When a house is built, the first part constructed is the foundation. It’s essential for it to be built correctly and laid properly, as any flaw in the foundation can endanger the stability of everything built upon it. For much the same reason, it’s crucial for the foundation to be evaluated, and kept in great shape. Here are some important aspects of home foundations and foundation maintenance.
American homes weigh, on average, about 50 tons. There are two main terms to characterize the weight of your house: dead loads and live loads. Dead loads include the weight of the house itself. Live loads include everything that goes in or out of the house, including furniture, dishes, people, and pets.
What is a House Foundation?
The foundation is typically a large slab of concrete weighing about 7 or 8 tons, but it can also be made of concrete blocks, bricks, fieldstone, or other solid materials. It needs to not just handle the dead loads. It needs to be more than strong enough to handle all reasonable live load variations. This includes all the furniture you bring into the house in the initial move, and all the movers bringing everything in. This also includes everyone at your housewarming or birthday party. A party of thirty or forty people can weigh over four tons. And when everyone gathers in one room, that weight is not evenly distributed. If it’s the dead of winter in Maryland, there may also be a very heavy load of snow on the roof. The design and construction of your house should be able to easily withstand such weight fluctuations and concentrations, but over time it does put a strain on the frame and foundation.
Threats to Your Home’s Foundation
There are many other sources of foundation strain besides shifting and fluctuating weight. Heavy winds push your home’s frame, which is firmly attached to your home’s foundation. Heavy rains can soak and shift the soil around the foundation, and seep into small cracks, making them larger. Cracks can let in bacteria and moisture, which lead to mold in your basement or crawlspace.
Another risk to your foundation’s integrity is from the phenomenon of settling. Foundations are designed and created in a way that seeks to keep it forever at the same exact location and elevation. But since soil, rain, wind, and other factors are dynamic and somewhat unpredictable, the earth around your foundation will change in ways that allow the weight of your home and foundation to sink lower. This is worse when it’s one corner or side that sinks lower, making the home slightly off-kilter. This can make the strain of your home’s live load weight more pronounced in certain areas, exacerbating existing causes of strain.
Besides leaks and settling, the walls of your foundation may be strained by shifting live loads above. Sometimes this pressure, compounded by the weight of the soil around your foundation, will cause the foundation walls to buckle or bow inward. This reduces the walls’ ability to handle weight and can cause cracks to form or get bigger. Fortunately, there are ways to reinforce the walls and counteract these effects.
Home Foundation Inspections
Because of all these risks, it’s important that your home’s foundation is examined often. To some extent, every homeowner can do this. This gives you a chance to understand how your home was built, and whether it needs professional attention. Look to see what material your foundation was made of and how it’s attached to the frame and bottom of our house. Look all around the foundation surfaces for cracks. Don’t forget to check the exterior too. Check the straightness of the walls of your basement or crawlspace to see if they’re bowing inwards. Look for signs of leaking, mold or excess moisture on the ground or walls.
Unfortunately, there are several foundation issues that are very hard to find or diagnose without professional training or years of experience. Basement repair experts have a truck full of special tools to evaluate foundation problems and see exactly how serious they are. They also have materials that can stop cracks from growing and stop walls from sagging further. They can tell when overgrown shrubs, bushes or trees are encroaching on your foundation and putting excess pressure on it. They can detect problems of inadequate drainage, poor downspout placement, clogged gutters, and ineffective retaining walls. They can also evaluate many parts of your home’s structure that seem inaccessible, or you might not even know about.
Maintenance visits aren’t free, but it’s a lot cheaper than dealing with serious foundation issues if problems are ignored and allowed to get worse. Catastrophic foundation failures are rare but do happen. It’s usually a combination of lingering, undetected foundation issues combined with a severe weather event such as a flood, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or even a drought drying out the soil. Smaller foundation problems are relatively common, and too often ignored.
If you’ve noticed any issues with the foundation of your house, or have never had it inspected, Budget Waterproofing can help. In addition to waterproofing, mold remediation, mold cleaning, and crawl space encapsulation, we provide foundation repair, going beyond patching cracks to find the source of the problem. We also offer installation of the EZ Breathe home ventilation system, to clean the air inside your home. At Budget Waterproofing, we’ve got more than 55 years of experience servicing both commercial and residential customers throughout Maryland. We’re proud of our craftsmanship and confident in our skills, and all our technicians are fully licensed and insured. Whether you need foundation repair, basement waterproofing, a drainage system, crawl space waterproofing, or egress window installation, we’ve got you covered, with the experience and skills necessary to improve your basement and protect your family. For more information, contact us today.