What Causes Foundation Issues?
Are you experiencing problems with your foundation? Maybe you’re noticing that your foundation is cracking, your home’s walls are bowing inward, or your floors are starting to creak. These can all be very worrisome and can cause a lot of anxiety in homeowners.
You’re probably asking a lot of questions. What causes foundation cracks? Why is my foundation cracking? Why do foundations crack in general? Don’t worry. You can find the answers to these questions.
The first question many people ask is, “What is the main cause of foundation problems?” It turns out, there are many reasons foundations can crack. If you’ve experienced any of these environmental issues recently, you should call a JES foundation repair expert to diagnose exactly why your foundation is having problems.
Flooding and Water Damage
Can flooding cause foundation damage? Absolutely. In fact, foundations in wet ground almost always end up with cracks and other structural problems. Even if you don’t think you have lots of wet ground around your foundation, even a slight increase in moisture can prove dangerous.
There are many different types of flooding, and unfortunately, most of them can contribute to your foundation cracking. Whether through an act of nature or because of a plumbing problem, these types of water damage may seriously impact your home.
- External Flooding
This type of flooding doesn’t happen inside your home; it happens on the outside. It may be because of a monsoon, a plumbing issue in the neighborhood, or just poor drainage in your area. Regardless of the reason, it’s going to mire your foundation in wet ground, which is never a good thing.
If the area around your home has been dealing with a lot of water recently, it’ll start sinking into the soil. That will make the soil expand and push against your foundation, creating extreme hydrostatic pressure that can easily lead to foundation cracks and water leaks.
- Snow Melting
Heavy snowfall can be a problem for foundations, but it’s not always for the reasons you might think. Many foundations can survive the extreme cold and even the weight of the snow. However, when heavy snow starts to melt, it creates excess flooding.
Similar to other excess flooding, snow melting can create lots of problems for your foundation. If your foundation has any existing cracks, even small ones, water will almost certainly find its way in. As the water starts to evaporate, this can lead to water damage not only in your foundation but in the rest of your home.
- Plumbing Leaks
This type of flooding is almost exclusively internal. If you’re dealing with a plumbing leak, it’s very possible that the leak will end up traveling under your home or inside the walls, which is where most plumbing exists. Many plumbing leaks, then, end up leaking into your basement or crawl space area.
Sometimes, it can be even more difficult to catch foundation issues due to plumbing leaks because you may have to deal with much more visible problems first. If you have a plumbing issue, even if the water mostly impacted the inside of your home, it’s a good idea to schedule a foundation inspection to make sure it didn’t also create foundation problems.
Drought and Dryness
If excess water is a problem, why does the foundation crack when exposed to substantial drought as well? The answer is that steady moisture is the best option for your foundation, so anything that deviates from the standard can cause problems.
It doesn’t matter why you’re experiencing drought. Each reason often ends up causing serious foundation issues. Those issues usually stem from soil expanding and contracting too much, which can lead to cracks and leaks.
- Hot Summers
When rain comes during the wet seasons, it expands the soil like a sponge. Ideally, a dry season should then slowly make the soil shrink again. However, if the season is more hot and dry than normal, it’s possible for it to cause the foundation to settle.
If the summer’s unusually dry, especially if the spring was unusually wet, you’re at higher risk for foundation issues. The gap between the soil and the foundation can create cracks and leaks, allowing for future foundation issues.
- Excessive Evaporation
Ideally, you want the soil around your home to stay about the same moisture at all times. So what happens if you end up experiencing a season that’s drier than usual, resulting in increased evaporation and drier soil around your home?
This evaporation, which also happens during very hot seasons, will cause the soil to shrink. That leads to the same foundation problems you’ll experience during hot summers: a gap appears between the shrinking soil and the foundation, leading to a weakened foundation.
- Large Trees Near Your Home
Large trees can provide shade and beauty for a home if they’re planted properly. However, if someone planted these trees without taking into account your home’s foundation or the way the trees take in water, you could find significant problems arising very quickly. That’s because of something you may not have expected: the tree’s roots.
Trees obviously need water to survive. To get that water, they typically suck it out of the ground through the roots. If you don’t water the tree very much and the soil is drier than normal, the tree will take additional water through the ground anyway. That’ll dry out the soil around your foundation, leading to shrinkage, gaps, and cracks.
From a serious natural disaster to the everyday weather happening around your home, the weather has a significant impact on your home’s health. That includes both whatever’s happening above ground and whatever’s happening below ground as well. You need to pay attention to both halves of the problem.
If you’ve recently experienced a weather issue that’s more serious than the ones you’re typically used to, it’s important that you actually address it. These weather issues are the ones most likely to cause foundation cracks and other foundation problems.
Hurricanes come with a variety of potential home problems. The extreme winds can cause external damage, even ripping off windows and doors. The rain can cause flooding. The debris can impact your home, potentially shattering windows and causing both cosmetic and structural damage.
However, hurricanes can also cause internal damage. That flooding from hurricane rain can cause your soil to expand and push against the foundation. It can also flood your basement or crawl space. The wind pushing on the top half of the home can even cause damage to the foundation given enough pressure.
Similar to a hurricane, a Nor’easter typically impacts the East Coast, often moving upwards through New England and even impacting parts of Canada. Although many homes in these areas can handle the intensity of a Nor’easter, the experience can absolutely build up over time.
As with a hurricane, the strong winds and heavy rain can cause a variety of different types of damage. If you’ve lived through a particularly nasty Nor’easter, you’re probably going to want to schedule a foundation inspection just to make sure you avoid any issues before they start.
You probably don’t think you have anything to worry about regarding an earthquake because it’s unlikely you’ve personally felt them when they happen. However, even a small amount of movement under the ground can seriously impact your home’s foundation; after all, the foundation itself is entirely dependent on the ground around it.
The fact is, even the smallest earthquake can have severe consequences for your foundation. Even if you might not know it, your home may be standing up to earthquakes already. Virginia alone has handled over 300 earthquakes since attaining statehood, after all. Earthquakes can magnify small foundation cracks, and over time, that can create huge problems.
The last type of foundation problem arises simply from poor construction planning. Typically, this doesn’t fall on the homeowner’s shoulders. You probably purchased the house from someone else, not knowing how much planning and thought went into the home’s construction.
However, the home’s construction requires a variety of extremely important checks and balances. If the construction crew or planning team cut corners at all, you may run into serious problems. That can include foundation problems that may not even show up for many years.
- Poor Construction
You probably don’t know how extensive the process of preparing to construct a house is. If you want to construct a house that will actually stand the test of time, you’re going to need to put a lot of thought and energy into the construction. Poor processing of that construction will create a problematic end result.
Did the construction crew use high-quality materials? Did the planning team create a foundation that would actually hold thousands of pounds of weight on top of it? Did every team go through the necessary steps without cutting corners? If any team skipped any steps, your foundation could have problems both now and in the future.
- Poor Soil Preparation
Preparing the soil is an extremely important part of maintaining a strong foundation for your home. The builders need to test the soil, compact the soil properly, and design a foundation that will hold up to the soil around it.
If the builders didn’t properly test the soil or cut corners when compacting it, those problems will start to show up pretty quickly. You’ll start to see cracks in the foundation as the shoddy work shines through, as it eventually will.
Another problem can arise if your home rests on a type of soil that just inherently tends to exert pressure on a home’s foundation. The two main types of potentially problematic soil are expansive and consolidating soil.
- Expansive Soil
Expansive soil, also sometimes called heaving soil, experiences extreme changes when introduced to too much moisture. This type of soil will expand much more if there’s a flood, rain, or other moisture issues. If your home rests on expansive soil, you’re going to have issues with upheaval and hydrostatic pressure, which can cause your home to bow in on itself.
- Consolidating Soil
Consolidating soil is the opposite of expansive soil. That means it tends to experience extreme changes when introduced to dryness; it shrinks much more than other types of soil. Where expansive soil can exert a lot of pressure on a foundation, consolidating soil can start to pull away from the foundation. That can lead to home settling, causing foundation cracks.
- Poor Drainage
Your home needs to be able to drain off water properly. Otherwise, that water will just collect around your foundation, and that’s much more likely to lead to foundation problems both now and in the future. Homes built without robust drainage systems can end up with water problems that wouldn’t even make an impact on a home with proper drainage.
If you have good drainage built-in, just make sure you’re using it properly. That means keeping your gutters clear and pointing downspouts away from the home. Otherwise, you may need a foundation repair expert to discuss additional options for building drainage systems onto your home.
How Can I Fix My Foundation Problem?
Are you already experiencing foundation cracks? Have you had one of these problems happen with your home? If you’re having foundational problems, you need to request a free inspection from JES. With a free inspection, you’ll be able to learn more about what’s actually going on in your foundation.
Even if you know some of what may be causing your foundation problems, it’s important that you determine the tangible, physical cause. After your inspection, a foundation repair consultant will let you know what’s going on and give you options for how to fix it.
You need an expert who will tell you exactly what’s going on and give you information regarding the extent of the current damage. For thoughtful, knowledgeable information that will give you access to the services you need without trying to upsell you, contact JES today.
Get Your Free Homeowner’s Guide to Foundation Repair
Have you ever wondered about your soft, sinking ground and what caused it? Or if that drywall crack is a sign that you have a bigger problem? Our Homeowner’s Guide to Foundation Repair is your resource for learning about foundation problems, causes and solutions. Request your free foundation repair inspection and receive your own copy of the e-book, as our thanks for putting your trust in JES.