How to identify problems in your home’s foundation

If you live in an older home, you may be accustomed to the random unidentified sounds a house can make. But strange noises and uneven surfaces can be signs that a home’s foundation is in need of repair. Before you charge down to your crawlspace with a chisel and mortar, you’ll need to determine whether you can make repairs yourself or if you need to hire a professional.

The warning signs

A cracked or damaged foundation can affect many different parts of your home. While some creaks and settling are normal, bulging or cracked floors, misaligned doors and other symptoms signal a cracked foundation. Vertical cracks are normally associated with a home settling, whereas horizontal or “stair-stepping” cracks may indicate a problem with your home’s foundation.

Repair minor damages

While some problems will require the help of a professional, some smaller cracks and minor foundation issues can be fixed on your own.

-If cracks in your foundation are narrow (less than one-quarter inch wide) they can be left alone. However, if water is coming through the cracks or they look bad, you can seal them with a paintable caulk or epoxy putty.

-Cracks wider than one-quarter inch can be repaired using epoxy putty, or you can hire a professional to inject epoxy into cracks; that may cost you between $1,500 and $3,000. While this repair will keep water from coming through the cracks, it points to more major issues that will require more work.

Causes of and remedies for major issues

Excessive water around your foundation can contribute to damage. Expanding soil puts pressure to your foundation’s walls, which can causes cracks, twisting and – in worst-case scenarios – collapse. Make sure that your gutter downspouts extend away from your home and that water doesn’t build up around exterior walls. While this will help, damages still must be repaired.

-Hire a structural engineer to help you identify the cause of the problem. An initial visit will cost about $500 – a small price to pay for finding a solution to your home’s foundation problems.

-Consider getting a full engineering report with possible solutions and the strengths of each option. This may cost several thousand dollars.

-If a complex repair is needed, it may be worth the investment to hire an engineer to observe while the improvements are made, to ensure that workers are making repairs correctly.

A damaged foundation can be costly to repair but is essential to keeping your home in a good condition. Regularly check your foundation for cracks and make minor repairs as needed. Something as simple as extending your downspouts by three feet can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.