Foundation problems can be among the most serious issues that a Toronto home can face. When the foundation of a home is compromised, it can lead to all sorts of other types of problems with the home, and it can even render the structure unsafe.
If your home has foundation problems, they need to get fixed right away. With many foundation problems, the homeowner might not even be aware that repairs are needed. Many issues with the foundation start out small, and get worse over time. In the early stages, foundation trouble might not even have a noticeable effect on the home. It is only as the problem gets progressively worse that you will start to notice the problem, such as a wet basement. However, by this time, it may have caused additional damage to the home. This is the case in quite a number of older homes in Toronto.
Catching foundation trouble in the early stages is important. If you catch it early, you could limit the damage and prevent many of the additional dangers that come with a compromised foundation. In this post, we are going to talk about some of the common foundation problems that can occur, the conditions that can lead to foundation trouble and the types of repairs that might be needed.
Signs of Foundation Problems
Every homeowner should be able to identify the signs of foundation trouble. Many of these signs are not things that most people would obviously associate with foundation trouble, so it is important that you are aware of their potential connection. The following are a few of the signs that your home foundation may be in need of repair.
Cracks in the Foundation
Cracks to the foundation concrete or brick are some of the most obvious signs of foundation trouble. Hairline cracks are not always a sign of trouble, but large cracks that move in a zigzag or stepped fashion are a definite sign of trouble. This includes any interior or exterior concrete in the foundation. If the concrete is crumbing or flaking, this could be another sign of trouble.
Cracks around the Home
If you start to see cracks in different areas of the home, this could be a sign of trouble. Cracks in the interior walls can indicate that the foundation has shifted. If the home has a brick exterior, cracks in the brickwork can be another sign. You should also look for things like cracks and separation around windows and doorframes.
Water and Dampness Problems
The presence of standing water around the foundation or water leaking into the basement can be signs that your foundation needs repair. Water pooling up around the foundation can cause damage, and if you have water in your basement, it can be a sign that water is seeping in either through cracks in the foundation or as the result of hydrostatic pressure, which can be another cause of foundation trouble.
Sloping Floors and Walls
If you see floors that appear to be sloping or sagging, this can be an indication of foundation troubles. You may also see walls that look bowed or sloped. This can be a sign that the foundation has shifted, and the added pressure on the frame can cause parts of the home to go out of line. You might also notice that some areas of your floors creak or make noise when you step on them.
Windows and Doors that Stick
Malfunctioning doors and windows might not seem like a problem related to the foundation, but it can be the result of foundation problems. If you find that some of your doors or windows are tough to open or close, it can be a sign that your foundation needs repair. You might even look at the door and notice that it looks uneven. This can be a sign that it is a foundation problem that is causing your doors and windows to stick.
Separation of Walls and Other Components
If you see cracks and separation at places where walls meet, this is another sign of potential foundation problems. As I mentioned before, you might also notice separation around the frames of windows and doors. As another point, you want to check various components of the home. If you see something like a garage or chimney that is starting to separate from the home, this could indicate foundation problems. Things like patios and porches that are starting to separate from the home may also be a sign.
If you see significant soil erosion on your property, especially around the foundation, this can be another sign that you have foundation problems. As the soil washes away or contracts and expands, it can cause problems with the foundation.
Local Foundation Problems
This is not a sign that is specific to your home, but it is more about the area in which your home was built. If you start to hear that a few of your neighbours have had foundation repairs in the last few years, this could be a sign that there is a problem with the soil in the area. If it seems that foundation problems have become common in your area, it might be a good idea to schedule an inspection.
When you know what to look for, you are more likely to catch your foundation problems before they become a real danger. This can cut the cost of foundation repairs, and it can prevent damage to other parts of the home. Performing a yearly foundation inspection can help you to stay ahead of any potential problems. Along with that, you should probably have your foundation inspected by a professional once every few years.
What causes foundation problems?
Just as there are different signs of foundation trouble, you have many different factors that can play a role in compromising the foundation of a home. Some of these conditions can be mitigated with proper home maintenance, but there are also some that may be beyond the control of the homeowner. The following are a few of the more common causes of foundation trouble.
Poor drainage around the foundation can be one of the problems that will lead to foundation trouble. Clogged or damaged gutters can expose the foundation to water damage. If the property is improperly graded, it can lead to drainage issues around the foundation. Something like a malfunctioning French drain could be another issue that could cause foundation problems.
Heavy flooding can also be a problem for your foundation. Even if you have all of the necessary drainage systems on your property, an excess of snowmelt or overland flooding can overwhelm these systems, and it could expose your foundation to the potential for damage. Basement flooding is potentially a sign that there is a problem with your foundation.
In some situations, the soil around a home can dry up and contract. This can be the result of a drought, but it could also be an issue like large trees absorbing too much of the moisture in the soil. When the soil contracts, it can compromise the stability of the foundation, and this can cause it to shift.
If the soil around your home becomes overly saturated, it can expand and this will put pressure on the foundation. This can cause shifting, and it can also result in hydrostatic pressure that could damage the foundation. Soil expansion can also cause problems where it actually lifts one side of the foundation, and it makes the structure uneven.
In some cases, the foundation may not have been laid correctly. Improper construction techniques and inferior materials can lead to foundation problems. If the ground was not properly prepared before the foundation was laid, this could be another issue that would put the home at risk for foundation trouble.
Plumbing leaks can be one of the more common causes of foundation problems. You may have a leak in an outdoor line, or it could be a leak in the lateral connection to the sewer. Even a small leak can contribute to foundation problems over time. The leak might even be so small that it goes totally unnoticed until it is diagnosed as a part of the problem that lead to foundation trouble.
With some of these factors that cause or contribute to foundation problems, the homeowner can prevent the damage by taking certain preventative measures. However, things like poor construction practices and large flooding events can be difficult to avoid.
Foundation Repair Techniques & Methods
The real first step in foundation repair is to identify the problem. That is why you need to know the signs to look for, and keep an eye out for them. If you notice any of the signs of foundation problems, you should call in an expert to perform a thorough inspection. Once the damage has been assessed, they might recommend different repairs depending on the problem. Here are a few of the different types of foundation repair.
Many of the minor issues with cracks in a foundation can be remedied with different types of sealants or patches. This is not the same as simply covering a crack with concrete. Covering a crack will not address the problem. You need specialised sealants like hydraulic cement or epoxy. These sealants fill the crack through an injection process that allows them to fill the cavity and prevent further damage.
For foundations that have a sunken section, slabjacking is a technique that is used to raise the foundation back to its proper position. With this process, the foundation repair specialist will make a mixture that includes cement, ash and other materials. This mixture is used to raise the foundation back to its place. Holes will be drilled at strategic positions, and pumps are used to force the mixture into the area of the foundation that needs to be lifted.
You also have a variety of different types of repairs that use piers or piles to repair the foundation. With this type of repair, piers are driven down in to the soil below the foundation, and they can be used to move the foundation back to its proper position and to restore stability. Repairs like these are typically used for foundations that have experienced significant shifting as the result of poor soil conditions.
How to Prevent Foundation Problems
Some foundation problems might be hard to avoid, but there are some ways that you can protect your foundation. In this section, we are going to look at some of the things you can do to prevent foundation damage.
Install and Maintain Your Gutters & Downspouts
The gutters and downspouts on your home play an important role in protecting your foundation. They direct the rainwater and snowmelt from your roof away from the foundation, and this protects it from damage. To prevent foundation trouble, you should clean and inspect your gutters at least once a year. As an additional point, you also want to make sure that the downspouts release the water at a far enough distance from the foundation.
Ensure Proper Grading
The grade of your property is another element that helps to protect your foundation. The ground on your property should slope away from the home. Most properties are graded like this when a home is built, but erosion can impact the slope of the property. If the grade on your property is off, water can run down toward the foundation, and this can cause damage.
Maintain the Correct Soil Moisture
You hear a lot about how water can damage your foundation, but dry soil can be just as bad. If you find that the soil around your foundation is getting too dry, you need to take steps to add moisture to the soil.
Use French Drains aka Weeping Tile
If there are problems with excessive soil moisture, the installation of a French drain (aka weeping tile) can help. If you already have a French drain, then it is important to make sure that it is well maintained and that the sump pump in your basement is in good working order.
The quality of the foundation can literally make or break your home. With recognition of this fact, a smart homeowner will do what they can to maintain their foundation, and they will know to keep their eye out for any signs of trouble. If you see any of the signs of foundation trouble, or have any reason to suspect a problem, you need to call in a professional for a full inspection.