Your home is likely the most significant investment you’ll ever make, and its foundation is the most critical component of its structure. A strong house foundation ensures the stability and safety of your home for years to come. However, even the most well-built house foundations can sink over time, leading to many structural problems. As a homeowner, it’s important to know the warning signs of a sinking foundation and what steps to take to address the issue.
In this article, we’ll provide a guide on what to do when your house foundation is sinking. We’ll cover the causes of a sinking foundation, the steps to take when you suspect your foundation is sinking, and methods to stabilize a sinking foundation. By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to support your home and make informed decisions if you encounter a sinking foundation.
What causes foundation sinking?
A sinking foundation can be caused by various factors. It’s crucial to identify the cause of the issue to determine the appropriate course of action. Below are the common causes of a sinking foundation:
Poor soil conditions
Soil type and quality play a crucial role in the stability of your home’s foundation. If your home was built on soil that cannot support the weight of your home, the soil may compress or settle, leading to a sinking foundation.
Soil erosion is another common cause of a sinking foundation. Erosion can wash away the soil around the foundation, causing it to shift and sink.
Foundation design issues
A poorly designed foundation or incorrect installation can cause a sinking foundation. If the foundation was not built to the correct specifications or the substructures were not dug deep enough, it may not be able to support the weight of the home.
Water can cause significant damage to a foundation. Over time, water can seep into the soil, causing it to compress and expand. Water damage can also occur if there is poor drainage around the foundation or if the gutters and downspouts are not working correctly.
Earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters can cause a foundation to sink. The force and movement of the ground during these events can cause the foundation to shift and sink.
What to do when your house is sinking?
If you suspect your home’s foundation is sinking, it’s crucial to take immediate action to prevent further damage. Here are the steps to take when you suspect your house foundation is sinking:
- Inspection by a professional: The first step is to have a professional inspect your foundation. A qualified foundation contractor or engineer can assess the damage and determine the cause of the issue.
- Determine the severity of the issue: Based on the inspection, the professional can determine the severity of the issue. They can identify whether the foundation needs to be repaired or replaced and the appropriate course of action.
- Create a plan of action: Once you have identified the cause and severity of the issue, it’s essential to create a plan of action. Your professional contractor or engineer can provide you with options and recommendations.
- Obtain necessary permits: Depending on the severity of the issue, you may need to obtain necessary permits from your local government. Your contractor can guide you through the permit process.
- Get an estimate from a qualified contractor: Finally, it’s essential to get an estimate from a qualified contractor. Make sure to get at least three estimates, and don’t automatically choose the lowest bid. Look for a contractor with experience and a good reputation.
Taking these steps can help you address a sinking foundation and prevent further damage.
Methods to stabilize a sinking foundation
Once you have identified that your foundation is sinking, there are various methods to stabilize it. Below are the most common methods:
- Underpinning: Underpinning is the process of adding support to the foundation. This method involves digging underneath the foundation and installing additional piers or columns to support the foundation’s weight.
- Slabjacking: Slabjacking involves injecting a mixture of grout and other materials underneath the foundation to lift it back to its original position.
- Helical piers: Helical piers are long, screw-like steel shafts that are drilled into the ground and anchored to the foundation to provide additional support.
- Soil stabilization with chemical grouting: Chemical grouting involves injecting a specialized material into the soil around the foundation to stabilize it and increase its strength.
The appropriate method for stabilizing a sinking foundation depends on the cause and severity of the issue. It’s crucial to work with a qualified professional to determine the best method for your specific situation.
A sinking foundation can be a daunting issue to face as a homeowner, but taking immediate action is crucial to prevent further damage and ensure the safety of your home. By understanding the causes of a sinking foundation and the methods to stabilize it, you can make informed decisions and protect your investment. Remember to always seek the help of a qualified professional when dealing with foundation issues. Regular maintenance and prevention can also go a long way in ensuring the longevity of your foundation. We hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights and resources to address a sinking foundation. As always, stay proactive and take care of your home.
What are the warning signs of a sinking foundation?
- Cracks in the walls, floors, or ceiling
- Doors and windows that are difficult to open or close
- Uneven or sloping floors
- Gaps between walls and ceilings or floors
- Cracks in exterior brickwork or masonry
- Leaning or tilting chimneys
- Water seepage or standing water in the basement or crawl space
Can a sinking foundation be repaired, or does it need to be replaced?
In many cases, a sinking foundation can be repaired instead of replaced. The appropriate method for repairing a sinking foundation depends on the cause and severity of the issue. For example, if the foundation is sinking due to soil settlement, a contractor may use underpinning, slabjacking, or soil stabilization to address the issue. If the foundation is sinking due to poor construction or design, a more extensive repair may be necessary.
In some cases, a foundation may be beyond repair and will need to be replaced entirely. This is typically a more expensive and time-consuming process than repairing a sinking foundation, so it’s crucial to address the issue as soon as possible to avoid further damage.
How long does it take to repair a sinking foundation?
Minor repairs, such as fixing cracks or filling in voids with concrete, may only take a few hours or a day. However, more extensive repairs, such as underpinning or slabjacking, can take several days or even weeks to complete.
How much does it cost to repair a sinking house foundation?
The cost of repairing a sinking foundation can vary widely depending on the cause and severity of the issue, as well as the method used for repair. Minor repairs, such as fixing cracks or filling in voids with concrete, may cost a few hundred dollars. However, more extensive repairs, such as underpinning or slabjacking, can cost several thousand dollars.
Can I prevent my foundation from sinking?
While it’s impossible to prevent a foundation from sinking entirely, there are steps homeowners can take to minimize the risk of foundation issues. Some of these steps include:
- Proper drainage: Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and direct water away from the foundation.
- Soil management: Maintain proper moisture levels in the soil around your foundation. Too much moisture can cause the soil to expand, putting pressure on the foundation, while too little moisture can cause the soil to shrink, leading to settlement.
- Tree and shrub management: Plant trees and shrubs away from the foundation, and remove any trees or shrubs that are too close. Tree roots can cause foundation damage if they grow too close to the foundation.
- Regular inspections: Have your foundation inspected regularly by a qualified professional. Early detection of issues can help prevent more severe damage and more costly repairs down the road.
What is underpinning, and how does it help stabilize a sinking foundation?
Underpinning is a foundation repair method used to stabilize a sinking foundation by extending the foundation to a deeper, more stable soil layer. It involves excavating soil beneath the foundation and installing piers or piles to support the weight of the foundation.
The process begins by excavating a section of soil beneath the foundation. Steel or concrete piers are then installed into the deeper soil layer and anchored to the foundation. The piers transfer the weight of the foundation to the more stable soil layer, preventing further settlement.
What is slabjacking, and how does it help stabilize a sinking foundation?
Slabjacking is a foundation repair method used to stabilize a sinking foundation. It involves injecting a specialized cement mixture under the foundation to lift and level it.
The process begins by drilling small holes into the foundation slab. A hydraulic pump is then used to inject a cement slurry mixture into the holes. As the mixture fills the voids and compacts the soil beneath the foundation, it lifts the foundation back to its original position. Once the foundation is level, the holes are patched with concrete, and the repair is complete.
What are helical piers, and how do they help stabilize a sinking foundation?
Helical piers are a type of foundation repair method used to stabilize a sinking foundation. They are long, steel shafts with helical blades or plates that are screwed into the soil beneath the foundation. The helical plates act as anchors to prevent further settlement and provide support for the weight of the foundation.
The process begins by excavating the soil around the affected area and installing a bracket onto the foundation. The helical piers are then inserted into the soil and screwed into place until they reach a stable soil layer. Once in place, the piers are attached to the bracket, and the weight of the foundation is transferred to the piers.
What is soil stabilization, and how does it help stabilize a sinking foundation?
Soil stabilization is a foundation repair method that involves treating the soil beneath the foundation to increase its load-bearing capacity and prevent further settlement. The process can involve injecting a chemical grout into the soil to improve its strength, installing vertical or horizontal beams to reinforce the soil, or using specialized techniques to compact or densify the soil. Soil stabilization can be an effective solution for addressing foundation settling caused by weak or unstable soil conditions.
How do I choose the right contractor to repair my sinking foundation?
- Research potential contractors: Look for contractors in your area who specialize in foundation repair and have a good reputation. Check their website, online reviews, and ratings from organizations like the Better Business Bureau.
- Ask for references: Request a list of references from the contractor and follow up with past clients to hear about their experiences.
- Verify licensing and insurance: Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured in your state and has workers’ compensation and liability insurance to protect against accidents.
- Get multiple estimates: Obtain estimates from at least three different contractors and compare their approaches, pricing, and warranties.
Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask the contractor questions about their experience, methods, and timeline for completing the repairs.