How Sound is your House Foundation
How sound is the house foundation of a home? When it comes to house shopping, the type of foundation on a house will very likely be determined by where it’s located in the US.
The three main types of home foundations are slab, crawl space, and pier and beam.
A slab foundation sounds just like it is – a big slab of flat concrete on which a property is built. A slab foundation doesn’t require a lot of prep on the part of the builder, and it is favored in warmer climates because it doesn’t do well in areas that freeze in the winter.
A crawl space foundation is a foundation that affords a small amount of space between the home and the ground. Typically built using cinder blocks or bricks, the home is elevated about two feet off the ground. Crawl spaces are favored in areas that get a lot of rain or in areas where water can accumulate.
Pier and beam foundations are favored by many builders — because they are less expensive than other foundations — and they’re especially favored in areas not prone to earthquakes or hurricane-force winds. This foundation uses wood posts or concrete piers that are set deep into the earth and hold the weight of the structure.
Whether you’re an owner of an older home, or searching for a new home, these are the most common signs of foundation issues to look for:
It’s normal for a house or property to ‘settle,’ which can cause minor small hairline fissures in any foundation, but if you can see major horizontal cracks in things like brick exteriors or concrete blocks, it’s more than just the natural settling of the home. If you see major cracks in the walls, floors, or stairs of a home, it’s highly likely the foundation could be in trouble.
Again, homes and properties will have a natural settling period, which means the foundation will sink, but if a home is visibly sunk into the ground or one side is lower than the other there’s a foundation issue that could require extensive repair. Another tell of foundation settling or sinking, is sagging or uneven floors. If a house has major issues with uneven floors or floors that sag in certain spots, the foundation may be in trouble.
Heavy moisture in any area of a home is bad news, but moisture in a crawl space or under a home sometimes goes unnoticed. If a crawl space is damp and there’s a musty or moldy smell in a home, or you live in a climate that gets a lot of year-round rain, it’s very possible there is an issue under the house. Not only can excessive moisture hurt a foundation, it can also attract termites and cause wood beams to rot.
A home can settle or sink, and it can also move in an upward direction. Foundation upheaval, which mainly impacts slab foundations, can be caused by expanding and contracting soil, trapped moisture, and frost heaving. If you see a home that looks like it’s higher in certain places, it could have foundation upheaval.
Another indicator is counters or cabinets that are separating from the wall and/or windows and doors that no longer shut or open properly. It can be hard for homeowners to see walls shift (because it could look like everything is fine from the outside), but all of the above is a very visible signal of an immediate issue.
If you have any questions about the foundation of your home, or a home you’re looking to buy, find a trusted professional (ask your local real estate agent for a referral!) to help you navigate the waters of home foundations.