Being a homeowner means taking care of your home. That much is obvious, right? Well, you would be surprised at how many people ignore foundation maintenance. Texans are especially affected by this since Texas is the U.S. state that faces the most home foundation issues in the country.

Out of all the elements that make up a home, the foundation is one of the most critical.

Everything else in your house sits on top of it, after all! So, homeowners must be diligent in the upkeep of their home’s foundation and stay vigilant of possible damage signs.

Why Should You Do Foundation Maintenance?

What makes the foundation deserving of such special attention is the potential ripple effect it can have on other areas and features of your home. Foundation problems give way to cracked pipes (which can cause water damage and mold), finishings, framing, exterior siding, floors, etc. Here are some tips to help you keep a healthy home foundation and some warning signs you should look for when inspecting your house.

8 Foundation Maintenance Tips

1. Properly Maintain A Consistent Moisture Level In The Ground Around Your Foundation

The soil around your home can dry and contract, especially during drought season, which can cause your foundations to crack. This is caused by the dry soil pulling away at your foundation in different directions and becoming uneven. The solution? Keep a consistent moisture level around your foundation without it becoming excessively wet (which brings about its own set of problems).

2. Install Proper Drainage For Your Home

Poor drainage is, perhaps, the leading cause of foundation problems for homeowners. In short, when water pools around your home, the soil expands and pushes your foundation in different directions or even lifts it out of place. Whether from rain or gardening, it’s essential to have a good drainage system that will keep the water from falling and collecting near your home.

3. Make Sure Your Home Is On a Proper Slope

It is always a good idea to make sure the soil around your foundation is properly graded. The ground around your home should gently slope away from the foundation, causing water to flow in the opposite direction; this is called a “positive slope,” contrary to a negative slope, which causes water to flow towards your foundation.

In general, your yard should be 2% (which is ¼ inch per foot) to be considered a positive slope. Yard grading can be done as a challenging DIY project, but we recommend consulting a professional to do it for you.

4. Practice Mindful Landscaping

Always be thoughtful about what plants and trees you have near your home and how close they are to the building. Closer to the home proper, it’s better to choose smaller bushes, trees, and shrubs, preferably ones that won’t root horizontally since the roots can cause foundation damage.

In fact, tree roots is one of the most common causes of foundation cracks. Therefore, big trees should be planted as far away from structural foundations as possible. As a rule of thumb, all plants should be planted at least three feet away from your foundation, regardless of size, to prevent issues related to moisture. Which leads us to our next foundation maintenance tip…

5. Install A Root Barrier

If there are already large trees planted near your foundation, installing a root barrier can be a good way to protect the soil around your house from root penetration; remember that the roots of most large trees will grow at least three times the length of the radius of their canopy. A root barrier is made out of plastic or metal and installed about 3 feet deep to help direct invasive roots from reaching your foundation. If many roots have already reached your foundation, more drastic measures might be in order.

6. Monitor And Control Your Home’s Temperature Year-Round

Sharp fluctuations in temperature can damage your foundation by causing the concrete slabs to contract or expand. Now, you can’t control the temperature outside of your home, but you can control what goes on inside it. The temperature of your home should always be maintained at a steady level; this is easy enough to do when you’re there every day, but if you’re on vacation and have no one to come around to housesit, leave it on a low setting that will make sure the temperature doesn’t go below 40F or above 100 F.

7. Prevent Infestations

Believe it or not, many types of burrowing insects can do so into concrete foundations to build their colonies. Preventative pest control measures scheduled at least twice per year will ensure that your home is safe from these little saboteurs.

Image of a man logging foundation-related repairs done to his home as part of home foundation maintenance 

8. Keep A Detailed Foundation Log

Any preventative measure that you take, as well as every foundation-related change you notice around the house, should be kept in a log. This information will save you time and help you avoid guessing dates if you get repairs done in the future or hire someone to do so.

9. Check Your Pipes And Fixtures For Leaks

Even a slow leak could mean a disaster for your home, wasting hundreds of gallons of water per year, water that will find its way to your foundations and damage them. It’s very important to schedule thorough plumbing inspections at least once per year to detect and fix any plumbing leaks in your home as soon as possible.

Bonus tip: Your gutters and downspouts also direct water away from your foundation so checking on them and making sure that they are working properly will not only be great to protect and maintain your foundation but the rest of your home as well.

10. Inspect Your Home For Cracks

Cracks are the most infamous sign that your foundation is deteriorating. Remember that for every crack that you do see, there could be many more you haven’t noticed. A visual inspection around the perimeter of your home every fall and spring will help you detect hairline cracks, fractures, and holes before they cause too much damage. Remember to check behind wall decorations and furniture (both in the basement and yard) that might be hiding any structural damage.

11. Schedule Yearly Professional Consultations

Whether you already suspect your foundation of being damaged or just want to make sure that everything’s hunky-dory, scheduling a professional consultation with a foundation expert is a good idea. They will be able to tell you how well your foundation is faring and give you sound advice if they notice any warning signs.

If you’re ready to call an expert, you’re in the right place! Schedule a consultation or call us for a free estimate; don’t wait until it’s too late.

How To Know If Your Foundation Is In Danger

Since the foundation provides the structural integrity to the entire home, it can be distressing to find even the smallest sign that your foundation is failing you. But there is no reason to panic; just be on the lookout for any of these telltale signs of foundation damage, and if you find any, keep calm and call a professional to get an assessment.

Visible Cracks: Cracks are a big indicator that your foundation is in trouble. Whether horizontal or vertical, be on the lookout for cracks appearing on your walls, exterior siding, windows, and even a roofline that’s setting way too much since these are all warning signs that your foundation has issues.

Doors Not Closing: When your doors no longer close properly or don’t fit their frames, you could be looking at a foundation issue. This applies to cabinets and other fixtures around the house when they’re no longer aligned correctly.

Gaps Between Exterior Windows And Walls: Although gaps between the exterior windows and walls can be caused by many reasons, not all of them serious, larger gaps can indicate that your home is facing structural issues. Any gap between ¼ and ½ of an inch is reason enough to call for an engineer to inspect your home, especially if your home is built on clay soil or black soil.

Nails Popping Out Of Drywall: Again, one or two nail heads coming out of the drywall aren’t necessarily a bad omen about your foundation; they very well could be popping out because of bad installation. However, if your foundation is shifting, then many nails will become exposed at once, usually in a straight line.

Walls Bowing: Unlike a few of the signs on this list, bowing walls are always a bad sign. In the worst-case scenario, something is applying external pressure on your foundation or the walls themselves, so the problem should be rectified as soon as you notice it.

Creaking Sounds: While not always a 100% correlation with foundation problems, creaking floors and squeaking stairs could mean foundation problems if they manifest simultaneously, as other signs listed in this article. Beware of sagging stairs or floors as well!

Water Where There Shouldn’t Be: An excess of water or moisture in your crawlspace, basement, and even attic could be an indicator of foundation problems, so don’t ignore it if you find it! Be sure to call a plumber if you suspect your pipes are leaking water. Even a slow leak can be dangerous for your home if left unchecked for long.

What To Do If You Find Problems With Your Foundation

While some internet tutorials will tell you that anyone can perform simple foundation fixes, we believe the real repairs should be left for a licensed, bonded, and insured professional with experience. Different types of soil and constructions need different solutions, so you also need someone who knows how to work around these variables. What we’re saying is, if you need foundation repairs, hire a foundation pro!

At XPERT Foundation Repair, we have the team, equipment, and know-how to take care of any foundation problem with the utmost respect and professionalism towards you and your home, no matter how big or small, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Foundation Maintenance FAQ

What is the difference between a house settling and foundation problems?

House settling is a normal process that takes place during the first few years after construction. Some small cracks are to be expected at this stage since the foundation is adjusting to the weight and “movement” of the house. However, these small settling cracks should not be wider than 1/10 of an inch (about 1mm). Other signs that are not normal for settling are uneven floors, interior wall cracks, and plumbing issues.

What are some definite signs of a damaged foundation?

Cracks caused by a faulty foundation are wider than 1/10 of an inch (1mm) and develop rather quickly. Other signs you should look for in the exterior of your house are permanently damp soil around your foundation and cracked siding. Inside the house, cracked walls are also a clear sign of problems, but bouncy or sunk floors, mildew smell where there shouldn’t be humidity, and gaps forming behind cabinets are signs to look out for.

How long do home foundations last?

The longevity of a home foundation depends on how skillfully it was built and how well it’s been taken care of by the homeowners; with proper foundation maintenance. As a loose average, concrete slab foundations can last about a hundred years if all conditions are favorable; it helps if a few strengthening techniques are applied through those hundred years.