Most homeowners take great pride in their homes and devote a lot of time and money to making the home look attractive and feel comfortable. Inside and outside, homeowners paint, patch, repair and remodel to keep their home safe and sound and keep a critical eye out for damage, wear and other problems.
One of the biggest and potentially most harmful problems a home and its owner can encounter, though, doesn’t occur in plain sight, either inside or out, but rather in a place where almost nobody sees and nobody notices until it’s too late. Where’s that? The foundation, of course.
Foundation damage can range from minor to catastrophic, with several stops in between. The least worrisome is a non-structural crack, which may allow water to seep into the basement but doesn’t threaten the structure itself and is easily repaired. At the other end of the spectrum is a dropped foundation where a significant portion of the foundation drops into a void in the soil below and sends waves of damage through the foundation and the house it supports.
But, how does this happen?
So what creates those voids that cause foundations to drop? Here are 5 causes:
1. Weather – Rain saturates the soil around a foundation and increases the pressure that the soil exerts on foundation walls and increases the chances that the wall will move. Dry conditions, such as extended drought, pull moisture from the soil and cause soil to become compacted and create spaces that allow walls to move and foundations to drop. Extended periods of extreme cold can also cause soil to expand close to the surface and apply pressure to the foundation.
2. Landscaping – Plants and trees that are growing near the house will quickly pull moisture from the soil around the foundation during times of dry weather and drought. The soil compacts and pulls away from the foundation when it dries out and permits foundation walls to move as the pressure lessens. It also creates compacted sections of soil under the foundation and allows these unsupported parts of the foundation to drop.
3. Soil – Clay soil is described as “expansive” because it reacts to water and expands when saturated and contracts when desiccated. Other soils, like sand and loam, don’t absorb water at the same rate as clay, drain better and don’t expand and contract nearly as much. Clay soil is the most common type in the general area around Chicago and its suburbs.
4. Construction – Modern poured concrete foundations are constructed with steel reinforcement and older foundations without it, or those that may have been built with inadequately mixed concrete may be sufficiently weak to be at risk for greater damage by the movement of soil that is created by hydration and desiccation. Masonry foundations are held together with mortar and the resulting numerous weak points in the wall may crack and create wall movement. Also, shallow foundations or any structure built close to the surface, like additions, porches and garages, will move more easily than deep foundations.
5. Drainage – Homes that don’t have a functioning drain tile system, such as where an older system has broken down, will not drain off water around the foundation that can saturate the soil around the foundation footings.
Regardless of the reason, a homeowner who spots the signs of a foundation dropping will need the advice and services of an experienced foundation repair contractor. At U.S. Waterproofing, our foundation repair experts employ engineering data and the latest techniques and products to strengthen and stabilize dropped foundations and restore homes to safe and livable condition. Why not ask for a free consultation?
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