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Question DetailsAsked on 9/15/2013

The front foundation our house is settling. What would the cost of repairs likely run?

Our house is 2 story, 3000 sq feet, built in 1989. Small cracks are appearing in the dry wall and some of the doors are no longer aligning.

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3 Answers


Are you sure it is the foundation? You are not in a sink hole area are you. You did not mention any cracks in the foundation. Small crack and door movement can happen over time with normal drying out of framing lumber. If there are cracks in only the drywall and not in the basement I would think that would be the problem. If the foundation is cracked you may have a major problem that would be best addressed by having structural engineer look at it to find the cause. The cost can get into the tens of thousands of dollars. There may be no way to give you an firm price due to the fact that you have no way to see what you are getting into because it is underground and can't be seen. I had one job years ago where it turned out to be that the lot the house I was working on was the last one in the neighborhood and had been used as a dumping site by other builders for large trees and then was filled with dirt. Even the building inspector could not see what was there due to the depth of the fill. We had to dig 13 feet under the basement floor to hit solid ground and used over 125 yards of concrete to underpin the house. Hopefully this is not your problem. They due have a new system to stabilize houses I have seen in one of my trade magazines that uses helical piles to stabilize houses. I would ask your engineer about the possibility of that solution. Hope that it is just a shrinkage problem.


Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon


While this MIGHT potentially be indicative of a major foundation problem, it could just as easily (and is more likely, statistically) be one of the following, as Don said:
1) shrinkage of the household wood over the years (especially in air conditioned houses) can shorten the house dimensions as much as about 1 inch - causing minor architectural or appearance cracks that are of no structural significance.
2) about the 1980's the timber standards were significantly relaxed, both for grading of wood and for the finish dimensions of timbers, but the design guideleines stayed the same - so there is more of a tendency for house floors to sag over the years, with a point about 20-25 years of age where most have drywall cracks and catching doors. This is usually corrected with drywall patching and doorframe realignment (a relatively minor job) during the typical 20-30 year remodel, so many older homes have already been through one or more cycles of these repairs. A typical 24 foot wide wood floor joist span can sag over 1-1/2 inches and still be within design parameters, so you can see how cracks and jamming doors can occur, typically most often in walls parallel to the floor joists because they are most affected by the sagging of the joists. This is not a structural failure unless the joists or beams are actually cracking - just creep in the wood, no different in principle than the creep that results in glass windows thickening at the bottom over the centuries.
3) if your house is supported on both perimeter foundation walls and interior wood posts on concrete piers, they tend to settle differently so you tend to get arching or swaybacking of these type floors - sometimes to the extent of several inches worth. In most cases, adjustment of the length of the central posts can remedy the proboem easily - by trimming or shimming the posts to shorten or lengthen them - hence called a "trim and shim" job by foundation contractors.
4) depending on where you live, you may have soil compression (especially in clayey or floodplain soils like the Mississippi floodplain or major east coast coastal and bay areas from about Maryland southwards) or heaving (typically in the western half of the midwest "swelling soil" or "expansive soil" states from eastern Montana through Texas, and eastward to about the Mississippi, and also locally in other parts of the country, mostly in the West.

Like Don said, get a structural engineer to look at the house and assess the source of the problem, which he can either design remedial measures for, or consult with a foundation engineer if foundation repairs do turn out to be needed. On jobs like this that I have consulted on, less than 1/4 needed more foundation repair than a shim and trim job, which is typically a few thousand $ as opposed to the tens of thousands that a foundation perimeter wall replacement or entire-house foundation fix can cost.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


First you need to determine the cause. I've had a similar issue recently. I assumed it was foundation difficulties. But--to make a long story short--turned out to be just natural and to be expected in my house, built about the same time yours was. I paid for reports of two structural engineers to determine that, and it was worth it. Each engineer's report was a few hundred dollars. Right now, you don't know if it is foundation or something benign. Evidently all houses develop something like this over time, and a structural engineer can determine if the cause is from significant foundation settling (bad, and expensive), or from insignificant foundation settling (watch it over time and keep watering the yard, if you have clay soil), or just the normal flow of seasons and of time. Please let me emphasize, if you think it is foundation problems, go first to a structural engineer. I ended up getting two evaluations, both from engineers chosen from nearby but not in my immediate area. Both were very close in their recommendations (watering and waiting), both said no problem as to foundation, and the cracks and sticking of doors in my house were to be expected. It could have gone either way, however. Well worth the few hundred dollars for peace of mind, and saved me several thousands of possibly unneeded foundation work. Which in turn would be well worth having the house develop even more serious problems. I emphasize evaluation from an structural engineer, ideally someone not in your immediate area, not from someone with a stake in doing the work. Right now, without their input, it is impossible to say, as either a harmless--and to be expected-- or a significant issue could be the case. In my case, the sinking of the foundation was about an inch over "normal," and could be considered either cause for piers or just watching and waiting, or just accepting as normal. The best opinion seemed to be the last--though watchful waiting, and lots of watering this Texas dry soil--and that opinion was based upon how the house was probably situated during time of construction--something a good structural engineer would take into account--plus not being inclined to push for unneeded work when minor settling over time was to be expected. I was concerned that it suddenly developed in these past few months, and the engineer shrugged--speaking from years of experience--and said, "That sometimes happens." In a few months I'll reevaluate. Anyhow--impossible to know without professional input from a structural engineer.

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_988593721

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