Do you own an older home? If so, you’re probably wondering about the types of foundation issues in old homes. While it’s true that any structure needs care and maintenance to keep it in good condition, old houses often require extra special attention due to their age. This post dives into common foundation issues found in old homes, providing helpful information and tips on how to diagnose problems and some possible repair solutions you may encounter.
What’s Considered An “Old Home”?
When it comes to homes, the definition of “old” can vary depending on who you ask. However, generally speaking, homes that were built before the 1960s are often considered to be old. While these homes usually have a unique charm and character that can’t be found in newer houses, they also are more prone to foundation issues. The good news is that most foundation problems in older homes can be fixed by an experienced foundation repair contractor, often in just a few days or less.
Common Foundation Issues In Old Homes
Owning an old home can be a joy, but it can also come with unique challenges. One such challenge is the possibility of foundation issues, the most common being differential settlement, or when a foundation is settling into the ground unevenly. See the graphic below for a visual representation of differential settlement:
Differential settlement is pretty common in older homes, where the foundation may not have been built to the same standards as in modern construction. Differential settlement can cause one section of the foundation to sink or settle into the ground at a different rate than another. This puts tremendous stress on the foundation and can cause structural damage if it isn’t corrected.
Additionally, hydrostatic pressure can build up and become a problem if there’s poor drainage around the foundation. (The vast majority of older homes weren’t built with drainage systems.) Hydrostatic pressure can cause foundation walls to bow inward or even crack. Because this significantly impacts the home’s structural integrity, it needs to be addressed immediately to ensure your home’s continued safety and stability.
Common Foundation Types In Older Homes
Most homes classified as “older” were built with either a crawl space foundation or a basement foundation. Crawl space foundations are designed to elevate the home slightly off the ground and provide easy access for maintenance and utilities. On the other hand, basement foundations offer additional living space and storage options. Both types of foundation can be found in homes dating back decades, and it’s essential to understand the unique characteristics of each when dealing with foundation issues. For example, basement foundations are more susceptible to damage from hydrostatic pressure, while crawl space foundations have unique problems related to the integrity of the wooden structures in the crawl space.
Common Signs Of Foundation Trouble
Some common signs of foundation trouble include the following:
- Cracks in walls, ceilings, or floors
- Doors and windows that won’t open or close properly
- Uneven floors
- Stair step cracks in brick or masonry
- Torn wallpaper (The wall behind the wallpaper might be cracked.)
- Porches or chimneys that lean away from the house
- Floors and ceilings that aren’t in contact with the wall
- Moldings that are separating from the wall or ceiling
If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to address the issue right away before it worsens and becomes more expensive to fix. Ignoring foundation damage can lead to significant problems such as water damage, mold growth, and even structural collapse.
Repair Solutions For Foundation Problems In Older Homes
Thankfully, there are repair solutions available to tackle foundation issues head-on. One popular option is underpinning using push or helical piers. Underpinning adds support to a home’s foundation by extending the foundation down to the load-bearing strata. This stabilizes the foundation and prevents further movement that could cause damage.
For homes with cracked or bowed foundation walls, repair solutions such as carbon fiber reinforcement or wall plate anchors can provide additional support and prevent further damage. With these repair solutions at your disposal, you can take steps toward restoring your older home’s foundation to its former glory.
Tips On How To Prevent Foundation Trouble
Many homeowners are surprised to hear that most foundation problems are caused by excess moisture in the ground that can’t drain off. Therefore, controlling groundwater around the foundation is the best way to help prevent foundation issues. Here are some ways to do that:
- If necessary, regrade the yard around your home so that it slopes away from the foundation. This will prevent groundwater from draining toward the foundation.
- Consider relocating water-hungry shrubs and flowers that are planted next to your house.
- Use downspout extensions to carry runoff away from your foundation before release.
- Clean your gutters regularly to ensure they’re not full of decaying leaves and other debris. You don’t want water spilling over the side of the gutter and soaking the soil around the foundation.
- Install a drain tile system, either exterior or interior. This is the best foundation waterproofing solution by far.
What Do I Need To Know About Buying An Older Home?
When it comes to buying an older home, there are a few key factors you’ll want to keep in mind. First, it’s important to have the property thoroughly inspected by a structural engineer or foundation repair contractor before you sign anything. This will uncover any potential foundation issues that could cost you a lot of money to fix. You’ll also be able to figure the cost of the necessary repairs into your offer.
Additionally, you’ll want to research the home’s history, including any major repairs that have been done. Are they under a transferable warranty, and is the contractor that performed them still in business and likely to remain in business? Remember, a warranty is only as good as the company backing it.
If you think your older home might have a foundation issue, contact us today to set up a foundation evaluation. If we find a problem, we’ll give you a repair estimate. Since 1994, we’ve helped clients in Lincoln, Omaha, Kearney, Southeastern Nebraska, Northwestern Missouri, and parts of Northeastern Kansas with foundation repair, basement waterproofing, crawl space encapsulation, and concrete leveling for their homes.