Updated on September 2nd, 2021
The foundation is one of the most important parts of any home, if not the most important. The foundation is what supports your home, keeps moisture out, resists movement, and insulates from the heat and cold. While a majority of foundations last a lifetime without any issues, there are instances in which a foundation can fail in some way. Foundation failure can be caused by a variety of issues – poor drainage, climate conditions such as drought, poor soil conditions, and plumbing leaks, just to name a few.
Foundation problems can create a number of issues throughout your home, so knowing the signs of foundation troubles is crucial. The earlier you detect the warning signs of foundation failure, the more easily a foundation repair contractor can address the damage before it gets out of hand.
Whether you’re buying a home and concerned about its foundation, or you’re a homeowner and think you may be dealing with foundation issues, we’re here to help. Here are 11 warning signs of foundation failure that you should keep an eye on.
1. Exterior wall cracks
Look out for cracks along the exterior walls of your home. Small, thin cracks on the surface should be inspected. However, large exterior cracks shaped in a zigzag pattern may be a sign of foundation issues. Additionally, bricks that protrude from the wall should always be checked.
2. Interior wall cracks
You’ll also want to keep an eye out for cracks along the walls inside your home. Cracks that are heading in a diagonal direction off of the corners of door and window frames are a sign you need to get your foundation checked. The larger and longer the crack line is, the bigger the problem. Smaller cracks should be monitored for changes. If they grow larger or quickly, you may have foundation problems.
3. Bowing walls
Bowing walls are another indication of foundation problems. You’ll want to look out for diagonal cracks on the inside or outside of the wall as these cracks can indicate bowing. You can have the bowing issue fixed, but you also need to address the foundation problems causing the bowing so it doesn’t happen again.
4. Uneven and sagging floors
Uneven floors are typically 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 veers towards the center of the room. While this isn’t the most scientific method, it will give you a rough estimation of the problem. Sometimes the sloping is caused by bad structural design, but in most cases, the issue can be traced back to the foundation.
5. Basement and crawl space moisture
If you have cracks in your foundation, you can be sure that water will find them and make its way into your basement or crawl space. These damp spaces can omit a foul, musty odor, which you will likely begin to smell. If you notice this type of odor or visible water in your basement or crawl space, it’s imperative to determine the source of the issue and then take steps to minimize moisture.
6. Crooked doors and door frame separation
When foundations move from their original position it can create a crooked or “out-of-square” door. This means the door frame opening no longer has 90-degree angles at each corner. Out-of-square doors are a common sign of foundation problems.
A simple way to identify this problem is to step back a few feet from the door and examine the top edge of the door in the frame. You should see a consistent gap between the door and the frame all the way across from left to right. If one side has a larger gap than the other, then the door is “out-of-square” and you may have larger foundation issues.
7. Sticking doors or windows
If you’re noticing your windows and doors are becoming harder to close, it could be a sign of foundation problems. As an unstable foundation shifts, the shape of frames can warp. This can cause doors and windows to not close correctly.
8. Gaps between walls, windows, or doors
Besides the fact that you don’t want cold or hot air leaking into your home, gaps between walls, windows, and doors can be an indicator of foundation problems. Look 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, these could indicate a foundation problem.
9. Drywall cracks and nails popping out of the drywall
If you notice the head of a nail peeking out through your drywall and paint, be sure to monitor it. One or two nail pops here or there can be an easy fix. However, if they occur frequently, it could be a sign of larger foundation problems.
10. A cracked or leaning chimney
If your chimney starts leaning or you notice cracks in it, you may think you have an issue with your chimney. However, these warning signs are often indicators of a foundation problem. If you notice your chimney is looking crooked, bring in a professional immediately to get it repaired and reinforced. A tilting chimney poses a serious threat to your family and your home as it can collapse entirely. Equally important, you’ll need to address the foundation issues that are at the root of the problem. If not, your chimney reinforcement may not hold.
11. Cracked floor tile
Of course, floor tiles can be damaged by dropping things on them. However, when this happens, the damage is usually limited to a small area. If you see a crack that runs across multiple tiles or tiles that are lifted off the floor, don’t ignore the issue as there could be a problem with your foundation.
If you notice one or two of these warning signs, don’t panic. All homes settle to some extent. However, if the issues begin to arise more frequently, you may have a larger problem. If you’re concerned about foundation damage, you should contact a foundation repair contractor and have them inspect your home. An experienced professional should be able to find the source of your problem and stop further damage.