A foundation inspection is a vital task that helps to ensure proper building maintenance and safety. A foundation is one of the most critical parts of any building from residential properties to the highest skyscrapers. Regular foundation inspections are a way to detect potential issues that might develop into larger and more expensive problems in the future.
The foundation inspection process involves meticulous inspection, measurement, and analysis to determine the conditions of the foundation. Expert inspectors are critical in certain circumstances. But anyone can learn how to carry out a foundation inspection to detect any obvious problems. After a careful inspection, you can decide when and how quickly you need to consult a professional about any problems in the foundation
Reasons to Complete Foundation Inspection
Foundation inspections are a job for both professionals and DIYers. Homeowners may not have the same expertise as professionals but they can often see problems sooner because they are “on-site.” Here are some essential reasons that foundation inspections should be a part of any home maintenance schedule.
- Structural integrity – Foundation inspections help to identify any potential problems such as cracking or deterioration that compromise the strength of the entire building.
- Preventative maintenance – Regular checks at the foundation level will detect early problems that will escalate into more significant and costly issues.
- Safety – A compromised foundation that is cracked or absorbs moisture can lead to safety concerns like collapsing walls or ceilings.
- Property value – Regular foundation inspections help to optimize the value of your property and give you more peace of mind when a professional inspector comes to evaluate the property for purchase.
- Insurance and legal requirements – Some insurance policies and local building codes insist on regular foundation inspections.
- Effective repairs – You can identify problems more quickly and decide on the appropriate repairs necessary with regular foundation checks.
- Energy efficiency – You can improve energy efficiency through regular foundation checks because a compromised foundation with gaps and openings allows hot and cold air to escape, decreasing the energy efficiency of the house.
Problems to Notice During a Foundation Inspection
It is vital to look for problems in both the exterior and interior of your home that can be a sign of more significant problems. This checklist will help you know what to notice during your foundation inspection.
Exterior Foundation Inspection
- Cracks – Examine the outer walls for visible cracks. Notice the width, length, and orientation of the cracks to help determine the cause.
- Settling – Look for signs that the foundation is settling such as tilting or sloping surfaces. Use a level to check the alignment of doors, windows, and walls.
- Bulges or bows – Inspect the foundation for bulges or bows, which can indicate pressure from the soil.
- Water damage – Look for signs of water damage to the foundation, including efflorescence or staining, which can indicate water infiltration.
- Foundation material – The foundation material should be solid without any indication of spalling, crumbling, or erosion.
- Drainage – Evaluate the drainage around the property to ensure that water drains away from the foundation.
- Vegetation – Look for signs of vegetation such as tree roots or vines. These can cause cracks in the foundation.
Interior Foundation Inspection
- Cracks – Similar to the process for the exterior, inspect the walls and ceilings for any cracks and note the length, width, and orientation of the crack.
- Doors and windows – Check to see if doors and windows close smoothly. This could be a sign of foundation issues if they do not.
- Floors – Look for sloping or uneven floors which can indicate foundation issues.
- Countertops and cabinets – Inspect countertops and cabinets for levelness. Uneven surfaces can be caused by foundation problems.
- Cracked tiles – Cracked tiles on the floor or wall can indicate a moving foundation.
- Utility disruptions – Look for any problems with the plumbing or electrical wiring as disrupted service may indicate foundation movement.
- Previous repairs – You should pay special attention to any previous foundation repairs to assess if they are still sound.
Steps to Complete a Foundation Inspection
The process of inspecting a foundation is not difficult but requires time and attention to detail.
Gather all the necessary tools to complete the inspection process, including a flashlight, measuring tape, level, camera, and notebook.
- Exterior Surface Inspection
Begin on the outside of the structure and go over each section of the foundation noting any cracks or gaps in the foundation itself. Some small vertical cracks such as hairline cracks in the foundation are common and may not indicate a problem. Note any horizontal or zig-zag cracks.
Look for signs of deterioration in the foundation materials such as spalling, moisture, or efflorescence that can indicate water exposure. Note any cracks or gaps between the foundation and any exterior doors and windows.
- Grading or Drainage Issues
The grading and drainage around homes are designed to take water away from the structure’s foundation. Take note of any pooling water around the structure’s foundation. This could be caused by a deterioration in the landscape, a blockage, or a larger problem like a sinking foundation.
- Interior Surface Inspection
Move to the interior of the building and complete the same checks as on the exterior. Note any cracks or gaps in the foundation. Again, some small or hairline cracks are common, but note any large or vertical cracks in the foundation surface. Inspect the doors and windows to see if you can open and close them easily.
Uneven cabinets, countertops, and floors can also be a sign of a shifting foundation. Check for any signs that these are becoming detached from the wall or newly sloped surfaces. Look for any signs of moisture, either visible water or mold or mildew that develops on the surface of the foundation.
- Measurement and Analysis
Use a measuring tape or level if you see problems like cracks or settling that seem problematic. Measure the width of visible cracks and take special notice of cracks that are more than one-quarter of an inch wide. Take precise measurements and note the location of problematic cracks.
Analyze your measurements. Once you have determined that there are cracks larger than a quarter of an inch, you will need to take further steps.
Document your finding with a notebook to write down any important measurements, but also use a camera to take a picture of the problematic areas of the foundation. Include all the vital measurements and the location of the problems.
- Further Steps
There are several additional steps that you can take depending on what your foundation inspection finds. If you note small cracks, you will want to watch and measure them over time to make sure that they do not develop into larger cracks later.
Some foundation inspections will expose problems in the foundation that need to be addressed by a professional. Cracks that are larger than one-quarter inch or water seepage that you cannot stop are both issues where professional help is a great advantage. Consult a licensed structural engineer to assess your foundation problems and provide a suitable solution.