Looking for information about garage foundation repair options when the garage foundation is experiencing settlement? If so, you’ve landed on the right page. In this article, we’re going to talk about foundation settlement, what causes it, garage foundation repair options to correct settlement, and more.
What Is Foundation Settlement?
Foundation settlement is when a foundation – under a garage, house, or some other structure – settles into the soil unevenly. This puts a lot of stress on the foundation and can lead to serious structural damage.
All structures settle into the ground slightly after they’re built. This is pretty normal and so long as the settlement is uniform, there’s usually nothing to worry about. Problems arise when the settlement is differential.
Differential settlement is when a foundation is settling into the ground unevenly. Differential settlement throws everything out of plumb. If your home is experiencing differential settlement you’ll start to see problems like wall cracks, uneven floors, problems opening doors and windows, etc. See the illustration below for a visual representation of differential settlement.
What Causes Garage Foundation Settlement?
Garage foundation settlement can be caused by various things including, but not limited to:
- Soil that wasn’t adequately compacted prior to construction – Soil needs to be properly tamped down before anything is built on top of it. If this isn’t done, the structure will settle into the soil after construction, almost always unevenly.
- Expansive soil – Expansive soil contains a lot of clay and because of this it will expand when it absorbs moisture and then shrink as it dries out. This shrinking and swelling – which is usually seasonal – creates movement under the foundation and this can lead to differential settlement.
- Erosion-prone soil – Some types of soil are prone to erosion, which can lead to the formation of voids under the foundation. If the foundation under the garage settles into the voids, you’ll have differential settlement.
- Weather changes – If you build a garage foundation on top of expansive soil during the dry season, when the wet season rolls around again the soil will expand, creating movement under the foundation. This could lead to differential settlement.
- Natural disasters – These include earthquakes, floods, sinkholes, tornadoes, etc.
- Excavation next door – If your neighbor digs a big hole too close to your garage, it could destabilize the soil under the garage’s foundation and lead to differential settlement and structural damage.
- Poor drainage – Poor drainage is probably the number one cause of garage foundation problems. Fortunately, drainage problems can be fixed via the installation of a drain tile system. For more information see, The Importance Of Proper Foundation Drainage Around Your Home.
Garage Foundation Repair: Options For Foundation Settlement
If the foundation under your garage is experiencing differential settlement, the solution will probably be underpinning using either push or helical piers. The piers essentially extend the garage’s foundation down to strong soil that’s able to support the structure. For more information about underpinning see, What Is House Underpinning?
Signs Your Garage’s Foundation Might Have Settled
Common signs the foundation under your garage might have a problem include the following:
- Problems opening and closing windows and doors – This happens because foundation settlement causes everything to be out of plumb. If the problem is limited to only one window or door, the problem might not be settlement. However, trouble with multiple doors and windows is a sign the foundation has probably settled.
- Uneven floors – The unevenness might not even be visible at first. What happens when you drop a marble on the floor?
- Ceilings and floors that are no longer attached to the wall – These separations might be very slight at first.
- Floor cracks – Look for large cracks that run wall to wall. If the crack is limited to just one or two tiles, it probably happened when something fell on the floor.
- Wall cracks – Wall cracks associated with foundation settlement are usually horizontal or diagonal, often from the corners of windows and doors.
- Stair step cracks in brick or masonry – These are a sure sign of differential foundation settlement.
If you see any of the above, or something not listed here that seems suspicious, contact a foundation repair contractor right away and ask for a foundation evaluation. Garage foundation problems will get worse if you ignore them, and then they’ll be more expensive to fix.
How To Prevent Garage Foundation Settlement
Since most foundation problems are caused by water, you can go a long way toward preventing garage foundation settlement by simply controlling groundwater around the foundation. Here are some ways to do that:
- Regrade the yard around the garage’s foundation so that it slopes away from the garage. This will prevent water from draining toward the garage and soaking into the soil around the foundation.
- Don’t plant flowers, shrubs, and other types of vegetation next to the garage. They may look nice, but they need water and this means you’ll be adding water to the soil around the garage’s foundation.
- Clean your gutters regularly so water doesn’t spill over the side of the garage and soak the soil around the foundation.
- Use downspout extensions to carry runoff at least four feet away from the foundation before releasing it.
- Install a drain tile system to prevent water from building up in the soil around the garage’s foundation.
If you think your garage’s foundation might be in need of repair, contact us today to schedule a foundation evaluation. We serve areas in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. See our Service Area page for more information.