How to Diagnose and Repair Your Home Concrete Foundation

Cracks in a concrete foundation When examining a winning sports team or a successful corporation, one of the main factors for greatness is a solid foundation. This could constitute a star quarterback and a detail oriented coach or an aggressive sales force, talented engineers and a respected boss.

Your team building success starts with a strong base that will not crumble.

The same is true with your home – you can spend thousands of dollars remodeling and having each room professionally decorated but it’s all for naught if you haven’t built upon a solid concrete foundation. When building a new house, it’s best to invest as much money as possible in a thick, waterproof, and environmentally friendly foundation but if you’re experiencing concrete cracks in an already laid home substructure, there are a number of repairs that can be made to get the house back on the level.

The Job of a Foundation

There’s a reason the old sages around town proclaim that “a home is only as good as it’s foundation” because truer words have never been spoken. The concrete, stone, or brick base of the house is always working. For instance, the foundation is what holds the home to the ground as it transfers gravity loads and guards the structure against uplift on windy days.

The groundwork is also constantly battling against pressure from soil, hydraulics, and frost expansion so the house doesn’t slide laterally. This is all the while keeping water, gases, and rodents out of the home and serving as a extra storage space, a utility room, or a ‘man cave’.

Common Foundation Problems

Even the most sturdily built foundation may begin to show signs of wear over time, simply because there’s so much ecological and gravitational pressure being applied on a constant basis. The most common problem that occurs in a substructure is cracks caused by soil expansion and contraction from climate changes on a yearly basis.

It’s estimated that ¼ of all United States homes have some sort of foundation problems from changing soil. Foundations will shift over time no matter what but excessive changes can be a cause for concern. These warning signs will give an idea of the severity of the foundation movement:

Sloping floors

Windows and doors that no longer open freely and without jamming
Mortar and joints breaking apart on brick and stone walls
Cracks appear on the interior, especially over doorways and windows
Puddles of water in the basement

Fixing Your Concrete Foundation

In many cases, cracks and defects in the foundation aren’t caused by the concrete or other material used, but more the Earth around the house. Therefore before you attempt any foundation fixes, do a checklist around the property to make sure mud and dirt are sloping away from the house, that all gutters are unclogged, or even moisturize the soil in extremely dry climates.

Minimal cracks in the house substructure don’t really require fixing as long as no water is entering the basement. That being said it’s important to acknowledge these cracks and monitor them if they worsen.

Concrete cracks that are larger, like 1/4” or so can be filled with an epoxy to improve cosmetics and to help prevent termite infestation. The only other DIY project you can do to keep your foundation in place to prevent further shifting is placing steel braces between the floor and overhead joists or applying a carbon fiber mesh on the walls to lock them in place.

When to Call the Experts

It’s important to monitor your foundation and property regularly so that problems don’t expand from ‘manageable’ to ‘disaster’. When the house has shifted immensely or parts of the foundation have washed away it’s time to call in a structural engineer. The trained individual will inspect the grounds and recommend one of the professional services such as:

Slabjacking – If the underground soil wasn’t compacted enough before building the foundation, the slab may float. To fix this holes are drilled in the slab and sand and cement mixtures are pumped underneath to lift it back into place.

Piering – When the soil beneath is just too unstable, the weight needs to be transferred to steel piers instead. These are drilled into the ground until they hit bedrock or another stable level of the Earth and become the de facto foundation support.

As a homeowner you should never underestimate concrete substructure problems or misappropriation of the soil around your property. It’s much more convenient to fix a negative grade pile of mulch or unclog a gutter than it is to pay $30,000 or more for foundation rehabilitation. If it’s gone too far always consult a professional, our Canadian users may see Ottawa General Contractors for more information.

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