It is normal for foundations to settle into the soil; all foundations do to some extent, even new houses. There is nothing to worry about when your foundation settles as long as it is uniform. A settling is said to be uniform if the settling is happening to all sections of the house at the same rate.
However, if what your foundation is experiencing is a differential settling, then there is a problem. If your house is not settling uniformly, then you can be sure it is a differential one. This simply means that different areas of the house are not settling at different rates. When this happens, so much stress is put on the foundation, thereby resulting in cracks in walls, ceilings, and floors, the floors become uneven, and the windows will be out of plumb.
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House leveling is the process of foundation repair with which a settling house is lifted and leveled back up to where it used to be.
Houses experience differential settling for a variety of reasons including:
- Too much moisture in the soil. The two most common factors that can cause excess moisture in the soil are plumbing leaks under the foundation or poor drainage around the foundation.
- Tree root problems. Tree roots never stop searching for water. If they manage to find their way to the soil under the foundation of the house, they suck in all the moisture in the soil, thereby making the soil shrink, and the foundation is destabilized.
- Expansive soil: A soil is said to be expansive when it swells when it absorbs moisture and shrinks when it dries out. Such soil moves a lot, making it quite unstable. The instability of expansive soil destabilizes the foundation of the house over time.
- Poor construction: It is important that the soil under the foundation is properly compacted before construction. Otherwise, the structure can have a differential settlement in the future.
As earlier stated, it is perfectly normal for all structures to settle to some degree. There’s nothing to worry about if the settling is uniform. However, a differential settlement is not normal and should be dealt with as soon as possible.
The following are indications that your house might be having differential settlement and needs to be leveled:
- Cracks in ceilings, floors, and walls: If you notice cracks that seem larger than hairline cracks, then your house needs to be leveled.
- Sloped floors: When the floors of your home are uneven, that’s a sign that the foundation needs leveling.
- Windows and doors that refuse to open and close as easily as they used to.
- Distortions in the walls: Bulging or bowed walls are also an indication of differential settlement.
- Gaps between the walls and the floor or ceilings: Differential settlement becomes evident when the ceiling and/or the wall begin to pull away from the walls.
- Cracks in the masonry or exterior bricks: If cracks go through the brick or masonry, or even through the mortar holding them together, then there is a differential settling.
There are many factors that determine the cost of house leveling including its overall condition, the size of the house, your geographical location, how severe the settlement problem is, the cause of the settlement problem, what needs to be done to get it fixed, what method will be used, etc. Considering these various determinants, it may be impossible to give a specific figure of how much is needed to level a house.
To get a specific cost of leveling a particular house, the only surefire approach is to engage the service of an experienced foundation repair professional. They will schedule a physical inspection and come up with an estimate after the inspection.
The following are some of the methods of leveling, lifting, or stabilizing a house:
- Using helical piers or steel push piers for foundation underpinning
- Using carbon fiber repair for foundation cracks and bowing walls
- Using helical tiebacks or wall anchors to straighten foundation walls
- Using permeation grouting or compaction for sinkholes and settling foundations.
The type of foundation and the type of problem the structure has will determine what method will be appropriate.
- Functionality is restored to your foundation, windows, doors, trims, etc.
- It saves you from doubts, frustration, embarrassment, and worry about the cosmetic appearance and the working order of your home.
- It corrects all the signs of differential settling all at once, rather than individual symptoms in your home.
- Leveling is costly, takes a lot of time, and is messy.
- During the raising process of leveling, the plumbing work can be at risk of separation. This can result in spending unexpected money on plumbing repair and tunneling.
The major culprit behind differential settling is too much moisture. Therefore, to prevent your home from becoming unlevelled again in the future, you must ensure that excess moisture does not make its way under the foundation. The surest way to go about this is to ensure that water drains away from your house. It is also important that periodic sewer and other plumbing line inspections are scheduled to ascertain that there are no leaks under your house.
Just as too much moisture in the soil under your foundation can cause problems, so is insufficient moisture. So, trees and other water-sucking plants should be kept away from your home.
You probably do not need to be told that house leveling is most definitely something you can take up on your own. House leveling should always be done by foundation repair professionals only. They have the necessary training, skill, equipment, and experience to handle problems that you may be facing with your foundation.
A certain degree of foundation settling is to be expected with all foundations and that’s OK. You have nothing to worry about as long as the settling is uniform. What you should be bothered about is a differential settlement which, if not attended to early, can lead to serious structural damage.
The first thing to do when you notice a differential settling is to contact an experienced foundation repair professional. After inspecting your house, they will be able to tell you what the problem is, the best method to repair the damage, and the cost.