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Winter: A Great Time to Inspect Your Home's Foundation

Jesse Waltz, Professional Engineer~ By Jesse Waltz, Professional Engineer

You can check your home's structural integrity yourself or request a free inspection and we'll do it for you.Winter is an ideal time to inspect your home's foundation since the summer soil shrinkage has passed and soil expansion from spring showers has not yet occurred. You can check your home's structural integrity yourself or request a free inspection and we'll do it for you. To perform the maintenance check yourself, you will need a laser level, paper and a pencil.

Draw Your Home's Footprint.

Make a basic sketch of the outline of your home using a computer drawing program or paper. Be sure to indicate doors and windows.

Inspect Your Doors and Windows.

Whenever an opening is cut or created in a wall, such as a door or window, it becomes the weakest point in the wall. Because of this, doors and windows often display the first signs of foundation settlement. Three common foundation problem signs to look for include:

Floor and wall gaps, or gaps between the frame and door or window.
Drywall cracks extending from the corners of doors or windows
A door or window separating from the framing or exterior finish.

You can also check for misalignment by opening and shutting doors and windows to see that they are operating properly and that they lock or latch properly too. Make notes about any of these signs on your sketch.

Check Your Floor.

Walk through your home and note any abrupt changes in the floor such as cracks, bowing, sagging or bouncing. You may even notice the uneven floors dropping and separating from walls, forming a gap between the floor and the wall.

Check to see if your floors are sloping by taking a laser level and set it on the floor of the main level pointing toward the walls. Measure the difference between the laser line and the floor on one side of the room and compare it to the distance between the laser line and the floor on the opposite side of the room. Make a note of any differences on your sketch.

Check Your Walls and Ceilings for Cracks.

Cracks in drywall throughout the house are a good indicator of house settlement and may be more obvious in the uppermost levels of your house. Look for these common signs and note them on your drawing:

Drywall cracks extending from the corners of doors and windows
Cracks that follow drywall seams
Drywall tape buckling, pulling or ripping.
Drywall nail pops

Make sure to note on your sketch the direction, width and severity of the cracks.

Check Your Interior Foundation Walls.

In this step, look for cracks on the interior of your crawlspace foundation walls or basement walls. On basement and foundation walls built of concrete block, horizontal cracks and cracks that form stair-step like patterns along the mortar lines are common and a sign of settlement. Vertical cracks are common on concrete basement walls. In basement walls made of poured concrete, vertical cracks are more common.

Inspect the Exterior of Your Home.

Finally, walk around the outside of your home and look for any shifting, ground sinking or other movement, especially around chimneys and patios. Since most chimneys are built on a separate foundation that is not connected to the house, they are at a greater risk for settlement and will separate away from the home.

In brick homes, stair step cracks along the mortar lines is a common sign of foundation settlement. As the home settles further, vertical cracks may widen, indicating that the wall is rotating outward.

After the inspection, if you found any of the foundation problem signs you should contact a professional foundation repair contractor.

Foundation settlement problems do not go away on their own, and in many cases, they actually get worse.

Fortunately, a home experiencing foundation settlement issues can be permanently stabilized. JES uses engineered solutions that transfer the weight of the home from the unstable soils to competent load-bearing soil. When left untreated, not only does the structure become more and more unstable and unsafe, but the value of the home declines too.

AUTHOR PROFILE

Jesse Waltz, a Professional Engineer and a 1985 Virginia Military Institute graduate, is the founder of JES Construction, Inc. JES is a regional foundation repair and home improvement company with locations in Virginia Beach, Richmond and Northern Virginia.

 

More Foundation Repair Articles

Thinking About Remodeling? Don't Overlook Your Foundation.

~By Jesse Waltz, Professional Engineer

 

If you're thinking about adding an addition, a second story or even remodeling your kitchen or bath with tiles and granite counter tops, be sure you consider the extra weight that it is going to be added to the over all structure. Why do most structures settle? Because the weight of the home is greater than the bearing capacity of the soil. Read more...


The Experts at JES can Help! Free Foundation, Crawl Space or Basement Inspection

If you're not sure of the source of your cracked bricks, give us a call at 866-370-4816, and schedule a free inspection. We'll find out the cause of the problem and help you find the perfect solution.

 

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"I would like to praise your engineer and the construction crew for their professional approach to solving our foundation problems. In over forty years of practice in architecture, I have seldom seen such a well coordinated demolition/construction process. I would have JES back for any future foundation problems and will recommend JES to my clients and friends who need your services."

~ William M., Yorktown, VA

 
"The crew was wonderful especially the Foreman. We asked lots of questions and kept checking in and looking at the work. Each time we went to the basement, they stopped the work and carefully explained the process to us in a very friendly manner. We liked this crew and the foreman very much."

~ Suzzanne B., Culpeper, VA