Home Buyers Guide: Troubleshooting And Avoiding Common Foundation Problems

To maintain the value and stability of your house, it is important to protect the foundation from common problems.

Owning a home offers people security and pride in their investment, but foundation problems can destroy a house's structure and value. Cracks that lead to leaking and compromised structural integrity can cost homeowners thousands of dollars to repair. If you have a wet, musty basement or only see hairline cracks running along the foundation, you likely have significant foundation problems that need to be fixed. The following article will provide you with information on how to diagnose, correct, and prevent potentially costly foundation troubles.

Foundations are the support system for the entire house, responsible for keeping the structure steady against wind and rain. However, they are not immune to the damaging effects of the climate. Moisture is necessary for their soundness, but in the wrong proportions, it can cause serious hurt. For this reason, it is the responsibility of homeowners to carefully monitor the ground around their home, which in turn bears the foundation. Survey the moisture content of the soil after heavy rains to find areas where water collects. Areas with standing pools require better drainage. Add more soil in these spots to create a gentle slope down which rainwater can run. Otherwise, the water will collect around the foundation, eventually causing leaking.

Overly dry soil is equally problematic, as it can lead to a shifting foundation. If the base of the house moves too much, the entire structure can collapse under its own imbalanced weight. Movements caused by poor foundation support lead to cracking, which in turn allows for serious leaks after heavy rains or snow. Again, the best way to prevent the problem is to pay careful attention to the ground near the home. If you notice that the soil around your house is parched and cracking during hot weather, you will need to provide it with more water. Either manually spray the ground with a hose or install a sprinkler system. Do not over-saturate the ground; just add enough moisture so that the soil around the foundation is uniformly wet.

Beyond these preventative measures, much more can be done to maintain a foundation. Even sound structures can leak if they are not properly sealed because moisture from the soil can pass through the concrete. Make sure that the exterior walls of the foundation are waterproofed. Seal any cracks with a cement product, using a material that expands as it dries for larger fissures. Clean gutters regularly and install extended drainages spouts as needed to keep rainwater from emptying around the foundation. Likewise, window wells need drainage systems if they collect water after storms. Avoid placing woodpiles against the house, as they provide a home for moisture and mold. Trees and shrubs have large roots that can crack the foundation, so plant them well away from the house.

Having taken care of the exterior, homeowners should next concentrate on internal factors for foundation damage. The stale odors and mugginess in many basements are the result of trapped moisture, a problem that can be disastrous if unchecked. If there is a dirt floor in your basement, seal it and install a concrete floor to keep soil fumes and moisture from escaping into the space. Insulate any fixtures or piping that feel cold to the touch or collect condensation. The moist exhaust from dryers should be diverted outside of the house and wet clothes should not be hung in the basement. Avoid storing items in the basement unless air can circulate around them on shelves, as boxes accumulate moisture. Use a dehumidifier to draw excess moisture from the air, being sure to dispose of any items that are damp or mildewed. If the basement floods on occasion, install a drain so that water cannot stand on the floors. It is a good idea to circulate the air with fans, but do not try to air out the basement on warm, humid days. This will make the problem worse by introducing more moisture into the room.

By following these suggestions, you are likely to catch foundation issues before they become serious problems. In the event that a large repair needs to be done, it is always wise to consult a foundation expert. For instance, cracks that are numerous or keep growing are probably beyond the scope of most homeowners to remedy. Likewise, a sagging foundation is difficult and potentially dangerous to repair. Have the problem looked at as soon as possible by a professional to avoid further damage to the house's stability. With that said, controlling the moisture around your home will likely spare you any major or expensive hassles. Prevent any potential troubles by maintaining your foundation and your house can remain as steady as the day it was built.

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