Foundations can deteriorate over time under the strain and stress of bearing significant loads. In large construction projects, foundation issues can lead to costly repairs in order to maintain a safe, secure structure.
Some common signs of foundation malfunction include cracking, settling, and upheaval. In this blog post, we’re going to take a deep dive on these issues. Professional contractors should have comprehensive knowledge of how this damage can occur and what to look for when identifying foundation issues.
There are a number of causes that can lead to a foundation’s degradation, and consulting a licensed structural engineer is the best way to have your specific project examined. Once you have their formal report, you can work with a licensed foundation repair contractor to develop a budget, scope, and schedule for your foundation’s repair needs.
Foundations can be damaged from exposure to harsh elements, like freezing or excessive heat to flooding or other water damage, and even drought.
Identifying the damage before it causes a malfunction is of the utmost importance to ensure everything is safe and intact.
Bear in mind that this is not a comprehensive exploration of all causes or evidence of foundation damage, but it is an excellent resource for identifying some of the most common issues on a foundation project site.
Foundation Issues: Cracks, Fractures, and Fissures
If you begin noticing cracks, gaps, fractures, or fissures in the walls of your building, this could indicate that there is foundation damage, and you may need to conduct a professional inspection.
While some cracks can be caused by other damage, longer hairline cracks that appear near-wall joints, joists, or other structural elements like studs, beams, or load-bearing walls are easily visible without inspecting internal structural elements in most cases.
Cracks are often one of the first indicators of foundation damage. When noticed by property owners and managers prior to a foundation project, it allows them to get ahead of the damage before it causes a hazardous environment or further damage.
Older structures have experienced many seasons of fluctuating weather and exposure to moisture, rain, or even flooding, which likely will cause damage to foundations. Drought can also cause damage because the soil dries out and pulls away from deeper portions of foundations.
Some sinking and shifting is normal in newly constructed foundations, and cracks measuring 1/16″ are very common. If you notice horizontal cracks greater than this size, it is usually an indicator that you may have a damaged foundation.
Some cracks are merely cosmetic and don’t present evidence of a damaged foundation. Still, if they are growing or new cracks begin appearing, it’s best to consult with a structural engineer for a detailed inspection and comprehensive report exploring your foundation’s condition.
Settling or Sinking
Sinking or settling is one of the best indicators that your foundation is malfunctioning and is in need of repair. While this is harder to identify than cracks or fissures, it is an issue that demands greater attention and action because the damage will worsen much more quickly.
Typically, vertical gaps are the first and best indicator that your building is settling or sinking due to foundation damage. This is especially common in larger buildings where soil conditions can vary due to the specific site conditions – creating an imbalance of foundation support and load-bearing capacities.
As one portion of your building begins sinking or settling, it will eventually cause other portions to come down with it. This can cause extensive damage to plumbing, electric, and mechanical systems as well.
Different soil conditions can lead to foundation sinking and settling, and wetter soils are more prone to these issues. Additionally, if your building has experienced heavy rains, this saturation can cause moisture to pool around foundation structures leading to damage.
Foundation Upheaval: What it is and How to Identify it
At a basic level, foundation upheaval is the opposite of sinking or settling.
It is most commonly found in soil conditions that are heavy in clay and exposed to higher levels of precipitation. Because clay expands when it becomes wet, clay can exert tremendous pressure on foundations during heavy rains or if flooding occurs.
Another cause of foundation upheaval occurs if a leak in your plumbing system goes undetected and causes moisture to pool around your foundation systems.
Also, if your building is located in a region where temperatures go below freezing, it can experience frost heave. When water freezes, its volume expands by 9%, which can result in foundation movement as water repeatedly freezes and melts, leading to foundation damage.
Even a few inches of upheaval can cause extensive damage and should be addressed immediately.
If you believe your foundation is damaged and are experiencing any of the above issues, contact a structural engineer and foundation equipment expert to get ahead of potential extensive structural damage or dangerous conditions.