Foundation damage is a frightening thing to consider because it makes you question the stability of your home. When you see cracks in the foundation or notice bowing of the walls in your basement, you want to get repairs done as soon as possible. However, the first step should be to hire a structural engineer to assess the damage and to determine if the structure of your home is in danger. The engineer can also suggest methods of repair that will make your home safe. Here are some things a structural engineer looks for when examining your home.
Cracks In Concrete Bricks
When the foundation of your home shifts, cracks often form in the concrete brick walls of your basement or side of your home if it is built on a slab. These cracks can take on a stair step appearance or they can be straight cracks. The way the cracks develop tells an engineer a lot about the stress placed on the foundation. Also, the size of the cracks is important to consider. This information is taken into account along with the age of the home to determine the extent of the damage. Older concrete is prone to cracking, so some cracks may be merely a cosmetic problem, but the same cracks in a newer home could be signs of more serious trouble.
Cracks could indicate wall movement due to soil shifting or inadequate framing of the house. A structural engineer can tell if the cracks indicate movement of the foundation or natural wear due to aging. Fixing the problem could require reinforcement of the walls or it might be a matter of filling the cracks. Even natural cracks should be repaired to keep water and bugs from entering the foundation and causing more damage to your home.
Cracks In Walls
Foundation problems may be more apparent in other parts of your home, so the engineer will examine the walls, doors, and windows too. Wood expands and contracts along with weather conditions and it deteriorates as it ages, so some cracking is fairly common. However, cracks running along walls should always be examined because they could signify shifting of the foundation. Some things to note about cracks in walls are whether they are on load bearing walls and if the cracks radiate diagonally from window or door frames as this type of cracking indicates shifting of the house.
Shifting and cracking of the walls can lead to sagging, so the engineer checks the overall appearance of the home to make sure it is still level. Some sagging due to age is normal, but it is a danger sign in a new home. Sagging may indicate the need for reinforcement of the home's structure. Also, cracks that continue to spread are of more concern than stable cracks and they should be inspected as soon as possible.
A structural engineer examines your home from the roof to the foundation to look for signs of weakness in load bearing walls and the framing of your home. Although soil shifting is a major cause of foundation problems, your home can also shift if it wasn't built properly or if too much weight is applied to the roof. Finding and fixing these problems can prevent extensive damage to your home that might even lead to failure of a wall or roof if repairs aren't made in time.