Signs of Upheaval and Settling: Know the Difference

Upheaval occurs whenever your foundation or slab moves upward due to soil expansion. Foundation upheaval is a serious problem, as it could eventually cause your home to be unsafe to inhabit. Settling refers to your home “sinking into” its surroundings by actually lowering into the soil. All homes settle; however, too much settling can lead to foundation problems. Upheaval is sometimes confused with settling, as both tend to produce the same signs. To correctly diagnose your problem, you’ll need to know the difference between the two.

Signs and Causes of Upheaval

One of the biggest signs of upheaval is cracks in your floor or walls caused by excess pressure as your foundation moves upward. This is because the area where upheaval is taking place will compress and can eventually separate. This can lead to the appearance of settling; however, the reason why one part of your home actually appears lower is because the rest of it is actually lifting.

Upheaval is caused by too much moisture in the soil. Excess moisture can happen due to frost, since soil expands as it freezes and contracts as it thaws. Removing too many trees from around your home can increase your risk of upheaval, since tree roots tend to absorb water that must be redirected elsewhere. Other causes of upheaval may be:

  • Plumbing leaks in your crawl space
  • Standing water near home’s foundation, which can result from broken sewer lines or ground that does not slope properly
  • High levels of precipitation that lead to flooding

Signs and Causes of Settlement

Settling tends to result in cracks in your foundation that may appear as stair steps. You may also notice cracks on your inside walls, and could have difficulty opening and closing your windows. Concrete block foundations may begin to bow or bulge near the center whenever settling occurs.

A lack of moisture in the soil can lead to settlement. Settling is more likely in homes where the soil was not compacted properly before building. Erosion may also result in settling, which is another reason why tree removal can be problematic.

Solutions for Upheaval

The remedy for upheaval will largely depend on the cause of it. The first thing you should do is to identify what is causing your problem, and then make the necessary repairs. Failing to address the underlying issue could result in the problem resurfacing in only a short while.

Depending on the amount of upheaval present, you may need to take other measures. One common remedy for upheaval involves injecting a chemical solution in the soil underneath your home. This solution contains ammonium salts and potassium ions that prevent your soil from absorbing water. Tunnels may be dug underneath your home to lift it and allow better drainage, or underpinning used to extend your foundation or redistribute its load.

Solutions for Settlement

Foundation settlement is sometimes cured with underpinning that may also include placing steel piers underneath the home to gently lift it. Grout pumping or mudjacking is another cure for settlement, and involves pouring thin mud or cement into the area underneath settled concrete. Polymer injections consisting of a lightweight geotechnical foam fill product may be used to stabilize the soil. Many methods of treating settlement will include a combination of two or more of these techniques.

It can be difficult to determine the difference between settling and upheaval, and is equally as hard to choose the right remedy. If you are experiencing upheaval or extreme settlement, you should not try to handle the problem on your own. Instead, contact us to ensure the problem is correctly identified and that repairs are performed to standard.

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