For most property owners, their home or commercial property is their largest investment. Knowing the signs of that a foundation is sinking is essential to protect the structural integrity of such an important investment.
While a leaning chimney is a possible sign of a sinking foundation, a leaning building means the foundation’s sinking is significant.
Potential causes for concern are cracks in the slab, in the chimney, in the tile over a concrete floor, in columns, and on interior walls. Stair-step cracks in the brick exterior that are bigger than a quarter inch or on a bowing wall usually are the result of undue structural pressure in that area. The most problematic fractures are horizontal cracks on the basement walls or in the brick exterior. They may indicate excessive pressure on the foundation.
Door and Window Problems
When previously well-functioning doors and windows begin to stick or appear misaligned, a sinking foundation could be the cause. Doors that stop latching and double doors that no longer meet in the center are also a cause for concern. New gaps around exterior windows and doors could indicate the foundation is sinking.
Sagging floors in the living area are associated with sinking foundations in homes that have a pier and beam foundation. In contrast, an out of level floor can signal a foundation issue in a home with a concrete slab foundation. A sagging crawlspace floor is a problem with either type of foundation.
Kitchen countertops and cabinets that pull away from the wall indicate a foundation problem. A sinking porch and bowed basement walls are additional signs of a sinking foundation.
A house or building that has experienced flooding needs to be examined for foundation issues. A wet crawlspace and water collecting near the base of the building can also be signs of a sinking foundation.
The Foundation Fails the Property Owner’s Inspection
A property owner can inspect the foundation for problems. Weaknesses to look for include crooked posts or ones that aren’t standing firmly on their concrete supports. A post’s support for the beam above it should be strong. Posts with rotting wood are another issue. With a concrete foundation, chipping or flaking merit further examination. A property owner should hit the concrete with a screwdriver. A good foundation won’t incur any damage, but a problematic one will break.