Solid Truth: Can Your House Collapse from Foundation Issues?

April 23, 2021

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If you’ve noticed cracked walls or other signs of foundation damage, you might wonder, can a house collapse from foundation issues? This is a vital question for any homeowner, as you don’t want to live in a home that is downright unsafe for you and your family!

While a house might not necessarily cave in, walls and ceilings can collapse from foundation issues, creating severe safety hazards. Buckled floors can also create tripping hazards, while uneven doorjambs and window frames can mean difficulty locking the home properly, also compromising your safety.

The safety of everyone in the home should be your first priority, but consider that foundation repair issues only get more extensive and costly to address over time. Cracks and gaps caused by a weakened foundation also allow moisture into the home, risking wood rot, stains, mold growth, and even insect infestation, all of which are reason enough to address needed foundation repairs.

foundation issues being repaired

To ensure you’re doing everything needed to keep your home’s foundation in good repair and keep your family safe, note some added details about common foundation problems, the damage these repair issues can cause to a home, and how they’re fixed. You can then discuss your options with a foundation repair contractor near you and know that your home is always in good condition.

Can a House Collapse From Foundation Issues?

Consider how a foundation is constructed so you know a bit more about how a weak foundation can affect the home’s walls, ceilings, floors, and other surfaces. A foundation is a set of walls inserted into footings. These footings are installed several inches beneath the width of an underground wall.

A home’s foundation supports all the major components of the home’s framing, including wall studs and beams, floor joists, staircases, and even the roof. In turn, when the foundation weakens and then begins to sink or pull in one direction or another, it will pull on that structural framing and those surfaces and materials as well.

While this pulling or pressure might not cause a home to outright collapse, interior surfaces also weaken and crack. Without proper support, various areas around walls and ceiling tiles can then collapse; floors might buckle and crack, and certain floorboards might also eventually collapse under you.

Is It Safe to Live In a House With Foundation Problems?

Not all foundation problems pose an immediate threat to your safety, but this doesn’t mean you should ignore those needed fixes! Consider some reasons why your safety might be at risk if you live in a home needing foundation repairs, and especially how these issues get worse over time:

  • Cracks encourage mold growth, as said, which is very bothersome to most people and downright toxic for those with sensitivities or allergies. Mold also spreads quickly and becomes more costly to clean and remove the longer it’s ignored!
  • Insects and rodents are drawn to a water source as well as a food source, so moisture getting into the home through those foundation cracks can lead to bothersome pest infestations. Termites and carpenter ants also chew through wood framing, leading to more damage and even costlier repairs.
  • In some cases, a home’s chimney stack can collapse, risking damage to any property beneath it and injury to anyone in the vicinity.
  • As a home settles and sinks on a weakened foundation, this pulls on floor joists and the home’s subflooring. Floors might then buckle; hardwood and tile flooring might “pop” upwards, while carpeting might become threadbare or torn in certain areas. Damaged flooring can also collapse under someone’s weight, risking injury.
  • As with floors, a home’s ceiling tiles or drywall sections might crack and pull away from the joists and studs to which they’re connected. As they do, they can weaken and eventually collapse, risking injury to anyone below.
  • Door and window frames must stay level and even for locks to close securely. When a house begins to sink and settle, you might notice that the doors and windows don’t seem to lock completely, which can risk your safety in case of an attempted break-in!

What Happens If a House Has a Bad Foundation?

Never overlook needed foundation fixes, as many surfaces and materials inside and outside the home rely on that foundation for stability. If your home has a weak or damaged foundation, the framing will typically pull away from itself, which is why you might soon notice interior wall and ceiling cracks; as the framing shifts, it pulls and then cracks drywall panels.

cracked house foundation

Corner framing also pulls and separates, so that walls might pull away from each other. Gaps then form in room corners. Baseboards and crown molding might then also “pop” or pull away from the walls, as will drywall nails.

As those foundation cracks let in moisture, wood framing might then rot and drywall might show unsightly stains and then crumble away. If your home has a basement foundation, items stored in the basement might also suffer water damage, including rust and mildew!

A homeowner would also do well to note that these issues only get worse over time. Minor cracks will eventually become extensive gaps in drywall and foundation concrete, while floor and roof cracks and buckling also get deeper and larger the longer they’re ignored. To avoid these extensive repairs, schedule foundation fixes at the first sign of damage!

Causes of Sinking House Foundation

There are several reasons why a house foundation might sink over the years, including poor-quality materials and installation. Improper drainage around the foundation, or dirty gutters that allow rainwater to wash over their sides, also means moisture collecting around that foundation; concrete absorbs this moisture, getting soft and eventually cracking and sinking.

Soil that absorbs moisture also expands and puts pressure on the foundation, leading to weakening and sinking. Overly dry soil, on the other hand, doesn’t provide proper support for a foundation so that it can sink! Excavation can also weaken compacted soil so that it doesn’t hold up a foundation as it should.

Homeowners adding weight to a home without strengthening the foundation can also lead to repair issues. Never install heavy stone countertops and flooring, an overly heavy roofing material, or an add-on such as a sunroom without first consulting a structural engineer. He or she will note if the foundation is strong enough to hold up that added weight or if it might need underpinning first.

Do Most Older Homes Have Foundation Problems?

While foundation concrete might absorb moisture and then suffer cracks and other damage over time, this doesn’t mean that older homes are more likely to have foundation repair issues, or that newer homes are somehow guaranteed to have strong, stable foundations. A newly constructed home might suffer foundation damage within the first few years of construction, if the builder used low-quality materials and installation methods.

Some older homes also have very sturdy foundations with little to no damage; if the builder used high-quality materials and the soil stayed dry and stable over the years, there is no reason to assume the foundation will eventually crack and chip. Timely patching and waterproofing also keeps a foundation in good condition and stable for decades!

jobsite for repairing foundation issues

If you’re considering purchasing an older home, it’s recommended you schedule all needed inspections, to ensure the house is in good condition from top to bottom. However, don’t assume that you’ll be facing expensive foundation repair costs just due to the home’s age, or that you don’t need to have the foundation inspected if the home is new. A home inspector can tell you the foundation’s condition and expected lifespan of any home, so you can make an informed purchasing decision.

Fixing Foundation Problems Right Away is Essential

The first and most important consideration about residential foundation problems is that they only get worse over time! The longer you ignore cracks, chips, spalling, and other damage, the more expensive it becomes to address. A repair that might have cost just a few hundred dollars might then cost several thousand dollars to fix.

Also, your home will likely start suffering secondary damage the longer you ignore needed foundation fixes. This secondary damage includes cracked walls and ceilings, mold, gaps around wall corners and window frames, buckled floors, damaged roofing, and even plumbing damage.

Basement walls might also begin to bow inward and then crack and even collapse. This is very dangerous and means exposing the home’s lower areas to outside dirt, insects, pests, and other such risks. A collapsed wall also means added weight and pressure on the rest of the foundation so that other walls might soon follow suit.

It’s also important to remember that potential homebuyers tend to shy away from houses with foundation damage, or lower their purchase offers significantly. Assuming that you can just ignore foundation issues and then sell your home sometime down the road can be a mistake. You might instead see your home linger on the market for years before you’re forced to either address those foundation issues or accept a significantly lower asking price!

Options for Fixing a Sinking Foundation

If your home’s foundation is sinking, the good news is that it can probably be fixed, and for far less money than you might assume. Note a few common foundation repair methods that your contractor might suggest, and how they work to keep a foundation in good condition for years if not indefinitely.

fixing house foundation issues

Epoxy injections

At the first sign of foundation cracks, epoxy injections can close up those gaps and provide added support for the concrete. If you notice minor cracks along basement walls or exterior foundation walls, you can buy DIY epoxy repair kits and attempt these fixes yourself; these kits are affordable and easy to use.

However, if the gaps are very deep or the cracks quick long, running the span of an interior or exterior wall, rely on a pro for epoxy fixes. A foundation repair contractor will ensure the epoxy fills the opening completely and dries for a tough, durable finish.

Steel and helical piers

Foundation repair piers are inserted into the ground around the perimeter of a damaged foundation. Steel or metal piers are pounded into soil, while helical piers are twisted or screwed into the dirt. Metal piers provide added support and helical piers are used for lighter structures or areas, such as porches or sunrooms.

These piers have a bracket along the side; after insertion, the home is lifted with specialty hydraulic equipment and then the bracket attached to the foundation wall. The piers give the foundation added support, keeping the home in place while also closing up cracks and gaps.

House leveling

House leveling uses a slurry or specialty injection underneath a home. As this slurry or putty-like material dries, it hardens and expands, pushing a home back into a level and even position. House leveling, also called slab jacking or mud jacking, provides support for the home over the years, keeping the foundation strong.

House leveling might sound like an extreme solution but actually involves very little excavation and is typically more affordable than homeowners realize, often costing just a few thousand dollars. It’s also an excellent solution or sinking homes, closing up gaps and cracks inside and out!

Preventing a Foundation From Sinking

There are two excellent solutions for keeping a home’s foundation from sinking; making needed repairs at the first sign of damage, and waterproofing the basement, concrete foundation, or crawlspace as needed over the years. Making timely repairs, such as filling gaps and cracks with epoxy or installing piers along a weakened area of the foundation, keeps damage from getting worse and can help prevent a home from sinking.

inspector checking foundation

Waterproofing, as well as crawlspace encapsulation, also helps repel water, keeping a foundation dry and protected. In turn, the concrete is less likely to suffer damage including cracks, chips, and spalling. Full-scale crawlspace encapsulation also keeps the home’s underside dry and protected and provides a clean, accessible area under the home.

Here at Birmingham Foundation Repair & Waterproofing, we hope this information answered the question, can a house collapse from foundation issues? If you need a foundation repair in Birmingham or surrounding areas, give us a call! Our foundation repair contractors in Birmingham offer high-quality repairs and guaranteed services. To find out more, give us a call today.

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