What is Considered a Major Foundation Repair? [Understanding Minor vs. Major]

May 13, 2024

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Your home's foundation is its literal backbone, providing stability and support to the entire structure. 

Over time, however, various factors can compromise its integrity, leading to a range of problems. While some issues may seem minor and easily fixable, others can signal significant structural damage requiring immediate attention. What is considered a major foundation repair?

In this blog, we explore the distinction between minor and major foundation problems, helping you identify when it's time to seek professional help.

What is Considered a Major Foundation Repair?

A major foundation repair usually involves fixing extensive problems and dealing with a property's structural issues. Major repairs can include wide cracks in walls or floors, noticeable sinking or shifting of the foundation, and visible distortions in the structure like bowing walls, and flooding, which often require significant work to fix.

Signs of Minor Foundation Problems

Minor foundation issues are often subtle but should not be overlooked. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

  • Small Interior Cracks: Look for small cracks in basement walls or floors, especially where they intersect. These foundation cracks may not indicate future problems but it’s important to keep an eye out in case of widening.
  • Sticking Doors and Windows: Difficulty opening or closing doors and windows could indicate shifts in the foundation OR it could not. That’s why it’s important for a foundation contractor to provide an inspection.
  • Minor Slopes or Unevenness: Noticeable slopes or uneven surfaces on your floors may suggest underlying foundation issues that are beginning.
  • Gaps Around Windows or Doors: Noticeable gaps between the frames of windows or doors and the surrounding walls could indicate minor shifts in the foundation. While small gaps may not affect the functionality of these openings, they can serve as entry points for pests and drafts, highlighting underlying foundation movement.
  • Mild Exterior Cracking: Keep an eye out for minor cracks in the exterior brick or masonry of your home. While small cracks may not immediately impact the structural integrity of the foundation, they can allow moisture to penetrate and exacerbate underlying issues if left unchecked.

While these signs may seem minor at first, they could be early indicators of larger problems if left unaddressed, leading to much more costly home foundation repairs.

Signs of Major Foundation Issues

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Major foundation problems demand immediate attention and can have serious implications for your home's safety and stability. Look out for the following signs:

  • Wide and Deep Cracks: Cracks that are wide or extend deep into the structure of walls or floors more than ¼ inch wide and that are horizontal or stair-step formations.
  • Significant Sinking or Settling: Noticeable shifts or sinking of the foundation, especially in the center of your home.
  • Structural Distortions: Bowing walls, sagging floors, or visible gaps between walls and ceilings.
  • Bowing Basement Walls: If your home has a basement or crawlspace, inspect the walls for signs of bowing or bulging. Bowing walls may indicate excessive lateral pressure from soil or water, leading to structural instability and potential collapse if left untreated.
  • Water Intrusion or Flooding: Persistent moisture or water intrusion in the basement or crawlspace, especially during heavy rainfall or snowmelt, may indicate compromised foundation waterproofing or drainage issues. Water intrusion can accelerate foundation deterioration and lead to further structural damage over time.
  • Visible Soil Erosion or Shifting: Visible soil erosion or shifting around the perimeter of the home, such as exposed roots or soil slippage, may suggest unstable soil conditions and potential foundation movement. Addressing drainage issues and stabilizing the soil can help mitigate further deterioration.
  • Multiple Areas of Distress: If you notice several areas of your home showing signs of foundation issues, it could indicate a widespread problem.

Ignoring these signs can lead to further deterioration and costly repairs down the line, jeopardizing your home's safety and value.

Structural Implications of Major Foundation Problems

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Major foundation issues are more than just inconveniences—they can have serious structural implications for your home. Here's how neglecting these issues can impact your property in the long term:

  • Jeopardizing Structural Integrity: Major foundation problems compromise the stability and strength of your home's structure. Left unchecked, they can lead to structural failures such as collapses or severe damage to load-bearing walls.
  • Costly Repairs: Ignoring major foundation issues often results in more extensive and costly repairs down the line. What may start as a minor crack can escalate into a major structural problem requiring extensive remediation work.
  • Diminished Resale Value: Unresolved foundation problems can significantly reduce the resale value of your home. Potential buyers are wary of purchasing properties with known foundation issues, leading to longer listing times and lower offers.
  • Safety Hazards: Foundation issues pose safety risks to occupants. Structural instability can lead to accidents such as trips and falls, while more severe issues may result in structural collapses or other catastrophic events.

Recognizing the severity of these issues is crucial for prompt intervention and mitigation. Addressing foundation problems early on can prevent further damage, safeguard your home's value, and ensure the safety and well-being of its inhabitants.

Common Causes of Major Foundation Problems

Understanding the root causes of foundation issues is essential for effective repair and prevention. 

Soil conditions, water damage, poor construction practices, tree root intrusion, hydrostatic pressure, and freeze-thaw cycles are among the leading culprits behind major foundation problems. These factors can exert pressure on the foundation, leading to shifts, settlement, and cracking over time. 

By recognizing and addressing these underlying issues early on, homeowners can take proactive steps to mitigate the risk of future foundation problems and provide the long-term stability of their properties. 

Identifying these common causes allows for targeted interventions and preventive measures, ultimately saving homeowners time, money, and headaches in the long run.

Repair Options for Major Foundation Issues

Repairing major foundation issues requires careful consideration of the specific problems at hand and the most suitable repair methods. 

Here are some common repair options for major foundation issues, along with what homeowners can expect for each:

  • Underpinning and Piering:

Underpinning involves strengthening or stabilizing the foundation by extending its support system deeper into the ground. This can be achieved through various methods, such as installing steel piers or helical piers beneath the foundation. 

Piering provides additional support to areas of the foundation that have experienced settlement or shifting. Homeowners can expect significant excavation around the foundation to access the affected areas. 

Costs can vary depending on the extent of the repairs needed and the type of piers used. While homeowners may not always need to vacate the premises during underpinning, it can be noisy and disruptive.

  • Slab Jacking and Mudjacking:

Slab jacking, also known as mudjacking or concrete leveling, is a process for raising sunken or uneven concrete slabs back to their original position. 

This method involves injecting a slurry mixture (typically consisting of cement, sand, and other additives) beneath the concrete slab to lift it. Slab jacking is commonly used for concrete slab foundations and driveways. 

Homeowners can expect minimal disruption to landscaping and structures, as the process typically requires drilling small injection holes into the concrete. Costs for slab jacking can vary based on the size of the area and the extent of the repairs needed.

  • Drainage Correction:

waterproofing and drainage system for home

Poor drainage can contribute to foundation problems by allowing excess water to accumulate around the foundation. Correcting drainage issues involves improving surface drainage and redirecting water away from the foundation. 

This may include installing French drains, grading the landscape to promote proper water runoff, or repairing damaged gutters and downspouts. 

Homeowners can expect excavation work around the foundation to install drainage systems. The cost of drainage correction can vary depending on the scope of the project and the extent of the drainage issues.

  • Soil Stabilization Techniques:

Soil stabilization techniques improve the load-bearing capacity and stability of the soil beneath the foundation. These may involve injecting chemical grouts or expanding resins into the soil to increase its density and strength. 

Soil stabilization can help prevent future settlement and movement of the foundation. Homeowners can expect minimal disruption to the property during soil stabilization, as the process typically involves injecting materials into the ground through small access points. Costs for soil stabilization can vary depending on the size of the area and the type of stabilization method used.

Before proceeding with any foundation repairs, homeowners should consult with qualified foundation repair specialists to assess the extent of the damage and determine the most appropriate repair method for their specific situation. 

Cost Considerations and Budgeting Tips

Repairing major foundation issues can be a significant financial undertaking. Factors such as the extent of damage, the chosen repair method, and local labor and material costs can all influence the overall expense. 

Obtaining multiple quotes from reputable foundation repair companies is advisable to ensure fair pricing and quality service. 

Additionally, homeowners should explore financing options and assistance programs that may help alleviate the financial burden of foundation repairs.

Preventative Measures to Avoid Major Foundation Repairs

house with significant foundation crack

While some foundation problems are unavoidable, many can be prevented through proactive maintenance and preventive measures. 

Regular inspections, proper drainage management, soil stabilization strategies, and professional assessments can help identify potential issues early on and mitigate the risk of major structural damage. 

Investing in preventive maintenance can save homeowners both time and money in the long run.

Conclusion

In conclusion, distinguishing between minor and major foundation issues is crucial for maintaining the structural integrity and safety of your home. 

By recognizing the signs of major foundation problems and taking prompt action, homeowners can prevent further damage and ensure the long-term stability of their properties. 

Remember, when it comes to foundation repair, early intervention is key.

For professional assistance with your foundation repair needs, trust the experts at Pro Foundation Fixers

With years of experience and a commitment to quality craftsmanship, we specialize in diagnosing and addressing a wide range of foundation issues. Don't wait until minor problems escalate into major concerns—contact us today for a comprehensive foundation inspection and personalized repair recommendations.

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