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House Leveling 101: What Every Homeowner Should Know

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House leveling
House leveling

If you’re reading this article, you probably think there’s a problem with your home’s foundation. If so, you’re in the right place. In this short guide we’ll answer the most common questions about house leveling. We will discuss what it is, why you might need it, signs your home is unlevel, why you shouldn’t postpone repairs, standard repair methods, and more.

House leveling, or foundation repair, is the process of lifting and stabilizing a sinking home. Find out what every homeowner should know about house leveling in this guide.

What Is House Leveling?

House leveling, also known as foundation leveling or foundation repair, means restoring a building’s foundation to its original position. This is sometimes necessary because over time, a building’s foundation may settle into the ground unevenly. House leveling involves lifting and permanently stabilizing the foundation to correct any unevenness and prevent further structural damage.

Why Would a House Need to Be Leveled?

A house may need to be leveled for various reasons, primarily related to issues with the foundation or structural stability of the building. Some common reasons a house needs to be leveled include:

  • Differential Settlement – Over time, a house’s foundation may settle unevenly due to soil movement, poor soil conditions, or inadequate foundation support. Differential settlement can result in uneven floors, cracked walls, sticking doors or windows, and other signs of structural instability that will only worsen, necessitating leveling to restore the foundation to its original position.
  • Structural Damage – Structural damage such as deteriorated support beams or sagging floor joists can cause a house to become uneven or out of level. Structural issues may result from various factors, including water damage, termite infestation, poor construction practices, or natural wear and tear over time.
  • Soil Instability – Changes in soil conditions, such as soil erosion or soil expansion and contraction, can affect the stability of the foundation and lead to uneven settlement. Soil instability may be caused by heavy rainfall, poor drainage, or landscaping changes.
  • Moisture Problems – Excessive moisture in the soil surrounding your foundation can create hydrostatic pressure that pushes against your foundation, weakening it. Excessive moisture can come from plumbing leaks, poor drainage, high groundwater levels, a poorly graded yard, or frequent flooding.
  • Poor Construction Practices – Houses built with inadequate foundation support, improper site preparation, or substandard materials may be prone to settlement or structural problems over time.
  • Natural Disasters – Natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods can cause significant damage to the foundation and structure of a house, leading to uneven settlement or movement. In such cases, leveling may be necessary to stabilize the foundation and restore the structural integrity of the building.

How Do You Know If Your House Is Unlevel?

Several signs may indicate your house is not level. These signs can vary depending on the severity and underlying cause of the problem. Some common signs that your house may not be level include:

  • Sloping Floors – One of the most obvious signs of an unlevel house is uneven or sloping floors. You may notice that the floors appear to slope towards one side of the house, or you may feel like you are walking uphill or downhill in certain areas. You may also see gaps between the floor and your baseboards.
  • Cracks – Cracks in the walls, ceilings, or foundation can indicate that your house is experiencing movement or settling. These foundation cracks may be vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or stair-step and may vary in width and length.
  • Sticking Doors and Windows – Doors and windows that stick or are increasingly difficult to open and close may indicate foundation movement or settlement. You may notice that doors and windows no longer fit properly in their frames, appear misaligned, have gaps, etc.
  • Bowed Walls – Bowed or sagging walls, especially along the house’s exterior can indicate structural problems. You may notice that the walls appear to lean inward or outward.

Signs of Foundation Failure

  • Sloping or Cracked Chimneys – Chimneys that appear to be leaning or cracked may indicate that the house has shifted or settled unevenly. A damaged chimney can be a serious structural issue that requires immediate attention to prevent further damage or collapse.
  • Porch Is Pulling Away – Often, porches are attached to the house’s main structure and share the same foundation. When the foundation of the house experiences settlement or movement, it can also affect the porch, causing it to pull away from the house.
  • Wrinkled or Torn Wallpaper – Foundation settlement or movement can cause the walls of a structure to shift, warp, or crack. The wallpaper may become stretched, wrinkled, or torn in certain areas as the walls move. These irregularities in the wallpaper’s surface may indicate underlying movement or shifting of the foundation.
  • Gaps Between Wall and Ceiling – As the foundation settles unevenly, one side of the wall may sink or shift more than the other, resulting in gaps along the joint between the wall and ceiling.

Can You Postpone House Leveling?

Postponing house leveling is generally not advisable, especially if there are noticeable signs of foundation issues or structural instability. Foundation issues typically worsen if left unaddressed, leading to additional structural damage. Such damage will devalue your home and result in more costly repairs over time. It can also put the safety of the residents at risk due to trip hazards and higher risks of mold growth and pest infestations. In severe cases, a home can even be deemed unsafe if it has excessive foundation damage.

It’s essential to address foundation issues promptly and not postpone house leveling if signs of foundation problems are present. Promptly consulting with a qualified foundation specialist will help to protect your home and family in the most cost-effective and least invasive way possible.

How Do You Level a House?

House leveling techniques vary depending on the type of foundation a homeowner has and the underlying cause of the damage. The most common house-leveling solutions are:

  • Push and Helical Piers – If a home is unlevel, the problem is most likely caused by differential settlement and will require foundation underpinning. Foundation underpinning involves connecting your home’s foundation to stable soil or bedrock and lifting it back up to the maximum practical level to stabilize it permanently. Push and helical piers are the steel shafts used in underpinning to lift and support your foundation. A specialist will determine which type of pier is best for your home and how many you need.
  • Crawl Space Support Jacks – If you have a crawl space foundation, there is a possibility that the reason your home is unlevel is due to a deteriorating subfloor and not your foundation. If that is the case with your crawl space, you must repair your subfloor. One standard repair method includes using crawl space support jacks that support sagging or weakened floor joists and beams. They can be adjusted over time if further support is needed.

How Do You Prevent a House from Becoming Unlevel?

Since most foundation problems are caused by excess moisture in the ground around the home, you can help prevent trouble by keeping the soil dry. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Regrade Your Yard – Make sure the soil slopes away from your home to prevent water from pooling near your foundation when it rains.
  • Efficient Gutter System – Keep your gutters clean and install downspout extensions so rainwater and snowmelt will not oversaturate the soil near your foundation.
  • Avoid Landscaping Near Foundation – Plant roots can disturb the soil near your foundation, causing it to shift. Some homeowners may accidentally over water the plants, which can oversaturate the soil. And tree roots can crack or shift your foundation. Hence, it is best not to plant anything too close to your home’s foundation.
  • Install a Drain Tile System with a Sump Pump – A drain tile system will catch excess water in the soil around your foundation and channel it to a sump pump that will actively push the water a safe distance from your foundation.

Prevent Foundation Problems

If your house needs leveling, don’t wait any longer to call a professional. We offer thorough home foundation inspections, helping you pinpoint the cause of your unlevel home and the best repair solutions. Schedule your appointment today. We service Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.

WRITTEN BY

Dave Epp

Dave is the President at Epp Foundation Repair with over 27 years of experience in the industry. Dave has worked on thousands of foundation, basement, concrete, and crawl space repair projects since 1993. Dave is involved in several civic and church organizations and enjoys coaching youth sports, mainly football, golfing, and elk hunting.

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