Interested in learning more about house leveling? If so, you’ve landed on the right page. This short, simple guide will explain the basics of house leveling and point you in the right direction for more in-depth information.
All foundations settle
All foundations settle into the soil to some extent, even brand new houses. This is perfectly normal, and as long as the settling is uniform (i.e. happening to all areas of the house at the same rate), there’s nothing to worry about.
The problem is something called differential settling. This happens when the house is settling, but not uniformly. In other words, different sections of the house are settling at different rates. This puts stress on the foundation and will result in uneven floors, cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings, and windows that are out of plumb.
What is house leveling?
House leveling is a foundation repair procedure that lifts and levels a settling house back up to where it was before.
Why do house foundations experience differential settling?
Houses experience differential settling for a variety of reasons including…
- Excess moisture in the soil. This can be caused by poor drainage around the foundation, or by plumbing leaks under the foundation.
- Problems with tree roots. Tree roots are always searching for water and if they manage to slurp up all the moisture in the soil under a foundation, the soil will shrink, and destabilize the foundation.
- Expansive soil. Expansive soils are those that swell when they absorb moisture and shrink when they dry out. In other words, the soil isn’t stable. It moves a lot. This movement over time will destabilize a foundation.
- Bad construction. If the soil under the foundation wasn’t properly compacted prior to construction, it can cause differential settlement in the structure later on.
As we mentioned above, all structures settle to some extent and this is perfectly normal. So long as the settling is uniform, there’s nothing to worry about. The problem is with differential settlement, which is not normal.
How do I know if my house needs leveling/stabilizing?
Common signs that your house might be experiencing differential settlement and need leveling include…
- Cracks in walls, ceilings, and floors. If your house needs leveling you’ll see cracks that are larger than hairline cracks.
- Doors and windows that don’t open and shut as easily as they once did. With differential settlement, different areas of the foundation are settling at different rates. When this happens, doors and windows are no longer in plumb and won’t open and close as easily as they once did.
- Uneven floors. Sloped floors are a sign that your home is no longer level.
- Bowed or bulging walls. Differential settlement can also cause walls to distort.
- Gaps where the ceiling and the floor meet the walls. This happens when the floor or the ceiling – or both – start to pull away from the walls.
- Stairstep cracks in exterior brick or masonry. The cracks might go through the brick or masonry itself, or only through the mortar holding them together.
How much does house leveling cost?
The cost of house leveling depends on a variety of things including the size of the house, its overall condition, the severity of the settlement problem, what’s causing the settlement problem, what needs to be done to fix it, which method will be employed, and your geographical location. Therefore, it’s impossible for us to give even a ballpark figure.
The only way to know for sure how much it’s going to cost to level any particular house is to call an experienced foundation repair professional and ask for a physical inspection and estimate.
How does house leveling work?
There are a variety of ways to lift, level or stabilize a house including using compaction or permeation grouting for sinkholes and settling foundations, steel push piers or helical piers for foundation underpinning, wall anchors or helical tiebacks to straighten foundation walls, and carbon fiber repair for bowing walls and foundation cracks.
The method used depends on the type of foundation and the type of problem the structure is experiencing.
How can I make sure my house doesn’t become unlevel again?
You can make sure your house doesn’t become unlevel again by ensuring that excess moisture – the main culprit behind differential settling – is not able to make its way under your foundation. The best way to do this is to make sure water drains away from your house. You should also schedule periodic sewer and other plumbing line inspections to make sure there aren’t any leaks under your house.
While excess moisture in the soil under your foundation is bad, so is not enough moisture. Therefore, keep trees and other water-absorbing plants away from your home.
House leveling is not a DIY project
You’re probably smart enough to realize this, but we have to say it anyway because there’s always that one person…
House leveling is most definitely not a DIY project. Whatever you do, don’t try this yourself. House leveling is a job for experienced foundation repair professionals only.
All foundations settle and that’s OK. A certain amount of uniform settling is to be expected and is almost always nothing to worry about. The problem is differential settlement which can cause serious structural damage if it’s not repaired in a timely manner.
If you think you’re house might be settling or need leveling, your first step should be to contact an experienced foundation professional and ask them to come out for an inspection. They’ll be able to tell you what’s wrong with the house and the best way to repair the damage.