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How to Identify and Fix Home Foundation Problems

There are few things more important than understanding the extent of foundation damage before you make your final offer on a home. When it comes to foundations issues, home inspection services can help you understand where problems exist across the house. But those results may not be enough for you to grasp the damage to the foundation. For that, you’ll need a structural engineer to assess the situation for you. This is particularly important because most homeowners policies don’t provide coverage for foundation problems.

There are many reasons for foundation cracks, like settling. How long does it take for a house to settle? Local soil conditions play a big factor. Sometimes, newer homes suffer from foundation problems because the builder took money-saving shortcuts. Because getting to the bottom of foundation trouble is so important, we’ve put together these tips to help you identify and fix foundation issues.

How to Inspect a House Foundation

Small clues like cracks in floor tiles, sagging and dipping in floors, or uneven floors on the upper levels are important signs that there could be foundation issues below. To determine the root of the problem, start by exploring the property.

You’ll want to identify signs of potential structural damage to your house and then call a professional if you find them in a home you’re bidding on.

  • Cinder block foundation problems
  • Signs of a bad center support bearing
  • Cracking at the pier and beam foundations
  • A sagging chimney
  • Stem wall deterioration
  • Foundation heave
  • Long, vertical or horizontal cracks across the foundation wall
  • Basement walls that lean into the space
  • The concrete slab (pad) in the basement is buckling or bowing in in areas
  • Doors and windows don’t open or close easily in the house

Cracks in Foundation Wall of Basement

Because many big problems get their start as small basement foundation cracks, it’s important to know how to spot real issues from the normal settling that any foundation will experience. Typically, vertical, hairline cracks in the foundation are not much of a concern. But large, horizontal cracks that travel along an entire slab can spell trouble. If you find water seeping in through a foundation crack, that’s another sign that bigger issues may be in play.

Water Seeping Through Foundation Wall

If you find water seeping through the foundation slab or wall, it may be that the slope of the soil against the house is forcing rainwater to pool next to your home. You’ll likely note that water seeping through the foundation slab is greatest during and after rain events. Be sure add soil to those low-lying areas to improve the grade so water flows away from the home.

Another source for leaking are water pipes themselves. If your main water line travels through the foundation, water leaks can occur when the pipe is stressed by foundation settling. And hot water slab leaks can occur in much the same way. Water seeping through the slab’s foundation — and even cracks in the cement pad that make up the basement floor — can produce fractures in pipes that lead to leaking.

Cinder Block Foundation Problems

You’ll typically find cinder block foundation problems in homes that have crawl spaces. Cinder block leaks occur when either the block itself or the mortar between them fails and allows water to seep through. Like any other foundation issue, structural engineers should have the final say in determining the best way to repair the damage.

Can Foundation Issues Be Fixed?

Knowing how to fix foundation problems yourself can save you a lot of money. A good contractor will give you advice on how to fix home foundation problems if it’s a small issue. Sometimes, thoroughly cleaning and caulking a small crack is all that’s required to keep water out.

But simply understanding how to fix concrete foundation cracks may not be enough when other issues are of concern. Hydrostatic pressure, or water buildup on the outside of your foundation, can push water through well-sealed cracks.

How Much Does Fixing Foundation Issues Cost?

Like most other home repairs, the cost of fixing a foundation depends on how big the problem is. It’s a good idea to always get several free estimates when considering work on your foundation. Even if the problem’s small, your contractor will be able to comment on the structural engineer’s findings and help guide you through the process.

Most foundation repairs average about $3,500. Here are a few common issues and their related costs:

  • Repairing cracks in the foundation: $400 to $3,000
  • Underpinning or lifting up a sinking foundation: $1,000 $3,000 per pier
  • Major foundation reconstruction: $3,500 to $35,000
  • Complete replacement of a foundation: up to $40,000

If you’re thinking about buying a house that’s been diagnosed with “structural movement,” it may be that tree roots or other forces have pushed a portion of the foundation off its footing, like a tree root. The repair will likely require that the root be removed, and the affected section of the foundation be repaired, and that can get costly. When this is the case, remember to ask your contractor how much does underpinning a foundation cost — in the event that extra steps need to be taken.

If foundation issues exist when bidding on a home, and they’re significant enough, you can have your realtor amend the offer on the home. Either subtract the amount of the repairs from your final offer, or request that cash be placed into an escrow account for the purpose of repairing the foundation. It’s sometimes helpful to get the seller copies of the structural engineer’s findings and the quotes you received from the contractors.

While you’re in the process of considering the purchase of a new home, remember to reach out to your American Family Insurance agent and request a quote. Your agent can also help you find flooding coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program.

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