When designing your home or business building, you begin from the top going down to its foundation. However, when it comes to the actual construction, the foundation is the most important part to begin. Ever wondered exactly why this is so?
There are different types of property foundation that you can choose from for your property. This may be quite a challenge, especially when you have little or no knowledge about the types.
Also, unfortunately yet quite common, there are problems associated with these property foundations, like foundation cracks, that could be a threat if not addressed as soon as possible.
Well, you’ve come to the right place. This guide contains everything you need to know about property foundations; right from their importance to practical solutions to the common foundation cracks. Please read on.
Why are Property Foundations Important?
To every homeowner who intends to build their property, the foundation is the first and most crucial consideration to make once the building process is to begin. Property foundations play a major role in distributing the weight of your property over a sufficient surface hence preventing an unequal settlement of your property. This also prevents the subsoil from spreading. Foundations are also designed to keep out groundwater which may otherwise cause severe issues both to you and to your property as well.
Types of Property Foundations
Deciding on the type of foundation for your property is yet another important aspect. There are quite a number of foundation types that you can choose from, but there are those that are commonly used by most homeowners and contractors. The slab foundation, basement foundation, and crawlspace foundation. Basically, your budget and personal preference are the major determinants of the foundation you’ll choose for your new home or business. But again, each type has its own pros and cons.
1) Slab Foundations
This is the least expensive and least complex foundation type among the three. It’s an excellent option for homeowners whose budget is front-of-mind. And what about their maintenance? You’d probably expect them to require high maintenance because of their cheap investment, right? Well, on the contrary, this type requires the least amount of maintenance of all foundation types.
However, bad weather can be a big threat to slab foundations; they offer minimal protection to buildings from inclement weather events like storms. Repairs also tend to be potentially expensive, especially with slabs made using the old technology – you’ll have to break through the concrete to access the piping since plumbing systems are placed below the concrete slab.
2) Crawlspace Foundation
Crawlspace foundations require properties to be elevated some feet off the ground where blocks are laid to provide support to the structure’s walls. Unlike slab foundation, where accessing your plumbing system could be quite a task, crawlspace offers much easier access for repairs and possible future upgrades. Crawlspaces are usually conditioned hence making your floors warmer, not like how it always feels with concrete floors.
This type, however, is prone to promote the growth of fungi and mold due to moisture even with cutting-edge barriers. You may not be too sure about your safety in case of inclement weather conditions, storms specifically.
3) Basement Foundation
Perhaps you’ve seen holes that end in concrete slabs in some buildings. If they are properties built a few decades ago, there’s a high chance they’re made of cinder blocks. These would come to be prone to frequent leaks and structural failures over time. Fortunately, current basements are mostly built with poured concrete walls which have solved most of the moisture permeation and structural integrity issues experienced with cinder blocks basements.
Basement foundations provide easy- and cheaper-access for repairs to home utilities since there’s more space to move about, unlike having to dig into a slab or crawl in the crawlspace. They can also provide an adequate seasonal living space. Plus, basements can provide an excellent shelter from some of the worst weather disasters you may experience, like storms. If you intend to anchor your property to the ground and at the same time extend the foundation below the frost line to help maintain your foundation’s integrity over time, basement foundation can be a perfect type to choose.
However, this type of foundation is relatively the most expensive among the three, especially if you decide to complete it. You should also be prepared not to receive natural light should you convert it into a living space; hence you’ll need to look for other sources of light. Another common drawback with basements is possible flooding, especially if you don’t have a sump pump.
Also Read:- Top Most House Foundations: Pros And Cons
Foundation cracks could result from several factors. For instance, the soil around the property could become completely dry especially during a long dry season. When it finally rains, the shrunk soil could be soaked and forced to expand dramatically, a situation that can put stress on the foundation walls causing them to crack. Downspout downers directing rain and roof runoff directly to your property foundation can dump water on it and can cause the water to find its way through the foundation walls.
How Can You Identify Foundation Cracks?
You won’t probably just wake up one day to find your windows or doors have come out of their jamb. Or to see that long crack on your drywall. There can be several methods you can use to identify the warning signs of cracks and related foundation problems. The following are the most common and, perhaps DIY methods.
Probing Concrete for Weakness
You may notice that the concrete in your poured perimeter foundation appears to be flaking and chipping. Try poking the concrete in some places to find out if it’s hard enough that you can hardly damage with a sturdy object like a screwdriver. This means that if some pieces chip or break off, the concrete could be deteriorating, and you may have to consider a new foundation.
Regular Checks of the Outside
Your property walls should be primarily straight – up and down and side to side. If, as you move outside with a level around your property, you notice some leaning walls, it should raise some concern. You may also notice curves or bulges in poured concrete walls or foundation which could signal a shift in your foundation or an expansion of the soil around the foundation.
Check the Structural Components
This will mostly apply for the crawlspace and basement types. The concrete supports and posts should basically be standing straight and should remain firmly planted with their bottoms resting firmly on the concrete piers. You should start worrying if you notice any puddles, wet framing, and possible rotting (these may indicate poor drainage around the foundation).
What Should You Do If You Notice a Crack?
Having cracks in your foundation can be very disappointing and depressing, right? Especially if you’d invested a good amount (both time and money) towards the property. But does it mean it’s the end of your property? Well, actually, NO. Good news is, there’s light at the end of the tunnel (and it’s definitely not the light that makes its way through the cracks, huh!). So, what can you do about the cracks? There are quite many ways that you can use to fix the problem.
You should be more worried if you spot stair-step cracks in masonry joints, more so if they’re wider than ¼ inch or there’re bulges on the wall. You should consult an expert to access the issue further and advise you on the most effective solution. There are several platforms where you can find a professional who has dealt with similar problems to help you repair a foundation crack and ensure it’s done right the first time.
Horizontal cracks can be very serious. They usually occur when water-saturated soil freezes and expands, pushing the foundation in and forcing it to break. In such a situation, a new foundation will be the best and safest option to consider.
For cracks appearing on L-shaped sections, like where foundations step down to follow a hillside (shrinkage cracks are common), you can plug the cracks to keep the crawlspace or basement space dry. These cracks are usually not as a result of a structural issue.
If the cracks are small (1/16-inch wide or less), painting a concrete waterproofing paint over them can solve the problem. However, you need to be checking the painted area regularly for possible cracks, which signals a widening gap due to pressure.
If you notice some hairline cracks in the mortars between concrete blocks, there’ll be no cause to worry as they’re not that serious.
Is It Possible To Prevent Possible Foundation Cracks?
Yes, it’s very possible. During a long dry spell, for instance, don’t let the soil around your property to dry out completely. Consider wetting the soil once in a while say, by running a soaker hose to help quiet the possible contraction and expansion. You can also consider planting deep-rooted shrubs and trees and at a safe distance from your property to prevent them from competing for water with the soil around your property, especially during dry spells.
If your downspout downer has no extension, ensure to extend it at least 5 feet away from your property by use of extenders (plain or fancy). You can also decide to bury long downspout diverters underground draining water to storm drains or curbs.
Also, when installing the foundations, ensure proper and efficient drainage away from the building to prevent runoff and moisture damage.
How strong or weak your property depends on the strength of its foundation. The floors and walls tend to move when the foundation isn’t holding your property perfectly steady any longer. Then the walls will crack, sides crumble, and windows and doors won’t be opening properly. Fortunately, you can remedy the issue especially when noticed early enough. The earlier you notice the crack signs and fix them, the less the amount of money and time that you’ll spend. You can also refer to other building repairs/remodeling themed blogs for more information. All the best!