracks can allow termites to enter your home, as these nefarious little creatures can fit through a crack as narrow as 1/64th of an inch. After you have contacted a foundation repair specialist, be sure to contact a licensed termite control contractor as well.

Foundation cracks can be considered serious when one of the following occurs:

  1. Cracks wrap around a corner
  2. Cracks reach from the basement floor to the top of the foundation wall
  3. Cracks run horizontally with the wall below it, leading into the basement

Common Types of Foundation Cracks

  • Hairline Cracks in Mortar – Rarely worth worrying about
  • Angular Cracks – These occur in the top 12 to 16 inches of a brick wall and are caused by brick expansion during summer months and do not need to be repaired
  • Cracks at an L-Shaped Section – Not typically a structural issue but may need to be plugged to keep crawl space or basement dry
  • Stair-Step Cracks in Masonry Joints – A larger concern especially if the crack is wider than ¼ inch or the wall is bulging
  • Horizontal cracks – the most serious, often requiring a whole new foundation

What to Do About Foundation Cracks

Repairing cracks in your foundation is not something you should attempt to do by yourself. If you suspect a crack in your foundation requires repair, don’t panic, get a professional opinion by contacting the licensed specialists at Atlas Piers of Atlanta.

Catching these types of problems early and taking a proactive approach to maintenance can potentially save you thousands of dollar’s worth of repairs down the road. Contact Atlas Piers of Atlanta today to schedule an appointment.