A home’s structure settles over the years due to many forces beyond our control, including unstable soil and weather conditions. If not identified and fixed, this can lead to major structural issues throughout the home – from bowing walls and sagging floors to complete foundation failure.
For home buyers, the results of a professional foundation inspection should be a key component of the buying process. Whether you’re planning to sell your home, looking to buy a new one, or plan to live in your home for years to come, it’s important to understand the key ways to spot foundation issues early. This will save you major time, money, and headaches in the long run.
To identify the start of foundation issues before they grow, here are eight important things to look for:
Cracks along the floors or walls, near windows or doors, or within columns
Sticking doors and windows that become more difficult to open over time
Gaps between windows and doors that leave openings for water and/or pests
A leaning chimney
Sagging or slanting floors and/or bowing basement walls
Mold, rot, or mildew growing in the basement or crawl space, and a musty smelling odor
A sinking front or back stoop or porch
Unexplained water damage in areas throughout the home
According to Realtor.com, there are three main things that cause foundation problems in a home:
deterioration of stem walls
Your home’s stem wall sits on top of its concrete foundation and acts as the base for the home’s construction, with other walls and floors attached to it. That’s why a problem with the home’s foundation can cause cracking and damaged walls and floors throughout the entire structure.
Foundation settlement is the change over time that occurs when soil beneath the home shrinks and becomes unstable. Foundation heave is the opposite, occurring when soil rises over time, usually as a result of settling in other areas. In addition, hydrostatic pressure, water damage from flooding, leaky pipes, or poor exterior drainage can also cause foundation damage.
Time is not the only factor that causes the most common foundation problems. In fact, weather and soil conditions can each play a major role as well. That is why it is important for homebuyers to ask for a professional foundation inspection before purchasing a home. It may seem counterintuitive, but whether a home is new or old is not the main indicator of its hidden foundation problems. Foundation issues, unfortunately, can affect all different kinds and ages of homes.
Costs for Fixing Foundation Problems
The cost to fix foundation problems varies by location across the U.S. and depends on the severity of the issue at hand. That is another reason it is so important to identify the key issues that may be caused by a deteriorating or damaged foundation as early as possible.
The average starting cost nationwide to make foundation repairs, according to Inch Calculator, is $3,500, with advanced repairs costing closer to $10,000. In major metro areas, the average cost is even greater – from $14,000 in Virginia Beach, VA, to $11,000 in Raleigh, NC, and $14,500 in Denver, CO, to $50,595 in Washington, D.C. Again, the severity of the damage and what types of repairs used to fix that damage is going to vary and affect the cost differently.
Buying a Home? Here’s what to know about foundations
If you are looking to buy a home, it is vital to understand how to identify any foundation repairs that are needed before you close on the home. To protect your investment, ask for a professional home inspection that includes the foundation. According to Trulia, many states require homeowners to disclose foundation issues during the selling process.
In addition, if foundation work has occurred on the home, a warranty may be in place, so buyers should ask for all the paperwork on previous home repairs to help protect the investment from current homeowners. If foundation problems are identified, it’s important to make a plan to fix even small issues as soon as possible to prevent them from becoming big ones. Even small cracks or leaks can be a sign of a larger foundation problem and grow in scope quickly. If major repairs are needed, buyers may consider asking the seller for a reduction in price to offset the average cost in the area to fix them.
No matter how knowledgeable you are on identifying foundation issues in a home, it’s best to depend on the experts before making a major new investment. A free inspection from the country's leading foundation repair experts can help you identify what steps to take to secure your foundation and protect your home (or future home).
Editor's Note: This guest post appears courtesy of the foundation experts at Groundworks Inc. To learn more, visit www.groundworkscompanies.com.