If you've started noticing signs of a failing foundation, you're probably wondering how much time you have before the issue becomes a serious hazard. Knowing how and when to treat your foundation to prevent future damage is an important part of keeping your home safe and avoiding costly repairs in the future. We'll guide you through the most common danger signs so you'll know when it's time to call for professional help.
Tiny Stress Cracks
Stress cracks often occur in the surface of your foundation as the seasons change and the soil beneath your Houston home expands and contracts against your outer walls. For the most part, if the cracks remain small (under 1/4" wide) you won't have to worry too much. The best thing to do is measure the width of the crack at both ends so you'll be able to track it if it gets wider in the future. While there are commercially available sealants and patches available for your foundation, most experts recommend waiting one full year before you attempt to repair the damage. This is because the crack will continue to widen and expand through all four seasons until it stabilizes. Then you can fill the crack with sealant and the crack won't expand any further. Some settling over time is completely natural, especially in new construction, so if you start seeing tiny cracks after you move in, just keep an eye on them but don't panic.
Cracks Over 1/2"
If you are noticing cracks that are more than 1/2" wide at their widest point, it could be a sign of danger. Cracks of this size usually indicate that there is serious damage all the way through your foundation. Large cracks are often accompanied by heaving so that one side of the cracked foundation will sit noticeably higher than the other. This uneven surface is easy to detect and should serve as a warning sign. A structural engineer will need to assess the extent of the damage and create a plan of action for lifting and leveling the foundation back into place before the situation worsens.
Cracks in Walls and Floors
Another sign of danger is long horizontal or vertical cracks in your drywall or outer wall surfaces. These large cracks indicate that the foundation has applied enough pressure to your drywall to cause it to bow and crack. Any additional pressure added to the wall could cause the walls to collapse or shift dangerously. Most people notice that they have stuck doors and windows long before their walls reach this dangerous level, but if you notice that drywall cracks are appearing, it is past time to call in a structural engineer. They will need to relieve pressure on the walls and support the structure to prevent the walls from shifting sideways or breaking outward.
In some cases, it is the flooring that shows the first signs of foundation failure. If you have heavy ceramic or other tiles on your floor, a foundation crack may cause your tiles to crack all the way through and become loose. This happens when the pressure from the foundation exceeds the tensile strength of the tiles where they are grouted down. You may also notice that your floor slopes away from the crack. This will need to be lifted and leveled by a professional before you can replace the tiles.
For the most part, small cracks associated with a settling foundation are completely normal. However, if left untreated, those small cracks can develop into major problems and create a dangerous situation inside your home. When you notice cracks around your foundation or walls, make sure to record their size so you can monitor them for future growth. If a crack exceeds 1/2" in width, or the cracks have made their way into your walls, call Allied Foundation today to schedule a consultation.