6 Warning Signs of Foundation Problems in a Commercial Building

It’s easy to think that your foundation just “sits there” – impervious to the world around it – but that isn’t the case. Any number of forces are at work 24/7 on your commercial property’s foundation, and the signs of a problem aren’t always plain to see. There are, however, six tell-tale signs of foundation problems that every property manager should know.

1) Exterior Cracks
Cracks and separations in the exterior masonry can signal a shifting foundation. Look for “stair-step” cracks in the mortar between bricks, as well as cracking of the bricks themselves, and separations or gaps where two walls meet. This is especially relevant with the tilt wall construction common among manufacturing facilities and warehouses. The sooner you act on this type of damage, the more you’ll save in repair costs later.

2) Exterior Fascia Gaps
Visible gaps in the frieze and fascia on your commercial property – the material that connects the roof to the exterior walls – can tell you a lot about your foundation’s health. These gaps could be your property settling or reacting to humidity, but they could also be signs of a more serious foundation problem.

Multi-story buildings such as multi-family apartment complexes and condominiums are particularly prone to this type of separation if the foundation has shifted.

3) Interior Cracks
Cracks in the drywall, separation between walls and moldings, and cracks that emanate from door frames and window frames are all signs that things might not be totally square with your property. In high-traffic properties – such as a retail store or restaurant – this could be simply from use. But as always, it is better to check these signs out early, before they get worse, and the underlying cause graduates from a minor problem to a major one.

4) Doors & Windows Not Opening or Closing
Doors and windows that are not closing properly, or require more effort than before, can be an indication that something is wrong with your foundation. As with fascia gaps, multi-family properties such as apartment complexes and condominiums are prone to this issue because they have so many doors!

If things are starting to go out-of-square with your property, it is likely due to a shifting foundation, which can lead to major wall breaks, separations, foundation failures, and even collapse if left untreated.

5) Plumbing Issues
Restaurants and institutional properties are notorious for plumbing issues, but if they become more “subterranean” and less “clogged pipes and low pressure,” this might be a sign of a foundation issue.

Plumbing can fail for a number of reasons, and when it fails beneath your foundation, the soil supporting your foundation becomes compromised. Equally, a shifting foundation can exert a massive amount of force against existing plumbing, causing pipes to burst, sometimes going unnoticed for days.

This is why it pays to examine your water bill and look for any spikes in usage. Just remember: While fixing the offending pipe may seem like a final solution, if the foundation hasn’t been repaired, you’ll simply be repeating this repair in the future.

6) Warping Floors
Cracked ceramic tiles, linoleum that has separated or bunched up, wooden floors that have warped or buckled are all signs that something has changed since installation of the floor.

If you have a sealed concrete floor (basically the foundation with some waterproofing and dye) you should look for new cracks, which will have a lighter appearance from the thinner “cosmetic” cracks that were present when your floor was sealed. Your flooring sits directly on top of your foundation, so any sign that the floor is suffering should be seen as a sign of a possible foundation problem.

Perma-Pier knows how important your commercial property is to you, and how important it is to resolve foundation problems as quickly and easily as possible.  If you’re a property owner or manager in need of a no charge evaluation of your foundation, contact us today.

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