Sinking Foundations vs Normal Settling: When to be Concerned

a person holding a tablet with a house on it

Nothing threatens the integrity of your Houston home in such an alarming way as when you notice signs of foundation distress. In this climate, with its interchange of drought and flood (combined with local soil types), foundation settling can often be quite severe.

The other side of the coin, however, is that all homes settle to a degree, and you don’t want to overreact to merely normal settling. At the same time – it would be far worse to ignore a sinking foundation and fail to get timely foundation repair work done!

How do you tell the difference? Here are 5 signs to look for that may indicate a sinking slab and the need for immediate remediation:

1. Problems With Your Walls

If you notice stair-step or diagonal cracks running out from doors, windows, or other locations throughout your Houston home, that is a big sign of foundation problems.

If these are very small and infrequent, it may not be a major issue, but if they are a quarter-inch or wider, grow significantly over time, or are in a concrete wall – it’s definitely time for professional foundation repairs.

More rarely, abnormal settling can also cause walls to rotate so that their direction, especially at inside corners, becomes skewed.

2. Malfunctioning Windows/Doors

A second sign to look for concerns your windows and doors. Perhaps, some of your doors are tight, uneven, and hard to open and close? There may also be big gaps between the door and the door frame.

And windows may have difficulty opening and closing too. Of course, if your windows are old, that could be the problem, but combined with other signs, jammed windows are a clue. 

3. Flooring Problems

When foundations sink and badly shift, the flooring may rise or fall as a result. High, low, uneven, cracked, or warped flooring throughout your Houston home is yet another key warning sign to be aware of.

As the flooring rests parallel to your foundation slab, it’s obvious that one will greatly affect the other. Major floor issues should not be ignored.

4. Plumbing Line Breaks

There are several different kinds of foundation settlements, and any of them can be expected to produce minimal effects. But when foundation movements are severe enough to break a plumbing line, you know it’s a problem that needs immediate attention.

There are very few nights cold enough during the year in Houston to freeze a pipe, so line breaks are usually connected to foundation sinking.

5. Cracks In Brick & Cement

Exterior cracks on bricks or on a cement slab are a tell-tale sign. If you see that the lines are spreading out all over the foundation, versus being localized on one or two bricks, then you are looking at a structural problem instead of just a cosmetic one.

Also, you are in the danger zone when foundation crack lines run through mortar and follow the seams across multiple bricks. That is indicative of a widespread problem that is affecting your entire slab.

Houston homes are exposed to a climate that is apt to make the surrounding soil shrink and swell again and again, which gradually stresses the foundation more and more until it begins to sink and/or deteriorate. A few inches of settlement, if evenly distributed and not causes other major problems, might be tolerable, but even then it is wise to get a professional foundation inspection done without delay.

For more information on what to expect from a normal foundation and when you need to take action, or for a free foundation repair estimate, contact Allied Foundation in Houston, Texas, today!

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