How Firm is Your Foundation?
An earthquake in Oklahoma City? Big enough to be felt? That’s right. Not one, but two! We here in the building trades have been joking about how long it will take the “fly by night” roofers to have new magnetic signs printed for their trucks, transforming them into (ta da!) “Foundation Repair Experts!” While it is doubtless that some homes have suffered unseen damage, the quakes were not long enough to spread mayhem. We thought it best to share with you the signs of foundation damage. If you see these signs, call an expert, such as Olshan. Do not sign a contract with a “Chuck in a Truck” contractor for this type of work. Have him fix your rickety fence gate, not your foundation!
This one may seem so obvious that it really isn’t a “sign” of damage, it “is” the damage. If you see new cracks in your foundation, exterior walls, interior walls or floors, you may want to have your home assessed. Keep in mind that it is perfectly reasonable for homes over ten or twenty years old to have some cracking in these places, but cracks more than 1/8 inch wide, or cracks that seem to be growing in length or width are a sign of instability.
If you are noticing unevenness in a floor that was not there before, or a swelling in a wall that just appeared, you should contact an expert to come and take a look. Any change in the surfaces inside your home is an indication that something has shifted. It takes an expert eye to know what is normal and what may be an indication of serious structural damage.
Many times, in older homes, doors and windows stick. This can be due to shifting in the foundation, settling in the frame (which is often due to settling in the foundation) or seasonal changes in temperature and humidity. If you were noticing a sticking door or window before the quake, it is not related, although it may still be a sign of trouble. If it started since, it is a definite warning sign that something has shifted and should be looked into.
One of the easiest ways to know if your house is settling is to look at your roof line. Some home repair gurus recommend photographing it from the same location at least once a year and comparing the pictures. If you notice a change in the peak line of your home, it can be a sign of foundational issues. It may also mean the frame itself has settled. Either way, a noticeable change should be cause for inspection. Better safe than sorry.
When a home settles, it is often noticed due to “ghosting” in cabinet drawers, doors and closets with light, hollow core doors. Many times, a settling in the foundation can cause just enough tilt to make these items open on their own if not fastened shut. Don’t panic, just have your foundation inspected. It is likely there has been a shift. Again, a professional can tell you if you should be concerned with foundation repair, or should invest in some shims, to level out your furniture.