Updated September 2, 2021
The foundation is one of the most important parts, if not the most important, of any home. The foundation supports your home, keeps moisture out, withstands movement and insulates against heat and cold. While the majority of foundations will last a lifetime without any problems, there are instances when a foundation can fail in some way. Foundation failure can be caused by a wide variety of problems – poor drainage, climatic conditions like drought, poor soil conditions, and leaks in the pipelines, to name a few.
Foundation problems can cause a number of problems throughout your home, so knowing the signs of foundation problems is important. The sooner you spot the warning signs of foundation failure, the easier it is for a foundation repair company to fix the damage before it gets out of hand.
If you buy a house and are concerned about the foundation, or you are a homeowner and you think you are dealing with foundation issues, we are here to help. Here are 11 foundation failure warning signs to watch out for.
1. Cracks in the outer wall
Look for cracks along the outside walls of your home. Small, thin cracks on the surface should be inspected. However, large external cracks shaped in a zigzag pattern may be a sign of Foundation problems. Also, bricks protruding from the wall should always be checked.
2. Cracks in the inner wall
You should also look for cracks on the walls in your home. Cracks running diagonally from the corners of the door and window frames are a sign that you need to have your foundation checked. The bigger and longer the tear line, the bigger the problem. Smaller cracks should be monitored for changes. If they grow taller or grow quickly, foundation problems can arise.
3. Bow walls
Arched walls are another indication of foundation problems. Look for diagonal cracks on the inside or outside of the wall as these cracks can indicate sagging. You can have the arch fix the problem, but you also need to solve the foundation problems that make the arch so it doesn't happen again.
4. Uneven and sagging floors
Uneven floors are usually an indication that the foundation is settling or shifting underneath. If you suspect your floors are uneven or sagging, roll a marble across the floor and see if it takes a straight path or turns towards the center of the room. While this is not the most scientific method, it does give you a rough idea of the problem. Sometimes the slope is caused by poor construction, but in most cases the problem can be traced back to the foundation.
5. Basement and crawl space moisture
If you have cracks in the foundation, you can be sure that water will find them and get into your basement or Crawl space. These damp rooms can give off a putrid, musty odor that you are likely to start smelling. If you notice this type of odor or visible water in your basement or crawl space, it is imperative to identify the source of the problem and then take steps to minimize the moisture.
6. Leaning doors and door frame separation
If foundations move from their original position, it can create a crooked or "un-square" door. This means that the door frame opening no longer has a 90 degree angle at every corner. Non-square doors are a common sign of foundation problems.
An easy way to spot this problem is to step back a few feet from the door and examine the top of the door in the frame. You should see a continuous gap between the door and the frame from left to right. If one side has a bigger gap than the other, the door is “out of the right angle” and you may have bigger problems with the foundation.
7. Gluing doors or windows
If you find that your windows and doors are getting harder and harder to close, it could be a sign of foundation problems. If an unstable foundation shifts, the shape of the frames can warp. Doing so can prevent doors and windows from closing properly.
8. Gaps between walls, windows or doors
In addition to the fact that you don't want cold or warm air to enter your home, gaps between walls, windows and doors can be an indication of foundation problems. Check for gaps in other interior areas of your home as well. If there are gaps above your kitchen cabinets or between the wall and countertop, this could indicate a problem with the foundation.
9. Drywall cracks and nails jumping out of drywall
If you notice the head of a nail through your Drywall and color, be sure to monitor it. A nail or two pops here or there can be an easy solution. However, if they happen frequently, it can be a sign of major foundation problems.
10. A cracked or crooked chimney
If your chimney is tilting or you notice cracks, you may think you have a problem with your chimney. However, these warning signs are often indicators of a foundation problem. If you notice your chimney looking crooked, get a professional right away to have it repaired and reinforced. A tilting chimney poses a serious threat to your family and home as it can collapse completely. Equally important, you need to address the basic issues that are causing the problem. If not, your chimney reinforcement may not hold up.
11. Cracked floor tile
Of course, floor tiles can be damaged if they fall down. However, when this happens, the damage is usually limited to a small area. If you see a crack running across multiple tiles or lifting off the ground, don't ignore the problem as there could be a problem with your foundation.
If you notice one or two of these warning signs, don't panic. All houses settle to some extent. However, if the problems occur more frequently, you may have a bigger problem. If you are concerned about foundation damage, you should contact a foundation repair company and have your home checked out. An experienced professional should be able to identify the source of your problem and prevent further damage.