Foundation Repair 101: Assessing Foundation Damage

signs of foundation damage

some common signs of foundation damage

Foundation repair can be a very expensive undertaking, but you have to do it especially if the house is for sale; otherwise, you (the home owner or the real estate agent) could be assuming a big liability. There’s no two ways about it. Serious structural defects must be disclosed to the buyer before the sale. A thorough inspection of the foundation to evaluate its integrity prior to buying or selling a property could therefore save all parties involved a lot of money and headaches in the long run.

Read on to learn the basics of foundation damage assessment. This article focuses on the symptoms of foundation failure and their corresponding repair options.

Foundation Cracks

perimeter foundation crackStructural cracks in the foundation (that is, cracks that weaken or could weaken the foundation) can be fixed as long as the structural integrity of the concrete is still good and as long as the stem walls have not rotated out of plumb.  That being said, large foundation cracks (e.g. perimeter foundation cracks,  basement wall cracks, etc.) could be symptoms of foundation failure and, as such, it’s best that they be seen to by a foundation repair specialist like Sinai Construction. This is especially true if you see cracks that are more than ¼-inch wide. Disregarding warning signs when they first appear could lead to greater damage – thus significantly higher repair costs.

The foundation and other structural members like it are designed to be continuous if they are to properly do their job, which is to provide structural integrity to the building and resist seismic movement. Cracks are breaks in this continuity and thus points of weakness from which structural failure could begin. These cracks, moreover, are likely to lead to water intrusion in the basement or crawlspace.

Repairing foundation cracks usually involves injecting epoxy into the crack then reinforcing the strength of the repaired portion with foundation plates. You can read about this epoxy-plate repair combo here.

Basement and Crawlspace Moisture Intrusion

water intrusion in basementMoisture intrusion in crawl spaces and basements is an indication that you need to have your foundation and basement walls checked. These areas are supposed to be bone dry to protect the foundation of the house. The intrusion of water in such spaces probably means that there’s a crack somewhere through which water is coming in, or that the perimeter foundation or the basement wall is experiencing great hydrostatic pressure from the (water in the) surrounding soil.

One method used to address this problem is the application of a substance called Xypex, which interacts with moisture from cracks then crystallizes onto the positive or the other side of the perimeter foundation or basement wall. This effectively and economically seals the foundations from further moisture intrusion.

Note, that Xypex is more of a waterproofing technique than a structural repair method – thus, it is more often used on basement wall cracks rather than perimeter foundation cracks, and especially not if the concrete is structurally compromised. In that case, you’ll need to repair the crack (that is, restore the structural integrity lost due to the crack and probably waterproof it at the same time), rather than just plug the crack to stop more water from coming in.

Crumbling Concrete

crumbling concrete foundationA structurally damaged perimeter foundation is dangerous, and a crumbling concrete foundation is likely to be damaged.

Concrete foundations typically crumble due to exposure to excessive moisture (and exposure to excessive moisture  usually occurs due to poor drainage).  The concrete could also be crumbling because substandard materials or concrete mix was used during construction. However, a significant portion of foundation problems in Los Angeles (as much as 15-20%) is caused by seismic activity from earthquakes.

Crumbling concrete foundations are failing foundations, and they need to be replaced (at least the sections that can no longer just be repaired).

Recognizing the early signs of foundation failure is imperative if you want to avoid spending a lot on repairs later on or if you want to keep your house in tiptop shape for many years to come. If you are a seller or a real estate agent, it is even more important to know how to recognize foundation issues as failing to do so might result in legal problems and a substantial loss of credibility.

So, if you’re selling your house or are a real estate agent facilitating the sale of a house, don’t ever settle for a mere visual inspection of the foundation. Sinai Construction can give a house for sale a thorough foundation inspection for only $150. That little amount for such great peace of mind – I’d say it’s more than worth it, right?

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