Knowing how to fix a shifting house foundation is important, even when you have to use professional support. Homeowners should be aware of shifting foundations that could lead to long-term damage to the whole building. This is why you should attend to the signs quickly and find a suitable repair company that provides the necessary solutions. But sometimes, you may ignore these red flags of shifting foundation. Find out how to identify structural problems and methods of fixing them.
How Do You Know if a House Has Structural Problems?
Signs of house shifting and other structural problems in the foundation are very straightforward. You can easily detect them by changes in the alignment of doors, windows, walls, and floor. Check out whether you see any of the following situations in your home.
- The doors and windows stick out, making it difficult to close them properly. This is because the shifting of the house causes the doors to be out of alignment.
- The walls pull away from the floors and ceilings as the house shifting is not in sync. This causes the walls to separate from the ceiling or floor, which is a dangerous situation.
- Uneven floors are another common occurrence in shifting foundations. The floors tend to slope in the direction where the house settles.
- Cracks in walls are a very straightforward indication of foundation damage. Thin hairline cracks are not that risky, but larger cracks need a professional inspection.
- Walls curved inwards are usually caused due to hydrostatic pressure against the walls. It may also happen as a result of expansive soil.
- Cracked floors could indicate that a house is shifting. However, not all floor cracks are a sign of house shifting. Sometimes the crack may just be the tile caused by something falling on it. But if the floor crack extends all the way to the walls and even the ceiling, it is definitely a major issue.
- If you find torn wallpapers in your house, it could indicate that the wall behind might have shifted.
- Wall rotation occurs when the outside edge of the foundation settles into the soil while the inside edge comes up. This happens when the soil under the foundation saturates with water.
- Sometimes, you can also see diagonal cracks that run from the corners of the doors and windows to the ceiling. Hairline cracks could indicate that it’s a normal settling but larger cracks need a professional inspection.
- If the molding has separated from the wall and ceiling of your house, it could be an indication of uneven shifting of the house.
- Stairstep cracks in the brick walls are another clear sign of foundation issues.
- Sometimes, the chimneys and porches could separate from the rest of the house. This could either be a problem with the foundation of the chimney or the whole house.
Why Does a House Shift?
Before finding out how to fix a shifting house foundation, it is important to know the reason behind the house shifts. All structures built on the soil tend to settle into the soil by some amount. The foundation settlement is a common occurrence in most cases. It is not a problem as long as the whole foundation settles uniformly. But problems arise if the structure experiences differential settlement. In this case, the shifting occurs only in a part of the foundation causing structural damage due to stress on the foundation. This happens because the soil under a specific part of the foundation cannot support the weight of the building.
Causes of Uniform Foundation Settlement
The weight of the building on the soil is the direct cause of uniform settlement. If the building is on the same type of soil and with proper drainage around the foundation, the weight distributes evenly. Then there will be a slight settlement which is completely normal. Uniform settlements can still cause slight cracks, but they do not affect the structural integrity of a building.
Causes of Differential Foundation Settlement
Differential foundation settlement or house shifting occurs due to various reasons. The following are some of the most common causes of differential settlement.
- The building needs to be built on compacted soil. But if the soil is disturbed and then improperly compacted before the construction, it may cause shifting issues afterward.
- Expansive soil is a specific type that increases its volume when wet and shrinks when dry. Some soils can even swell up to 10%, which causes soil movement. This adds stress to the building over time and causes structural issues.
- Clay soil and expansive soil types undergo changes in volume during certain weather conditions. The soil expands during wet seasons and contracts during dry seasons. This causes a significant impact on the foundation.
- Excess water collecting around the foundation due to poor drainage softens the ground. As a result, the foundation tends to settle on a specific region of the land.
- If you dig the land too close to the house for a specific construction, such as a swimming pool, it can also cause the foundation to settle. This causes differential settlement leading to various structural concerns.
- Natural disasters such as earthquakes can also cause this. Even if you don’t experience powerful earthquakes, even the minor shifting of the land can cause a part of the foundation to sink in.
- Floods bring a very high force of water pressure to the foundation walls. It can damage the buildings even if the water is moving slowly.
- Soil creep is another common occurrence in houses built on hillsides. This makes the soil slide down eventually over time.
What to Do if Your House is Shifting?
You should contact a foundation repair specialist as soon as you see any signs of foundation damage. Get them to inspect your house, and they will explain to you the possible recovery options and give you an estimate of the foundation shifting repair cost. You can consider hiring a certified contractor for the repair. Make sure that they are properly licensed, insured and that they offer a warranty for the repair. The following are the most common methods adapted for foundation repairs.
Resistance piers or push piers are made of heavy-duty steel. They are driven down to the soil with hydraulic pressure and the weight of the building. Then hydraulic jacks are placed over them to lift the structure to the initial location. Push piers are used for denser soils.
As the name implies, helical piers consist of curved steel plates welded to the shaft of a steel pole. These helical structures are then spun down to the soil. The amount of torque needed to drive these piers into the soil determines the load-bearing capacity. After driving in the piers, the hydraulic jacks are placed on them to raise the structure back to its previous state. These are good with soft surface soils.
Drilled Concrete Piers
This is the ideal way to fix soil creep, which is common for houses built on hillsides. Drilled concrete piers drilled deep into the bedrock beneath the foundation can overcome this differential settlement.
These are resistance piers or helical piers that are installed through small holes bored into the floor. Then anchors are inserted through these holes to reach the soil. Steel brackets then fix the anchors to the floor slab. These slab piers are also used in interior slabs for additional support. They are placed around the perimeter of the foundation that is lifted up with piers.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does It Cost to Adjust a Foundation?
The foundation repair costs differ with the severity of the issue, home size, accessibility, soil stability, labor, permits, and material needed. Additional costs and considerations could add up based on unseen obstacles. The average price ranges of common repairs are as follows.
Foundation repair costs by issue:
|Foundation crack repair||$250 – $800|
|Settling and sinking foundation repair||$500 – $3,000|
|Foundation leak repair||$2,000 – $7,000|
|Bowling wall repair||$4,000 – $15,000|
Foundation repair costs by type:
|Method of Repair||Cost|
|Foundation jacking||$600 – $1,600|
|Basement underpinning or piering||$1,000 – $3,000 per pier|
|Foundation wall stabilization||$4,000 – $12,000|
|Foundation sealing||$2,000 – $7,000|
How to Fix Foundation Problems Yourself?
You can only repair smaller surface cracks and minor foundation issues by yourself. If the cracks in the foundation are larger than ¼ inches, you should definitely get them inspected by a structural engineer. If not, get the help of a professional foundation repair company to assess the condition of your foundation.
What is the Best Foundation Repair Method?
Among the various methods of foundation repairs, using steel piers is the one that most structural engineers recommend for a home. It is a firm and proven method of stabilizing a foundation that has shifted due to unstable ground. But you need to get a professional to examine your house so that they will determine the best option depending on all the conditions.
You are now aware of how to fix a shifting house foundation. You should never put off foundation repairs, as they can worsen over time. This is a major concern that requires immediate attention as soon as you identify any signs. Most of these cases are repairable when identified early. Find the right solutions by contacting a professional service provider to learn more about before and after the foundation repair.