What’s the difference between foundation problems vs. settling? How do they relate to each other? By the end of this article, you’ll know how some settling is normal, when settling turns into a problem, and how to identify those problems. Even better, we give you the best foundation repair methods on the market.

Why Do Foundations Settle?

It’s safe to say the ground wasn’t expecting a home to be built on top of it. Foundations are very heavy and are going to press down, compacting the soil they’re built on. This compaction causes the foundation to settle a little bit into the soil. The amount of settlement your foundation experiences varies. For example, foundations built on bedrock don’t settle as much as foundations built on soil, such as clay, peat, or loam.

Is Settling Okay?

In small amounts, uniform settlement is okay. The problem is differential settlement, which is severe and leads to major issues.

photo of a cracked wall

Types Of Foundation Settlement

There are two types of settling that can affect your home:

Uniform settlement – Uniform settlement is when all the sections of your home experience the same rate of settling. As long as settlement stays under fractions of an inch, uniform settlement is completely normal. You don’t need to worry about this.

Differential settlement – This is the type of settlement you need to worry about. Sections of your home can settle at different rates, causing all sorts of problems. You’ll begin to notice floors are sloping, walls are bowing, or windows and doors are sticking when you try to open or close them. Differential settlement puts a lot of stress on your foundation.

foundation settlement foundation professionals of florida

What Causes Differential Settlement?

Below are the most common reasons your home experiences differential settlement.

  • Material degradation – Buried construction or organic material can degrade over time, creating voids and loose soil.
  • Poorly backfilled/compacted soil – Before your foundation is built, builders excavate the ground to make way for construction. If they take out too much dirt from the site, they have to replace and compact the excess soil. Failing to properly compact the soil can lead to differential settlement.
  • Soil conditions – If your home builder ignores loose subsurface soil conditions like expansive soil, your home will experience constant settlement. Clay-rich soil is called expansive because it swells when it gets wet and contracts when it dries. The constant swelling-shrinking cycle puts stress on your foundation.
  • Soil erosion – If you have poor drainage around your home, the soil beneath your foundation can wash away.
  • Large trees – Tree roots can drink and dry out your soil, creating pockets below your foundation.
  • Soil creep – If you live on or near a hill, soil can slide down toward your home, causing lateral movement against your foundation.

Differential settlement leads to major foundation problems.

soil layers
how to spot foundation problems foundation professionals of florida

How To Spot Foundation Problems

Here’s how you can spot if differential settlement has affected your foundation.

  • Multiple sticking windows and doors – This is a very common sign you have a foundation problem.
  • Uneven floors – If you notice any sunken, bowed, or uneven floors, you could be looking at a foundation problem.
  • Separating walls and floors – Even the smallest separations could be the results of a larger problem.
  • Floor cracks – Look out for cracks that run from one wall to another.
  • Cracked or bowed walls – If you notice your foundation walls are cracked, bowing, or leaning, you definitely have a foundation problem.
  • Tears in wallpaper – Check to see if the wall behind the torn wallpaper is cracked.
  • Wall rotation – Wall rotation is when your outside foundation sinks deeper into saturated soil. Then, the inside edge of your foundation that sits on drier soil will pull up. This can cause your walls to rotate.
  • Diagonal cracks running from the corners of doors and windows to the ceiling – If these are very thin, hairline cracks, they might be from normal settling. However, larger cracks could be a sign of foundation damage.
  • Moldings that have separated – Foundation problems cause your floors, ceilings, and walls to move separately. Look out for that!
  • Stair step cracks in brick and masonry – This is another sign of foundation trouble. Sometimes these cracks will be in the mortar only.
  • Chimneys or porches that are separating from the rest of the house – There’s a possibility this might be related to a problem with the foundation under the chimney or porch. However, have a professional look at it to make sure it isn’t caused by a problem with your home’s foundation.

Foundation Problem Solutions

Here are the best methods to counter foundation problems.

Compaction grouting – Compaction grouting uses fast-setting polyurethane foam to fill loose soil and add strength to your foundation.

1. First, the foam is injected underneath your slab.
2. Then, the foam expands and compacts any weak soil.
3. Lastly, the foam hardens and forms balls or columns of dense structural supports.

Permeation grouting – Similar to compaction grouting, permeation grouting uses Portland cement to fill in voids below your foundation. The main objection is to reduce permeability, which is when soil allows too much liquid or gas to pass through it. Permeation grouting is usually used in coastal regions.

Steel push piers – Steel push piers are long piles that are driven deep below your foundation until they find stronger soil. Then, hydraulic jacks lift your home back to the correct position.

Helical piers – These work the same way as steel piers, except their design resembles corkscrews. Instead of being pushed down, they are twisted into the soil.

Wall plate anchors – Wall plate anchors are designed to counter bowing foundation walls. This system consists of an inside wall plate that attaches to the bowing wall. Then, an outside anchor is placed in the surrounding soil. Lastly, a high-strength rod ties them together, pulling the wall back to its correct position.

Helical tieback anchors – Similar to wall plate anchors, helical anchors don’t need exterior excavation and can be used where space is limited. The system only requires two parts.

1. A wall plate is attached to the bowing wall.
2. A corkscrew-like anchor is drilled into the dirt, pulling the wall back as the anchor twists.

Carbon fiber – Carbon fiber repair involves high-strength straps that link your foundation base to the bottom of your home’s first floor. The straps are epoxied to bowing or leaning walls vertically or horizontally, depending on how the wall is affected. Once the straps are tightened, the wall can be straightened back to its original position.

Who Should You Call For Foundation Problems & Settling?

The above repair methods should be handled by professionals. Call Foundation Professionals of Florida! We’re an award-winning and top-performing company servicing Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virgin Islands, and the Florida Keys. Besides foundation repair, we provide basement waterproofing, crawl space repair, slab lifting, and more. Schedule an appointment today!