Whether looking for a new home or maintaining an existing home, a strong foundation is vital to the longevity of any structure. It will support roughly 200 tons (on average) of building materials and contents, in addition to you and your loved ones. It is not something you can inspect easily. Foundation problems can be obscured by shrubs, landscaping, and the building on top of it. Hiring a professional inspection service can improve your chances of finding potential issues before they become big problems. Make sure your foundation is up to the challenge of supporting your home by having a thorough home inspection.
Common Foundation Types
The type of foundation you have depends on many factors. These include the type of ground in the area, the water table, and available materials. The soil in the grand valley is comprised of layers of clay which can increase hydrostatic pressure on foundations. Hydrostatic pressure is caused by moisture in the ground freezing and thawing, expanding then contracting against the foundation.
There are three main foundation types, slab, crawlspace, and basement. A fourth type, wood foundations, may also be used but are more common in northern climates. Each has advantages and disadvantages. For instance, a full basement will give you more living space but may also have moisture issues if you have high groundwater in your area. An unfinished basement is easier to inspect than a slab foundation. Crawlspaces are common in the Grand Valley.
What Can Damage a Foundation?
Water, weather, insects, roots, and ground movement all have the ability to damage your foundation. While you can’t prevent an earthquake, you can take steps to reduce the effects of this and other hazards. Know what kind of soil or bedrock is beneath your home. Weather plays a role if you are in an area with frequent freezing and thawing. Insects can be discouraged by building in safeguards against them or by utilizing pest control services.
Water from rain, irrigation, or groundwater can all lead to damage and is the most common threat, even in drier areas. Foundations should be reinforced and protected from moisture by sealing the concrete. Design the area directly around your house to direct water away from the foundation. Thoughtful landscaping and planting can go a long way towards mitigating potential damage.
Signs your Foundation has been Damaged
Look for signs such as bowing walls, tilting chimneys, uneven floors, or visible cracks in walls or brickwork. Doors and windows that won’t close properly can also be indicators of foundation problems. Looser backfilled areas around the foundation can collect moisture, allowing hydrostatic pressure to damage the foundation walls. Water can also leak into a crawl space through cracks or vents, or through unsealed basement walls. Moisture can damage structural supports by causing any metal to rust and corrode. Moist areas also encourage mold growth. Wood foundations may be damaged by water seepage, termites, or carpenter ants.
Creative landscaping can help mitigate issues by directing surface water away from the structure. Rain gutters with diverters on the downspouts can direct rainwater away from your foundation. Be aware of the root systems of any trees or shrubs you plant near the house to make sure they don’t enlarge any cracks you may have or cause new ones. Extensive root systems can also contribute to hydrostatic pressure by loosening the soil around your foundation and allowing water in. Some trees with more aggressive root systems you may want to avoid planting close to the house. These include Chinese Elms, Willow Trees, Hybrid Poplars, and Silver Maples. If you irrigate, make sure your water hits the lawn and not the house.
If your home inspector finds any signs of foundation issues, you may also need to hire a foundation specialist or structural engineer to further assess the damage and let you know what it will cost to repair. If you already own the home, you can repair the damage and make changes to prevent further damage. If you are considering a home purchase, discovering foundation damage will give you a tool to either renegotiate the purchase price or back out of the contract. Pro Home Inspections, LLC can help get you started with a thorough home inspection. They are licensed, bonded, and certified by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
Your house foundation holds up and supports your home. It should be strong and last a long time. With care and attention, you can make sure your foundation stays strong.