How to Evaluate and Repair Cracked Foundation
LESLIE: Nadeem in Missouri is on the line with a foundation question. How can we help you today?
NADEEM: I do have a slab home and I’m having some problem of – one side of my house is sinking down. I keep seeing the problem. It’s happening – it’s been a year now. And I see cracks and every day, there is something new. And I realized, with the help of a friend of mine, that he told me this is a sinking-foundation problem. So my question is – what option I do have, either going ram-jack this side of the house or putting a foaming in the foundation so it can lift that part of the house. And is that going to affect the rest of the house or it will help?
TOM: So, Nadeem, tell me what you’re seeing when you say these cracks. Are you seeing them in the floor of this house or where are you seeing the cracks?
NADEEM: I see them in the ceiling and I see them in the doorframe – the front-door doorframe. You can see, when you have a really tight door, you would see kind of a – you have to have an equal gaps – the whole rectangle. But this one is – you can see one side of the door is going down and it’s getting – time and time it’s getting harder to open the door because that frame is kind of pushing down.
TOM: OK. So you’re assuming that the foundation is moving because of what you’re seeing in the ceiling and the door. First of all, I would say that there’s hardly a home in America that doesn’t have the kinds of cracks and shifting that you’re talking about. And it doesn’t always mean that the foundation is moving. There could simply be a very poorly installed door.
The cracks in drywall – cracks above the corners of doors and windows is normally the place where cracks show up. Typically, what happens is people will try to spackle them again and again and again. And that just doesn’t work because as the house expands and contracts, the crack reforms. So what you’re telling me does not confirm to me that you actually have foundation movement.
If you do have foundation movement, the way to fix this is to do none of what you’re suggesting. The first thing you should be doing is contacting a structural engineer. This is the kind of work that you want supervised by a structural professional, for a couple of reasons. First of all, you want to make sure that you do what you have to do, and only what you have to do, and not do in excess of that or do something that could cause further damage. You want to do the right job.
Secondly, when you have a structural issue like this, you want to preserve the value of your home. If you were to do this work without the guidance of a structural professional, then let’s say 5 or 10 years from now you decide to sell the house and it’s learned that there was this structural issue. By whatever means it comes up that there was this issue, if you just say, “Well, I kind of figured it out with my buddy and we did this and that and it was fine,” that’s not going to make me really comfortable as a homeowner.
But if you said to me, “I saw these indications of a structural problem. I hired a licensed structural engineer. He inspected the property and he gave me this report of this plan with a set of instructions that said exactly what had to happen. Then, based on that advice, I got the professional to do the work.”
And then you do this next step, which many people forget: have that same structural engineer come back and certify that the work was done correctly. That creates sort of a pedigree, right, sort of an official document that shows, cradle to grave, what happened from diagnosis to the repair. And that is something that any future buyer can feel very comfortable with knowing that the job was done right.
So, I would say that if you continue to have ongoing concerns, what I would suggest that you do first is to have it inspected by a structural engineer to determine whether or not this is just normal movement in the house or you do potentially have an issue. And then take it from there.
I wouldn’t guess about this. I wouldn’t call contractors in. Everyone’s going to have a different opinion and you’re not necessarily going to get the straight scoop. I would spend time researching engineers that do this kind of work and get the opinion from them first. Let them do an on-site inspection. I think that’s the best way to proceed and get it right. Does that make sense, Nadeem?
NADEEM: I guess, yeah. And I’m with you on that. But usually, we – where could I find these? Like just Google them or do you recommend some company I can go with?
TOM: Structural engineers, you should be able to find them like you find any other professional. You can find them through an online search. You can find them through professional referrals of people in your area. You may be able to use a service, like HomeAdvisor, to find an engineer that does that kind of work. You could speak with architects in the area, because they often have relationships with structural engineers. Because very often, when new homes are designed, there’s a structural engineering component to it.
But do a little legwork and you’ll find the best guy that way.
NADEEM: Perfect. OK. Thank you so much for the advice.
TOM: You’re welcome, Nadeem. Good luck with that project. Let us know how you make out.