Fixing Your Shifting House Foundation (7 Tips from Experts)

May 6, 2022

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Are you a homeowner asking how to fix a shifting house foundation? This information is vital, as foundation repairs can run into the thousands of dollars. In turn, fixing a damaged or shifting foundation quickly can mean avoiding otherwise unnecessary repair costs!

Only a foundation repair contractor near you can advise on needed fixes for your property. However, knowing what causes foundations to shift can help protect your structure and your wallet! Additionally, you might find this information helpful when shopping for a home. Also, discuss this information with a repair contractor so you make the right decisions when it comes to house foundation repair.

What Causes a Foundation to Shift?

Not all foundations shift, settle, crack, or otherwise suffer damage! In turn, you don’t want to assume that a shifting foundation is somehow normal and expected. In truth, a homeowner can often prevent foundation shifting and settling by maintaining their home and property over the years.

First, note that excessive moisture in the soil is the number one culprit when it comes to a settling foundation. Moisture pushes against foundation concrete, risking cracks and other damage. Additionally, foundation concrete or piers and beams absorb that moisture, also risking cracks and weakening.

Also, note that a foundation relies on soil strength for its own stability. In turn, clay soil, sandy soil, or other poor-quality soil compositions might allow a foundation to shift and settle. Soil erosion can also mean not enough strength to support a home’s foundation and its weight.

A home needing foundation repair

Tree roots also risk foundation damage. As roots wrap themselves around that concrete, they keep growing and pushing against the foundation. In turn, that foundation might crack and chip and eventually sink and settle.

Additionally, as a foundation holds up a home’s weight, adding to that weight without strengthening the foundation often means shifting. Imagine trying to continuously stack excessive weight on a wood table. Eventually that weight will become too much for the wood and it will crack. In the same way, adding another story or sunroom without foundation bracing can mean cracking and sinking.

Lastly, consider that poor-quality foundation installation and interior moisture levels also risk eventual damage. Flooding or allowing standing water in the basement, for example, can soften foundation concrete. Trapped moisture in a crawlspace also means pier and beam damage. These issues all risk weakening and resultant sinking.

How Do I Keep My Foundation From Shifting? 7 Pro Tips!

Now that you know the basics of foundation damage, you might better understand how to keep that foundation from shifting. Consider some tips for ensuring a strong, stable foundation under your home and avoiding unnecessary damage.

  1. Since excess moisture often risks foundation damage, ensure proper grading of your property. Grading refers to its overall slope, which should angle toward the street. Without proper grading, soil moisture collects around a home’s foundation. A landscaper can often check a property’s grade and make corrections as needed.
  2. Protect your foundation from the inside as well as the outside. For instance, you might invest in a sump pump, to keep water from collecting inside a basement. Also, ensure drains in laundry rooms and other areas function as needed.
  3. Clean gutters also protect a home’s foundation from damage including sinking! You might not associate gutters with a home’s foundation since they both sit on opposite sides of a home. However, gutters keep rainwater from collecting around foundation concrete. In turn, it’s vital that you keep them clean and clog-free.
  4. Waterproofing is an excellent investment! Waterproof coatings and membranes block and repel moisture both inside and outside your property. Consequently, a foundation is less likely to crack and eventually shift.
  5. Since tree roots can crack and weaken a foundation, ensure you plant trees well away from your home. Also, trim back shrubs and other greens, to keep their roots from damaging a foundation.
  6. Never add to a home’s weight significantly without bracing the foundation. Added weight can include stone floors or counters, a sunroom, deck, and other such features.
  7. Always rely on professional foundation repair for anything other than hairline cracks. Poor-quality fixes and low-grade materials might let moisture seep into a foundation, risking it shifting and settling.

Can You Fix Foundation Problems Yourself?

Homeowners can often fix minor, hairline cracks on their own. For these repairs, use masonry caulk or materials designed for concrete. You can inject these epoxies into the crack and then smooth them over with a putty knife. Lastly, cover them with acrylic paint or one meant for basements.

Also, homeowners can often address minor drainage problems around their property. One method is with a French drain system, which you can buy at any home improvement store. Two, use the back of a rake and create an even grade away from the house to a drain.

Additionally, ensure there are no leaks from underground sprinklers or plumbing pipes. Keeping these in good condition helps reduce the risk of foundation water damage. Also, apply waterproof paints and coatings to exposed foundation concrete. These simple steps help keep a foundation in good repair.

Equipment used for foundation repair.

Is My House Sinking or Settling?

Foundation concrete tends to settle long after it’s installed! Concrete often takes a year to cure completely so that you might notice hairline cracks form during that time. How do you know if these are serious and need repairs versus ones you can ignore?

First note that hairline cracks are those about the size of a sewing needle. Second, consider where the crack forms. Most harmless cracks appear in basement corners or around doors and windows. On the other hand, stairstep or zigzag cracks are often serious and need immediate repairs.

Another way to note if your house is sinking versus settling is to monitor the crack over time. To do this, mark its ends with a pencil and note the date. Then, check on the crack every few weeks or once a month. Consider if it’s spreading and enlarging or seems to stay the same size.

If the crack stays about the same size and you don’t notice moisture seeping through, it probably doesn’t need repairs. However, you might still fill it with concrete grout, to help protect against moisture damage.

Do Houses Ever Stop Settling?

Since most foundation concrete needs a full year to cure, a house might settle over that time. However, once the concrete sets and dries completely, a structure should then stop settling.

On the other hand, a house sinking on a weak foundation or poor-quality soil might not ever stop shifting! Additionally, a cracked or leaking foundation often leads to costly secondary damage around your property. The longer you ignore needed fixes the more extensive that damage, including:

  • Interior and exterior wall and ceiling cracks
  • Gaps around room corners or between drywall panels
  • Popped drywall nails
  • Cracks and gaps around door and window frames
  • Doors and windows that stick
  • Difficulty locking doors and windows properly
  • Wood rot including damaged floorboards and framing
  • Mold and mildew, especially behind walls and under carpeting
  • Roof cracks and leaks, popped shingles and torn flashing
  • Plumbing cracks, leaks, and other damage
  • Bowing basement walls

Why Is the Ground Sinking Around My House?

Subsidence refers to soil or ground sinking. This process differs from ground heave, which is when the ground lifts upward. However, both risk foundation damage especially when left unchecked over the years. In turn, it’s vital that you understand what causes these processes and how to address them!

What makes the ground sink around a house?

Moisture levels in soil affect its overall stability and how it might shift and move. Overly moist soil doesn’t stay compacted as it should, risking erosion or that soil washing away. In turn, sinkholes might form.

On the other hand, overly dry soil can also collapse and sink! Clay soil is especially susceptible to sinking during summertime when the sun’s heat causes it to shrink. Dry soil also lacks strength so that it can settle and sink.

home foundation repair for residence

What causes ground heaving or swelling?

Too much moisture can also cause ground swelling or heaving, not just sinking! One common culprit for excess moisture is removing trees without replacing them. In turn, their roots no longer pull moisture from the soil. Consequently, that moisture builds up and causes ground heaving.

Improper drainage and grading also risk ground heaving and swelling. Also, while clay soil might dry out during hot, dry weather, it can also absorb moisture and then expand. Frozen ground might also expand. These issues all risk foundation damage to nearby structures!

How do I prevent the ground from sinking around my house?

First, limit how many trees and shrubs your have around your house, so you don’t dry out the soil. Second, add drainage systems to pull moisture out of the soil as needed. Above all, keep the soil properly graded away from your home and to the street.

Also, ensure you maintain sprinkler systems and keep gutters clog-free. These simple steps prevent water buildup around your property’s soil. You might also have a foundation repair contractor or landscaping engineer check your property every few years. He or she can offer added suggestions for maintaining the soil properly.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix the Foundation of a House?

Foundation repair costs depend on a foundation’s construction and damage extent! Obviously patching a few cracks is not as expensive as full-scale leveling and other extensive fixes. However, homeowners might be surprised to find out that foundation repair is often more affordable than they assume.

  • Crack filling usually costs just a few hundred dollars. A contractor might inject specialty foams into cracks which then dry and harden. However, these materials often break down over the years so you might need the service repeated.
  • To fix leaks, a contractor will typically excavate around damaged foundation areas and then replace specialty pipes. Next, he or she will usually waterproof the foundation and fill cracks. This process might cost around $4000 but should last indefinitely.
  • Underpinning or pier repairing involves lifting a foundation and then installing pins or piers under or around it. Next, those pins attach to the foundation and keep it in place. Piers or pins usually run $1000 to $3000 each so your total costs depend on the number of pins needed.
  • Foundation leveling usually costs only $500 to $1300 per service. A contractor injects a specialty slurry under a foundation, which then floats it back into position. However, this process isn’t necessarily permanent especially if soil continues to shift.
  • Foundation stabilization uses steel or carbon fiber strips attached to foundation walls. Average costs might run between $4000 and $12,000 for twelve strips.

Should You Buy a House With Foundation Repairs?

Whether you should buy a home with foundation damage depends on needed repairs and their costs. Also, consider the home’s price and other features it offers. For instance, you might be willing to pay for foundation repair for a home in a neighborhood you love. A home with a price low enough to cover foundation repair costs might also be an excellent investment!

Additionally, note that past foundation repairs don’t necessarily make a home a poor buying choice. As an example, underpinning often offers a permanent solution to foundation cracks and other damage. In turn, past underpinning doesn’t necessarily mean that the foundation with break down again in the future.

Above all, note if the current homeowner has taken steps to prevent future foundation damage. Have they waterproofed the foundation or invested in a French drain system? Have they graded the property and installed larger gutters and downspouts? These simple steps can ensure a foundation stays strong and stable over the years.

Lastly, remember to have a foundation inspected by a professional before making any buying decisions. A foundation repair contractor can note damage extent and needed repairs, if any. He or she can also assess past repairs and their overall quality. Consequently, you can make an informed decision about any house you might buy.

Better Foundation Repair San Diego is happy to help explain how to fix a shifting house foundation. Hopefully you found this information helpful! If it’s time for expert fixes on your property, call our San Diego foundation repair contractors. We start every project with a FREE inspection and price quote, and guarantee our work in writing. For more information, call us today!


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