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.