The foundation is one of the most important structural components of any building. Because the foundation plays a crucial role in the overall construction quality as well as the building stability and durability, it must be strong enough to support the weight of your home and withstand the stresses resulting from temperature fluctuations, slight soil movement, and hydrostatic pressures. For this reason, experts always consider specific elements, including the home design, climate, and type of soil on which the home will sit, when designing and building a foundation. But regardless of how well-designed and well-built a foundation is, or when it’s been constructed, protecting it from specific factors is imperative in order to ensure it will stand the test of time.
Top Reasons Why Foundations Fail
Whether you intend to buy a newly constructed house or have a home built from scratch by a contractor, here are the most common reasons why foundations fail along with some preventive measures that could help you prevent foundation damage.
- Improper curing and drying – Unfortunately, some home builders tend to rush the construction process, occasionally laying foundations in inclement weather without making proper adjustments to the process or beginning to build the walls and ceilings before the foundation cures and dries properly. When a concrete foundation isn’t allowed to cure properly, its strength and durability can be irremediably affected. A considerable loss in the strength of the surface layer along with thermal and shrinkage cracks are just some of the problems that inadequate curing and drying may cause.
Preventive measures: If you’re buying a newly built home, a home inspection could reveal specific signs, such as cracks, gaps and discoloration, which indicate the foundation wasn’t cured properly. In case the foundation shows any signs of damage, you should have a specialized company, like Allied Foundation, assess the home before you buy it. If you’ve hired a contractor to build your home, make sure he complies with the time frame and methods recommended for curing and drying your foundation, according to its thickness and the material used*.
- Too much or not enough water – Clay soil, such as the soil that characterizes Houston and surrounding areas, tends to hold large quantities of water. Besides exerting pressure on your foundation, the excess water in the soil surrounding your home will be slowly absorbed by the foundation and other building materials. Over time, this may lead to water damage within your home. Additionally, too much water in the soil beneath your foundation may cause differential settlement, which could result in cracking, improper fit and function of windows and doors, and even structural instability.
Conversely, during dry spells, the moisture content of your foundation and the soil underneath decreases. When dry conditions persist, the foundation and soil can lose most or all of their moisture. This will cause cracks and gaps to form in the soil underneath and around your foundation. A foundation that’s not supported properly will move and shift around, which could lead to cracks and gaps within its structure.
Preventive measures: One way to prevent water from accumulating around and under your home is to ensure you have a proper drainage system. During drought conditions, it’s important to maintain proper moisture levels in the soil surrounding your foundation.
- Planting trees too close to your home – Because trees and shrubs absorb a lot of water from the soil, planting them too close to your home could cause soil conditions similar to those that occur during droughts. In addition, root systems will try to exploit any gaps and cracks in your foundation in search of oxygen, moisture, water, and nutrients. The deeper the roots will grow into foundation cracks, the wider and deeper the cracks will get.
Preventive measures: Potential foundation damage due to roots can be easily prevented by installing root barrier systems around your foundation.
- Plumbing leaks in the crawlspace – Plumbing leaks can gradually turn your crawlspace into a swamp. What’s more, saturated soil tends to become very soft, meaning that it may fail to support your foundation and home. As your foundation will eventually begin to sink and shift under the weight of your home, its stability could be undermined.
Preventive measures: If you observe any signs that suggest plumbing leaks, such as water pooling in your crawlspace or near your foundation, repair them as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
While the preventive measures mentioned above can significantly lower the risk of foundation damage, don’t hesitate to call our professionals for help if you see any signs of foundation problems! Our specialists can easily identify the underlying causes of foundation problems and are able to expertly and expeditiously handle all the repairs required in order to minimize the damage to your home!
* Some concrete mixes contain additives that can speed up the setting, curing, and drying times of concrete foundations.