Is it safe to live in a house with foundation problems? Probably. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. This is because foundation problems worsen over time, which means you’ll pay more for the repair if you wait.
Houses with foundation problems usually aren’t in danger of collapse. Most houses become unsafe to live in because of a sudden and catastrophic event, usually a natural disaster. If that happens, you’ll know about it. The truth is, many people live in houses with foundation problems without realizing it. Foundation problems can be present for years before they start causing visible problems in the rest of the house.
In this article, we’re going to go over the common signs of foundation problems, foundation repair methods, signs your home might have a foundation problem, how to prevent foundation issues, and more.
You can rest easy knowing that foundation problems are not unusual. Many homes experience them at some point, and most foundation problems can be repaired. Foundation problems rarely get to the point where the entire foundation needs to be replaced. While this does happen, within the last 39 years we’ve seen only two cases where a foundation needed to be replaced.
Strange as it might seem, water causes most foundation problems, especially if the house sits atop soil with a lot of clay in it. This type of soil – called expansive soil – swells when it soaks up moisture and shrinks by that same amount when it dries out. This swelling-shrinking cycle is seasonal and creates movement under and against the foundation. Over time, this can cause foundation problems.
Homeowners can usually prevent most foundation problems by simply getting groundwater under control. More on this later. First, let’s go over some of the most common signs of a foundation problem.
For more information, see How Missouri Soil Affects Your Kansas City Area Home.
Common signs a house has foundation problems include:
For more information, see 4 Red Flags You Might Have Foundation Damage.
While homeowners should know the telltale signs of foundation trouble, a foundation inspection performed by either a foundation repair contractor or a structural engineer will uncover problems before they become obvious to a homeowner. A professional foundation inspection will also be able to tell you if it’s safe to live in a house with foundation problems.
If a foundation repair contractor does the inspection, they’ll be able to give you a repair estimate as well. Most foundation repair contractors will inspect a foundation for free if the homeowner thinks there’s a problem.
Some homeowners worry that an unscrupulous contractor might recommend unnecessary repairs. If this is a concern, you can always hire a structural engineer to perform the inspection and write a report. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay for the inspection if a structural engineer does it.
You should get your foundation inspected if you notice a problem, if you’re thinking about buying or selling a house, or if you’re planning an addition to your home.
Push piers, helical piers, and slab piers are three methods for underpinning a foundation. Underpinning means anchoring the foundation to strong soil that can support it.
Push piers – Push piers are the most popular foundation repair method used today for foundations settling unevenly into the soil.
During installation, steel brackets are attached to the foundation. Using hydraulic pressure and the house’s weight, the steel push piers are driven through the brackets and down into the ground until they hit load-bearing soil. Once the push piers are in place, hydraulic jacks raise and level the house. When the hydraulic jacks are removed, the push piers stay in place.
Helical piers – Although helical piers are often used for new construction projects requiring a deep foundation, they’re also used to lift and stabilize existing structures. Their name comes from the fact that they’re shaped like giant corkscrews. Helical piers are turned into the ground until they reach the load capacity determined by a geotechnical engineer. Hydraulic jacks then lift the house.
Slab piers – A slab pier can be either a helical pier with a bracket at the top that allows you to lift a floor or a push pier. Slab piers are spaced 5 feet apart and require cutting holes in the concrete slab. The piers are either screwed or pushed to resistance, and then the slab is lifted to relevel the concrete floor.
Other foundation repair methods include,
Carbon fiber straps – Carbon fiber straps are ten times stronger than steel and great for reinforcing walls from the inside. Carbon fiber straps allow us to stabilize your bowing wall without tearing up your yard and landscaping.
Wall plate anchors – Wall plate anchors – made from galvanized steel – are another non-disruptive method for repairing and stabilizing a bowed and cracked foundation wall. In most cases, the installation process can be completed in just a day.
Yes, in most cases. Your foundation repair contractor will let you know how to prepare and what you’ll need to do while the repair is in progress.
With foundation replacement utilities may need to be disconnected, hot water tanks removed, etc. Therefore, taking care of foundation problems before they escalate is key.
The cost of foundation repair depends on various factors, including the type of problem, the severity, chosen repair solution, your geographical location, foundation type, the size of your home, and ease of access. Repairing a minor foundation crack using polyurethane will cost less than underpinning with piers (described above). Foundation repair using piers usually starts at $10,000-$25,000 for a single family home in Kansas City, Missouri.
The only way to know how much it will cost to repair a foundation problem is to ask a foundation repair contractor for an inspection and repair estimate. Don’t delay. If you catch a foundation problem early, it will almost always be less expensive to fix.
Repairing a foundation crack using polyurethane injection only takes 2-3 hours. However, repairing a bowing basement wall could take from 3-4 days and underpinning a foundation using piers can generally take around 4 days.
Since most foundation problems are caused by water, homeowners can sometimes prevent foundation problems by getting groundwater under control. Here are a few ways to do that:
So, is it safe to live in a house with foundation problems? Probably, for a little while, at least. While you’re home isn’t likely to collapse, that doesn’t mean you should try to live with a foundation problem. An unrepaired foundation problem will get worse over time and could lead to unexpected and dangerous situations. For example, foundation problems can prevent doors and windows from opening. This prevents easy escape from the house in case of an emergency. Foundation problems can also cause gas leaks.
Any signs of foundation trouble should be checked out by a professional and then, if necessary, repaired right away.
If you think your home might have a foundation problem and you’re in our service area, contact us today for a free estimate.