Your home’s foundation is the base structure of your entire dwelling, so it’s easy to see why a bad foundation can be a big problem. Addressing foundation issues early on can help prevent them from becoming even more costly and damaging to other structures or systems in your home. Our guide looks at the most common signs of a bad foundation, how to spot them, and the importance of contacting a professional for repairs.
Cracks in Tile Floors
Tile floors may be stronger and, in some cases, less susceptible to small foundation shifts than wood flooring or carpet. If you begin to see sudden changes in your tile floors, you should pay close attention, as this is one of the signs of foundation issues.
Foundation movement over time can cause your tiles to move, crack, or break. You may also notice gaps or cracks in your grout or uneven tiles where shifting has begun. Even if you only see new hairline cracks, their appearance can indicate a bigger problem under the surface of your home.
Cabinets and Counters Detached from the Wall
If your walls or floors have shifted due to foundation changes, certain fixtures in the home can also shift, such as your bathroom and kitchen counters or cabinets. This presents as countertops pulling away from the backsplash, adjacent cabinets suddenly showing a gap, or even counters and cabinets detaching from the wall.
Some gaps can be caused by settling or temperature changes, especially if it’s only noticeable in caulked areas. If you notice any large gaps or detachments, they could be due to a shifting foundation and will need to be looked at by a professional.
Doors and Windows Pulling Away from the Wall
While you may not notice all signs of a bad foundation right away, chances are you’ll find issues with your doors and windows sooner since you use them regularly. A shifting foundation can cause your doors or windows to stick, or if the shift is substantially enough, their frames can begin to pull away from the wall.
If you begin to see light shining into your home from doorframes or window frames, feel a draft of air coming from outside, see the trim or fascia pulling away, or if cracks appear where the frame attaches to the Sheetrock or brick, it’s time to get a professional inspection.
Doors Sticking or Not Latching
Any time your home moves, you may notice your doors moving, sticking, or refusing to latch. This can occur with seasonal changes, even in a sound structure, as the wood in your doors expands or contracts with the temperature and humidity. However, it can also be due to foundation issues.
If the doors in your home move, stick in the frame, or if your dead bolt is suddenly hard to latch, look around for other signs of foundation damage. If the door issues come and go, it may be due to weather. If they stick around, there may be problems with the foundation.
Interior and Exterior Cracks
Cracking indicates that your home has shifted or settled somehow and can be one of the first warning signs of a foundation issue. You usually see these cracks in a few different areas, such as:
- The interior or exterior sides of the foundation itself.
- On the walls or ceilings inside your home.
- On your home’s exterior. These may appear as stair-step cracks in a brick or stone exterior wall.
Getting your home checked out is essential if you notice any cracking. Some interior wall cracks can be cosmetic in nature, especially if your home was recently built. New homes can take a year or two to settle as the soil below the foundation continues to compress and the materials are exposed to different weather.
However, major cracks or cracks in the foundation itself can be a sign of serious issues to come, and getting your foundation checked allows you to stop new damage or invasive pests, like termites, in their tracks.
Mildew Smell in the Basement
Mold and mildew aren’t exclusively related to foundation problems but can be a common sign of a bad foundation. That’s because even small cracks in a slab foundation often allow moisture to penetrate your home. This water can get trapped underneath wood flooring or carpet, resulting in mold overgrowth or a musty smell, especially in low-air flow and high-humidity areas like a basement. Foundation issues can also create new cracks in your exterior that allow moisture to seep behind your walls, growing mold in the drywall or rotting away at your beams.
Excess moisture is a serious concern, and basements require a watchful eye. If you notice moisture on the inside of your windows, see new mold, or smell mildew, try to find the source of the water intrusion. If you can’t locate a leak elsewhere, consider whether the water damage may be a result of your home’s foundation and any subsequent damage it could have caused.
Nails Protruding from Drywall
Your home may begin to settle or shift for many reasons, whether it’s a new build, there has been extreme weather, or your foundation has issues. Either way, this shifting can put a lot of pressure on the walls of your home, which may cause nails to back out of and protrude from your drywall.
These nail pops aren’t always due to your foundation and can be seasonal or part of the typical house-settling process. If you begin noticing nails popping out of your drywall, don’t ignore them and be on the lookout for other signs of foundation problems.
The weight of your home may cause the soil around and under your foundation to compress, leading to a sinking foundation. According to Home Advisor, this sinking is often the result of an improperly laid foundation or unstable soil, and may result in a home that shifts to one side or sinks in the middle. A sinking foundation can cause issues with your plumbing lines, walls, floors, and roof, and may even result in a cracked foundation if allowed to continue.
Call a structural engineer immediately if your house is leaning to one side or your foundation has begun to sink. They’re an unbiased professional and will be able to diagnose an unstable or moving foundation. You’ll need to call a contractor to perform repairs if the structural engineer identifies serious issues.
Uneven or Bouncing Floors
Bouncing floors are a common sign of foundation troubles because ground level floors lie directly on top of your concrete slab. This can mean areas of your flooring that have give or are bouncy when you walk. It may also look like hardwood slats that suddenly aren’t flush or uneven floors where they once fit together perfectly.
Uneven or sagging floors aren’t limited to slab foundations, either. Even if you have a beam foundation home, structural damage and shifting can easily affect your flooring.
Warped or Cracked Siding
If you notice any large gaps or detachments, they could be due to a shifting foundation and will need to be looked at by a professional. A bad foundation can cause the exterior siding of your home to warp, crack, shift, or expand. If you notice conjoined areas separating, cracked pieces, or areas where the siding is bending or warping, it may be due to a shift in your home’s foundation.
Foundation issues can become big problems that lead to hefty repair costs in newer and older homes. We recommend contacting a professional if you suspect structural problems. A structural engineer is an unbiased professional who can evaluate your home, look for foundation cracks or other damage, and let you know if you have a serious issue.
Signs of Bad Foundation FAQ
How can you tell if a house has a good foundation?
While you can’t always tell for sure whether a home has a good foundation, there are many signs that a home has a bad or failing foundation. Look for warning signs such as cracks in the foundation or exterior of the home, uneven floors, damaged doors and windows, or a musty smell in the house.
What should I do if my foundation is bad?
A structural engineer can help you identify whether your foundation is compromised. Since they don’t complete any repairs, this is usually your best bet to get an honest and unbiased evaluation. You can start contacting foundation repair specialists after you review their findings.
Why is it important to have a good foundation?
Your home’s foundation is the base of the entire structure and is arguably the most important aspect of the building. Without a strong foundation, your home is susceptible to water intrusion, pests, plumbing issues, cosmetic damage, and more. Plus, catching these issues early can prevent costly repairs. While the average foundation repair is around $4,984, you can easily pay $10,000* or more if hydraulic piers are required.
*Cost data via HomeAdvisor.