How Do You Know If You Have Foundation Problems?

Apr 14, 2022

In some cases, it’s abundantly clear that a house has foundation problems. However, the signs are incredibly subtle at times, particularly if you aren’t familiar with home construction.

Knowing how to determine if you have foundation issues is essential. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer considering a property with foundation issues, a seller preparing to list a property, or a homeowner who simply wants to know how to address foundation problems, here’s what you need to know.

How Do You Know if You Have Foundation Problems?

small bungalow

House Settling vs. Foundation Problems

In many cases, telling the difference between house settling and foundation problems isn’t simple if you aren’t in the construction industry. Both can cause similar issues, such as cracking. However, one is potentially a serious concern, while the other isn’t.

Over time, every home (and its foundation) moves and shifts a bit. In the end, houses are heavy, placing significant downward pressure on the foundation and the underlying soil. Couple that with certain natural occurrences, such as the impact of typical weather on the ground below, and some movement is inevitable. Normal house settling can cause cracks, sloped floors, and similar issues in some cases.

However, improper soil preparation, extreme weather, and climate change can all lead to foundation problems beyond settling. Similarly, poorly laid foundations, incorrect materials, a lack of support structure, and other foundation-specific missteps can also result in noticeable issues. Cracking, sloping, and bulging are all possibilities.

Early Signs of Foundation Problems

settling around crown moulding

The earliest signs of foundation problems are cracks and gaps in many cases. Cracks on interior and exterior walls, as well as the foundation itself, could indicate issues. The same goes for warping siding, and gaps developing around doorways or windows show that the house is shifting.

In some cases, doors and windows not opening and closing smoothly may suggest foundation issues. While those problems can also just develop over time, if several doors or windows in part of your house all begin sticking at close to the same time, it’s worth exploring the potential cause.

Ground sinking or pervasive weeds springing up around the house, even if no other issues are present, might indicate a foundation issue is on the horizon. Bouncing floors and cracked floor tiles can also signal problems, along with new sloping or unevenness.

Signs of a Bad House Foundation Issue

While the signs above can indicate a foundation issue, certain red flags could mean the problem is severe.

Widening cracks, leaning chimneys, basement wall bulging, walls separating from ceilings, sagging floors, cracked windows, and bowing walls may indicate severe foundation problems. Similarly, if it seems like the house is shifting off or dipping onto a specific foundation side, that’s a bad sign.

How to Tell If a House Has Foundation Problems for Sure

inspector checking foundation

In some cases, you may have trouble telling the difference between signs of foundation problems vs. settling. Since that’s the case, it’s usually best to get a professional’s opinion.

For homeowners, contact licensed and bonded foundation repair companies and have a few assess the issues. You can also gather repair quotes at this time, making it easier to move forward with fixes if they’re necessary.

Homebuyers considering a property with possible foundation problems should get a buyer’s home inspection. Make sure to attend the appointment, allowing you to show the inspector any points of concern you may have if you’re noticed potential trouble. 

If you’re preparing to sell, getting a pre-listing home inspection is wise. Not only could it spot undiscovered foundation issues, but it will also tell you about problems you may want to address before you put your house on the market. That helps you ensure your property is buyer-ready, streamlining the process once you start showings and moving through the rest of the process. 

Addressing Foundation Problems

fixing your house foundation

If your home or a house you’re considering buying has foundation problems, you’ll need to consider how to address them. That allows you to estimate the work and cost involved, ensuring you can make an intelligent decision about whether to move forward with repairs or a home purchase.

Foundation Repair Costs

Predicting the cost of a foundation repair is a bit challenging. The nature of the issue, the type of foundation, and the extent of the damage all play a role. Additionally, since material and labor costs vary by location, that can also lead to total price differences.

On average, foundation repairs cost between $2,143 and $7,472. However, some issues may run $10,000, $20,000, or even more. Since that’s the case, it’s always best to get several quotes from reputable, licensed, and bonded foundation repair professionals to gauge the cost of your project specifically.

When Is a Foundation Beyond Repair?

Generally speaking, practically all foundation problems are potentially correctable. However, some issues aren’t practical to address. For example, removing and replacing a defective foundation may be possible, eliminating even highly complex problems, but that’s a time-consuming, complicated, and costly venture.

Additionally, some repairs may be cost-prohibitive, either to you personally or universally. As mentioned above, foundation repairs may cost tens of thousands of dollars. Depending on the value of the home itself and any other needed work, it might not make financial sense to move forward with fixing the foundation because a tear-down and rebuild would be cheaper.

There are signs that a foundation is crossing into this territory. Cracks running in different directions, cracks wide enough to fit a dime into, severe bulging due to pressure, vertical cracks that are wider at the top, sloping with slide down a hillside, and similar problems can all qualify as irreparable.

Selling a Home with Foundation Problems

sellers disclosure form

Selling a house with foundation problems is challenging but doable. If you’re worried about how to sell a house with foundation problems, your first step is usually to pick the right price point.

If you know the cost of the needed foundation repairs or the price for a tear-down if the issue is irreparable, you can use that to help determine a fair list price. You could even include details from repair estimates to justify what you’re asking for, showing that you’re listed at an appropriate price point based on the potential costs involved.

Since you know about the foundation issues, you’re legally required to disclose that information. You’ll want to be very forward about what you know in most cases. That way, you can focus on buyers who are open to taking on a property with foundation problems.

Selling your home “as-is” may also be wise. However, that’ll depend on your market. Speak with your real estate agent to determine what’s best based on your area and the condition of your home, as they’ll be able to provide guidance to send you in the right direction. 

Buying a House with Foundation Problems

If you’re considering a house with foundation problems, you may be wondering, “Are foundation issues a deal-breaker?” Whether they are is typically a personal choice. As mentioned above, practically all foundation problems are fixable. However, the cost and time required to handle the repairs play a big role in the equation.

Generally, it’s best to get an inspection to assess the severity of the foundation problem. Next, speak with foundation repair contractors or do some online research to get a solid idea of what it costs to fix. If possible, you may want to get the seller’s permission to have a foundation repair company come out for formal estimates, allowing you to gather reliable numbers.

You may also need to speak with your mortgage lender if the foundation issues impact habitability. Many lenders have rules regarding livability associated with their mortgages, and they may not fund a loan if it isn’t considered a safe dwelling as-is.

Once you’ve gathered that information, you can determine if moving forward is possible or wise. If it doesn’t impact your mortgage, the sale price accounts for the price of repairs, you can shoulder the cost, and you can wait to move in until the work is done, foundation problems don’t have to be deal-breakers. However, if you can’t, it’s best to find another property.

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