Foundation repair experts advocate for best practices of a healthy foundation, as this is the key to a property’s longevity. However, it’s not easy to gauge the quality of a home’s foundation on your first walkthrough. The obvious signs of foundation damage, such as large exterior cracks, bowed walls and sticking doorjambs are clear, but how do you spot the not-so-obvious signs?
We are here to help you prepare your clients to see those early signs of foundation issues. The list below covers the subtle signs for you to search when touring a property for the first time, as well as how to know exactly when to call a foundation repair expert for help.
Most foundation repair experts will find the why behind foundation issues. Often the “why” begins with the soil around a home. Expansive soils in Texas contain specific minerals that absorb water. The process works similarly to a sponge, with the soil expanding as it gets wet and shrinking as it dries. These changes in soil volume can be so great that they exert enough pressure to cause cracking and buckling in the foundation. In most homes, the first indications of when to call foundation repair experts will manifest at the base of the property.
A damp, humid basement/crawlspace is a sign that moisture from the surrounding soil has managed to seep into the space through cracks in the foundation. When surveying a property, examine the basement/crawlspace and keep your sense of smell highly tuned. Is there a dank, musty smell emanating from it? Does it feel noticeably damper? These are signs of foundation issues property owners will have more difficulty concealing than others, so it’s a good place to begin your search.
Stains & Mold
When groundwater consistently infiltrates any kind of property, it leaves behind unsightly stains. While not directly harmful to your health, these stains indicate foundation issues and can eventually lead to mold growth. Survey the basement/crawlspace for any discolored spots, including areas with white, powdery residue or reddish/orange splotches. Walls may also be flaking off in big patches, a condition called spalling. Dark black or grayish spots are signs of mold, indicating there is a significant drainage issue that will need to be addressed to ensure indoor air quality and health.
Another unfortunate sign of foundation and drainage issues are bugs such as centipedes, pill bugs, silverfish, earwigs, carpenter ants and roaches. These bugs are drawn to wet basements/crawlspaces and often enter through cracks in the foundation. You won’t have to crawl on your hands and knees to search for signs of bugs, but it is worth taking time to look over surface areas, and to and ask the property owner if they’ve had issues with pests in the past.
Moving up from the basement, it’s time to survey the main interior of the house. You may think cracks in walls and uneven flooring will immediately become apparent, but sometimes it takes a closely trained eye to discover the truth.
Floors and Walls
Early signs of floor and wall warping can be subtle. A simple test for flooring is to bring a small ball or marble on your tour. Place the ball on the floor in an area that you suspect may be warped and see if it rolls in a single direction on multiple tries. If it does, you could have the beginning signs of foundation shifts. Walls sometimes need a closer look as well. If you lay the side of your head against the surface and look down the wall, you might notice protruding bulges which may have been missed looking at it straight on.
We all want to assume that people have the best of intentions, but home sellers do have an incentive to sell their property for its highest value. For this reason, it’s not impossible to assume some sellers may attempt to disguise signs of foundation problems. They may not even be aware of the severity of the issues and are only attempting to disguise unseemly cracks.
If you notice a property has freshly applied wallpaper, especially if it’s only in one section of the house, it may be to cover up unsightly cracks in the wall. Unlike a fresh coat of paint, wallpaper can fully disguise a crack from foundation shifting. This is not a guaranteed sign of foundation problems but is something to keep in mind.
Unfortunately, many homeowners do not fully grasp the importance of proper landscaping around a foundation. In a state like Texas, unpredictable weather can result in significant rainfall in a short period of time, meaning improper drainage around the property can result in excess water collection and the eventual need for foundation repair.
Check the topsoil immediately surrounding the property with a level to see whether the soil slopes toward or away from the property. Ideally, the bubble of the level will float toward the property, indicating the soil is pitched downslope and excess water will drain away from the foundation. If the bubble is level or rises away from the house, this means there could be the potential for foundation issues caused by improper draining.
Exterior Cracks/Chimney Damage
Walk the perimeter of the house and keep an eye out for any cracks that are easy to miss from street level. Sometimes cracks are disguised by nearby trees or they are simply higher than where your eye line naturally rests. Another subtle sign of foundation issues is a tilted or splitting chimney. Foundation issues will often snake their way up through a house, leading to cracks and separation of the chimney from the rest of the property. This isn’t always immediately apparent, so it’s important to take a close look.
Foundation Repair Experts: When to Call
It’s easy for potential homebuyers to fall in love with a property the first time they see it, but subtle signs of foundation issues could indicate serious and costly foundation repairs down the road. Save your clients the trouble of running into foundation issues by contacting Perma-Pier for a no-charge property evaluation. Our experts will help you understand the extent of the damage and what to expect from a potential repair.
Once your client is aware of what a foundation inspection and repair will entail, they can make an informed decision. Complete this form to schedule an evaluation today with one of our foundation repair experts and help your client get the best value they can.