Problems in a home's foundation can lead to larger structural problems, possibly causing an unsafe living environment. Being able to identify the most common foundation problems may make it possible to repair damage before it becomes more serious. The three most common foundation problems are bulges and bowing, cracking, and leaks.
Bulges, an outward bump in the foundation, and bowing, an inward curve, can both lead to serious foundation problems. Both can be caused by the expanding and contracting caused by temperature changes. A bad framing job, causing uneven pressure on the foundation, may also lead to these foundation problems. Measuring the amount of curvature in a foundation can be done by setting a straight rod against the furthest out point of the wall, and then measuring the distance to the innermost points.
Cracking can also be caused by temperature changes or inadequate framing. Cracking may also be caused by settling of the soil beneath the foundation or even by nearby construction, depending on the quality of the foundation and the amount of vibrations caused by the construction. Cracks can be fixed with some mortar and caulk, filling and then sealing the hole. While minor cracks do not pose much of a threat to the actual structure of the home, they can lead to the third of the most common foundation problems — leaking.
Leaking is caused by water coming in through cracks or holes in the foundation, and can be stopped through repairing the cracks and covering the area with a waterproof sealant. The movement of water, even a small amount, going through the crack can make the crack larger if left untreated, worsening foundation problems. Leaks may be a slow, steady drip, a stream, or even a gush, depending on the size of the hole and the amount of water coming through. Leaking is usually the most serious shortly after rain storms, as the water is absorbed into the ground and brought to the crack, or in the spring, as the snow melts.
Leaks may also stem from the edge of the roof being too close to the home. Water running off the roof falls too close to the base of the home, and can lead to water flooding the basement of the home. Any sinking around the base of the home, caused by settling in the dirt used to fill around the foundation, can make this problem worse. Using dirt to create a slope running away from the foundation may help to solve this problem.