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There is no doubt – the foundation is the most important structure of your house. There is no point in investing money in renovation projects if the foundation is not solid and safe. When you think about renovating your house start at the foundation.
First inspect it for obvious and for potential problems. Then ask the opinion of an expert if you suspect any structural problems. Some of the foundation problems you can fix yourself, but others are only for specialists.
Foundation issues can be classified in two big categories:
- Structural problems – serious enough to put in danger the stability of the house if they are left unaddressed.
- Water and moisture problems that can lead to health issues for the inhabitants.
Most foundation problems are caused by the movement of the soil – expansions and contraction due to changes in temperature season after season.
The inspection of your house’s foundation should be done inside and outside the house. Here is what to look for:
- Bowing foundation walls
- Cracks or damage to concrete walls
- Cracks or damage to concrete floors
- Sagging crawl spaces
- Uneven floors
- Windows and doors that stick or don’t stay closed
- Water leaks
- Damp, wet spots on walls or floors
- Blistered paint finish on walls or floors
- White stains on concrete
- Bad smells
- Humidity and condensation
- Visible mold
- Bad smells
- Does anyone suffers from nausea or headaches after spending time in the basement?
Inside the house sometimes it is not easy to inspect all the walls and the floors because they are covered with drywall or carpet. In case of drywall look for cracks that run across the drywall sheets, at an angle.
When evaluating cracks in the floor pull up the carpet if possible. Try to see if the two sides of a crack are at different levels.
When looking at sticky doors make sure it is not due to excess paint. Stuck doors and windows can be a sign of frame twisting by a shifting or settling house.
Outside the house look for cracks in the foundation and walls. Don’t look only at the foundation but also look up to see if there are any effects on upper floors. This is more visible for brick walls.
But how to tell if the problems are serious or not?
Make a note of each of the issues you notice. Take measurements where possible – width and length of cracks, sagging, uneven floors.
Horizontal cracks in the foundation might suggest hydrostatic pressure – too much water putting pressure on the foundation walls.
Vertical cracks in the foundation might suggest ground heaving, when the crack is wider at the top, or ground compacting, when the crack is wider at the bottom.
Thin cracks might not be a serious problem but only the natural effect of concrete curing unevenly.
If you have any doubts regarding the safety of your home now it is time to look for an expert.
Every serious issue affecting the foundation should be fixed to insure safety and a good base for further renovation investments. Here are some of your options:
- Repair minor cracks only if they leak: Simpson Strong Tie CPFH09KT Crack-Pac FLEX-H2O Polyurethane Crack Sealer Kit
If they don’t leak keep them under observation since they might be the first signs of more important problems.
- For big cracks, bowed walls, uneven floors seek the expert and unbiased advice of an independent engineer. Based on his advice hire specialist to fix the problems.
- Clean up any mold. Even better, hire a specialist to handle mold. Get rid of all the materials affected by mold.
- Make sure the floor drain in the basement has a trap: Floor Drain And Trap
- Install a sealed cover over the sump pump pit: Advanced Drainage Sy. 1537ADL Sump Pump Lid
- Lead water away from the foundation through proper grading and underground drainage.
- Use a dehumidifier or air conditioning to keep the relative humidity under 55%: Oasis D-165-HG GST Commercial Grade Dehumidifier
- Fix damaged finishes – drywall, paint…
Left unaddressed foundation problems can lead to serious consequences for the house, your safety, health and costs:
- Structural problems can lead to extensive damage in other areas of the house and to even structure collapse.
- Water pressure on the outside of the foundation can lead to leaks and foundation cracks and damages and in time lead to structural problems.
- Bad smells will lower your quality of life and in time can lead to health issues.
- Structural and water issues will lead to deterioration of indoor decorations and finishes.
- Mold is a serious health hazard.
The short conclusion is this – inspect the foundation and address the problems regardless off further plans for renovation.