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Why Is My House Foundation Sinking? (Possible Causes & Fixes)
The foundation of your house seems to be sinking. And fixing it seems like a big, expensive job. But you can’t tell either way unless you know what to look for and how to get it. So, here’s what you need to know.
A home’s foundation can sink for several reasons. Most often, a house drops because of the softness of the soil beneath it. So, if the dirt underneath your home isn’t adequately compacted, it could cause a problem later.
Table of Contents
- What Causes a House Foundation to Sink?
- Signs of a House Foundations That’s Sinking
- Can a Sunken Foundation Be Fixed?
- Things To Do If Your Foundation Is Deteriorating
- How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Sinking Foundation?
- Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Foundation Problems?
- When To Get Help for a Cracked or Sunken Foundation
- Related Questions
- Related Guides
What Causes a House Foundation to Sink?
Homes can start to sink into the ground over time. Their movement isn’t always a factor of dirt density either. Houses that are built on top of shifting tectonic plates may develop cracks in the foundation. Then, those cracks can weaken the structure and cause it to sink.
Shifting tectonic plates are relatively rare except in specific parts of the country. So, it’s likely that the problem is because of something more familiar. Termite infestations, weathering, and low-quality construction materials can also play a role.
Pay attention to how your house sits. If it seems to lean to one side or the other, you may have a foundation issue. You can test the level of your floors by laying a ball on a flat surface. If the ball rolls in either direction without you touching it, then your foundation is probably wonky.
Signs of a House Foundations That’s Sinking
There are several signs of sinking to be aware of, and all of them should be addressed sooner rather than later. According to most structural engineers, these are the most obvious signals that something is wrong with your foundation:
- You see cracks along the floors, walls, and ceiling.
- The cracks may also intrude on other structural elements such as doors and windows.
- Some of the doors and windows in your home may not open or close properly.
- You can find gaps around door jambs and window frames.
- Your floors sag or are uneven.
- The crawl space beneath your floors may be sopping wet.
- There are some damaged or broken beams on the frame of your house.
- Counters and cabinets won’t stay closed.
Dealing with a sunken foundation can be a headache and a safety hazard. However, there’s good news. Fixing it may not be as tedious or expensive as you think. Plus, some homeowners insurance policies cover repairs. But more on that in a minute.
Can a Sunken Foundation Be Fixed?
It’s not easy to fix a sunken foundation on a home. Usually, you have to hire contractors and masons to do the work. Repairing deteriorating structures is also dangerous and challenging. So, don’t skip that call to the pros.
Leveling a foundation is a big job. It typically requires underpinning, which means contractors have to install support beams first. That part of the process could be complicated and time-consuming without the right tools, skills, and layout.
Experts will use heavy support beams to lift your house back to its original level. They may install a new sump pump as well. Properly functioning sump pumps can help keep the ground beneath your home dry. And dry dirt equals less sinking, even as your home ages.
Things To Do If Your Foundation Is Deteriorating
If you suspect an issue with your home’s foundation, don’t wait to act. Reach out to a contractor as soon as possible. The sooner you address the problem, the less you’re likely to spend to fix it. These repairs are already costly enough.
Prolonged sinking can drive your structure further into the ground. And as it settles, the layout and functionality of your home can change. So, don’t ignore uneven floors, cabinets separated from the walls, and cracks in the foundation because things may get worse.
Try to budget for routine home repairs and damage control. Set aside some money to have your structure inspected every few years. It might also help to remove excess moisture from your crawl space or basement. Or add extra dirt to level the area around your home.
Meanwhile, find out what kind of dirt is below your foundation. If it’s unpacked soil or sand, see about fortifying it with something strong. Many times, contractors can install support beams or blocks under the compromised sections of your foundation.
NOTE: The more damage control your home requires, the higher the price of services will be.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Sinking Foundation?
The cost to fix a sinking foundation on a home can vary widely. That’s because contractors create estimates based on what they can initially see. So, if some of your problems remain hidden, the final price may be much more than you thought.
On average, foundation repairs can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on several factors. Each service provider begs a different fee as well. And that means it’s essential to discuss the pros, cons, and possibilities before signing a contract.
Furthermore, if the worker discovers issues with soil density, draining, or electrical, it could slow down their progress. And you can’t avoid some of those roadblocks. To determine the estimated cost of foundation repair, consult the contractor directly.
Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Foundation Problems?
If you’re lucky, you may be able to convince your homeowner’s insurance provider to cover foundation repairs. However, that’s not always going to happen. Many insurance companies exclude these types of services, unfortunately.
Instead, they offer coverage for foundation issues that develop as a result of something else. Issues such as broken pipes, pest infestations, and severe weather may be valid claims. So, review your policy for more detailed information.
Keep in mind that you may be able to pay for foundation work through other means. Home equity loans, credit cards, and personal loans are all valid options. Or you can always discuss the cost with your contractor to see about any discounts.
TIP: Some construction companies offer bonus savings for referrals to new customers. Be sure to ask startup companies for incentives for spreading the word.
When To Get Help for a Cracked or Sunken Foundation
Ignoring a sunken foundation is a recipe for disaster. So, do something as soon as you notice a problem. And even if you can’t afford to fix it right away, at least have a pro come to assess the situation. No two homes are alike, and it’s important to keep that in mind.
Get immediate help with your structure if the condition is causing health or safety issues. Uneven floors and disjointed doors can be dangerous. But neglecting the problem because it’s too expensive will only cost you more in the long run.
Do Houses Ever Stop Settling?
Homes never stop settling. That’s because the ground beneath them is always moving. The movements may be slight and difficult to see in real-time. But houses usually continue to sink unless you root them on solid ground.
Meanwhile, some experts say that most houses stop sinking after about three to five years. And new construction is notorious for settling after completion. So, ask your contractor for more information on what to expect.
Can You Deduct Foundation Repair on Taxes?
Tax law for foundation repair can be tricky. However, you can deduct certain services from your annual taxes if you’re smart. Work with a certified tax professional to determine what’s allowed in your state.
Most states let you count foundation repairs as a deduction if you own the home. Yet, you may also receive deductions if you rent. For example, those who rent a space and use it as a home office may enjoy some of the same tax benefits as homeowners.
What Happens If You Don’t Fix Foundation Issues?
If you don’t fix foundation issues in time, things could get a lot worse. Over time, your sinking structure could sustain even more damage. Then, your homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover the repairs. Instead, you’ll be left to pay for it all on your own.
Neglected foundations may also make it harder to sell your house. Few people want to take on a home that needs such a vital and immediate repair. So, consider getting it fixed if you plan to put your home on the market anytime soon.
Can You Just Paint Over Cracks In Your Foundation?
As tempting as it may be, you shouldn’t try to mask foundation problems. Face them head-on instead. That’s because neglected or ignored issues can become much more prominent over time. And if you just paint over it, the sinking will continue.
Stopping a sinking foundation requires immediate and direct attention. No amount of paint will lift or re-level your home. Plus, certain chemicals in the paint can seep into the beams and walls of your home. But that may not be safe for some materials or environments.
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