Time affects everyone and everything. As much as it will cause changes in your life, time will take its toll on your home too. Hence, you might realize that your building isn’t in mint condition as it was back in the day. The most common sign that there’s something wrong with it is the state of its foundation and how well it sits on the ground beneath it.
Foundation settlement happens over a long stretch of time and depends on two main factors: the type of soil beneath your home and the local weather conditions. But diagnosing the problem can get tricky even for homeowners with more experience. As such, it’s easy to mistake one for the other and to waste their time trying to repair it.
Unfortunately, modern home designs can make the diagnosis even harder. Read on for more information about foundation settlement as well as the proper benchmarking that goes with it.
What Is Foundation Settlement?
Since foundation repairs and benchmarking go hand-in-hand, it’s key to explain what settlement is before we go into any further details. Foundation settlement is a physical process that includes your home sinking into the ground. The main reason behind it is the soil’s lack of load-bearing capability to hold the weight of the structure. If you don’t act in time, you’ll face some serious structural damage.
The process of foundation settlement begins when the soil beneath and around your home experiences physical changes. In the following, we’ll list five common scenarios that can lead to settlement and foundation problems. There might be some other reason for what is happening to your home too, but you can safely bet that if you’re living in Michigan, one of these is behind all your troubles.
Each type of soil has different characteristics when it comes to weight-bearing, and they’ll eventually show. Therefore, it’s key to properly compact the ground before construction begins. If you don’t, foundation settlement is certainly going to happen at some point.
When building your home, the construction crew will need to rearrange the soil on your property in line with the home you are looking to build. However, if they don’t compact it properly, it will eventually cause foundation problems such as settlement. The damage will affect the structural integrity, causing various safety issues.
Moisture changes in the soil under your home are another reason behind foundation settlement. This is a common problem for silt or clay soils. It usually occurs when there’s water leakage, bad plumbing, or a sudden excessive amount of groundwater appearing.
Although having a rich yard with trees and bushes seems pleasing to the eye, it can be behind your foundation problems. The thing is, as vegetation ages, it grows and spreads its roots. The roots will take minerals and other nutritious materials from the soil around your home, robbing it of its potential to bear heavy loads.
It’s not unusual for construction crews to pour heavier soil over the lighter ones while preparing the ground for the future foundation. As such, the two will consolidate. This means that the weaker soil will give in to the pressure of the heavier one, allowing the building and its foundation to settle into the ground.
Signs of Foundation Settlement
As we’ve said, the settlement process isn’t immediate. It occurs over some time, allowing you to prevent damage if you see the signs. Therefore, it’s key to understand what they are by watching out for the following five foundation settlement cues:
- If you notice stair-step cracking, you should suspect something’s wrong. This can indicate that the cracks and fractures in your foundation are getting wider, making your lower-grade walls rotate outwards.
- You can see another common sign of a settling foundation by observing your chimney. If it’s beginning to split from your home, you should contact professional help immediately.
- Next up, watch out for your windows and doors. If they don’t open or close properly, it’s likely due to frame damage from the foundation settlement.
- Besides doors and windows not working properly, you can notice cracks and fractures in the drywall that surrounds them. This is another early sign of settlement.
- Lastly, if you realize that your doors and windows are beginning to separate from their frames, you can bet it’s due to foundation problems like settlement.
How to Solve Foundation Settlement
Your best bet is to go for foundation piers to stabilize the foundation and prevent it from further settlement. Piers are steel rods that go into the ground beneath your home. But don’t worry, even if it sounds like dirty work, you won’t be able to see these piers once the repair process is over. If the repair crew installs them properly, you can count on your home being safe again. It will both stop settlement and can even elevate your foundation and home to their proper place.
But What About Benchmarking?
In a scenario where your foundation is showing signs of settling, it’s best to call professional help. The crew will, as we’ve said, install piers to prevent further problems. However, they will also engage in benchmarking once the repair process is over. What they’ll do is drive rivets into the foundation above each pier. These will allow inspectors in the future to see whether the piers are stabilizing your home the way they should.
So, Should You Opt for Benchmarking Yourself?
Let’s make this clear: benchmarking isn’t something you’d want to do yourself. It’s not a DIY project since it’s not a one-man job. Also, if you don’t do it properly, you’ll risk the safety of both your home and family. Therefore, we’d say it can only work if done by professionals. Luckily, you can contact our team at FSM for a free foundation inspection and repair estimate. After assessing your home, they’ll provide you with a series of solutions for your foundation problems. With their help, you and your family will be able to enjoy the safety and comfort of your home for years to come.