Expert Tips to Prevent Home Foundation Issues

Moshe Amos

Buying a home is one of the most exciting and most expensive investments you’ll ever make. That’s why it pays to take care of it. Knowing how to identify the early signs of structural issues with your foundation has the potential to extend the life of your home and save you thousands in repairs. Not to mention a whole lot of headache. And while you might think your home’s foundation is in tip-top shape it’s never a bad idea to take a second look. That’s why we reached out to the experts in foundation repair and restoration from Manhattan to Portland in an effort to provide you with a few tips to help identify your home’s foundation problems. So sit back and learn how simple it can be to protect one of your most valuable investments.


Key indicators of foundation issues

Recognizing possible residential foundation issues is rather simple. Some of the easiest things to look for are cracked drywall, unlevel floors, doors that stick or stay open, or stair-step cracks in the brick. Maintaining proper drainage around your home and having a yearly plumbing test are things every homeowner can do to prevent issues. – Foamworx

Keep soil moisture consistent

Keeping moisture content relatively consistent around your home is key to avoid significant movement of your foundation when seasonal changes occur. That means watering your yard adequately when the weather is hot and dry and making sure water drains properly when wet weather persists. – Structured Foundation Repairs Houston

Don’t underestimate the power of water

Seldom am I called to a property with both foundation problems and proper grading/guttering.  Water is the culprit of almost all foundation problems: more than just causing a wet basement or crawlspace, constant changes in soil moisture can cause heaving and settling of your foundation, chemical degradation of the foundation itself, mold, cracks, tilting foundation walls, the list goes on!  As a homeowner, the best thing you can do to ensure the structural health of your home is to make sure the soil around your home slopes away, ideally dropping one foot in the first ten feet, eliminating all landscape watering near the home, and making sure the gutters and downspouts effectively move water away from the home. – Van Matre Construction

We have had a few foundation-related projects come our way and the most recent was the worst we have seen. A beach house, on the ocean, had part of its foundation collapse due to erosion. Water had slowly removed the sand from around and under the foundation, hidden from sight from a wooden retaining wall. The foundation gave way, crumbling, leaving behind a compromised home. Water is a major factor in a lot of foundation issues. You want to keep water away from your home the best you can. Proper rainwater drainage will keep water away from the house and foundation. Water can get into any existing cracks and if in freezing climates, freeze and cause the crack to grow. We always suggest regular inspections of your home and foundation by a local, trusted professional. – Hussey & Sons

High water tables and / or poor drainage can lead to water collecting under a home during the winter months, oftentimes without the homeowner even knowing it.  This water pooling can cause water vapor damage to the subfloor and other components of the crawl space, and if the water rises and collects high enough, can cause water damage to the pillars that hold up the foundation causing decay and damage to the structural integrity of the foundation.  Dry rot and mold can follow with these repeated cycles and long term pooling.  Regular inspection of the crawl space during heavy rainy months can help you identify If you have issues with drainage that need to be tended to.  This inspection can be as simple as just opening your access and looking into the crawl space.  Do you see water on the dirt?  Does it smell wet and musty?  These are easy to identify markers that can tell if you need to get more investigative and call the professionals to address the problem before it leads to mold and dry rot. – Servpro of Antioch

Pinpoint the location of water leaking into the basement

Identifying the exact location of water leaking into your poured concrete foundation keeps your repair costs down and allows a pro to determine the perfect solution to your problem.  First, inspect the walls in the area you believe water is coming in for white chalky substance (efflorescence) and foundation flaws like wall cracks, exposed tie rods, gaps at the floor-wall seam, or around pipe penetrations. Once you have isolated the suspected area, get a garden hose, and run water on the exterior in that area for 30min on and 10min off –  repeat until water comes into the basement.  Now you have all the information to call a pro to find out what options you have for repairs with a warranty. – A-1 Foundation Crack Repair

Proper drainage is key

Special care should be taken to address the drainage issues along the exterior of the home that does not have hardscape (such as the areas with pavers). New concrete slabs should be installed within 5ft of the structure around the entire structure’s perimeter. The new concrete slab to house interface should be properly sealed to prevent water seeping through. New slabs should be sloped away from the structure at 3/8 inch per 12 inches. Linear trench drains and drain lines should be installed at the new slab to soil interface to move collected water off the new slab into the drain. A licensed landscape contractor or licensed landscape architect may be consulted for final design recommendations. Additional roof gutter installation, roof gutter assessment/maintenance, and downspout subterranean drain lines assessment/maintenance, around the perimeter are necessary to avoid large sheet flow water off the roof in proximity to the foundation. Surface topography should be re-graded so as to ensure surface runoff flows away from each side of the house. A new drip irrigation line should be installed under the slab to keep the current moisture content in the soil consistent throughout the seasons. – NorCal Foundation Engineering

Check your gutters two or three times a year and Make sure they are working properly and the downspouts are open and unobstructed. Also, be sure all basement window wells are clean, sealed and not broken. The ground surrounding your home is vital. You want the ground to slope away from your house to prevent water intrusion. Try to extend your downspouts away from the foundation to prevent them from running water into your home – Kelley Construction Inc.

Inspect for cracking

If you notice horizontal cracks in the walls you should contact an expert as soon as possible because this could be a sign of a structural issue. Older foundations made with fieldstone or brick and mortar pose another complication as mortar deteriorates over time. This can lead to leakage and collapsing of the wall as well as create holes visible from interior and exterior. You can easily check if your mortar is degraded by lightly scratching it. Mortar with a consistency of sand is a tell-tale sign of decay and the recommended solution for this is to repoint which is when the degraded mortar is removed and replaced with a high strength mortar. Aside from noticeable physical issues, to promote foundation health it is advised to run a dehumidifier. An ideal humidity around 55% can reduce moisture causing mold especially if there is drywall on the foundation. – New England Foundation Repair

Remedy any signs root intrusion

Older homes can experience tree roots intrusion and accumulation of water near the foundation. It’s important to inspect the property yearly to look for trees with large roots near the property. Also after a heavy storm check outside for water accumulation near the exterior, this can cause water damage in the home and foundation issues. Lastly, have a plumber run a camera in the sewer lines if you especially if you have cast iron because that can slowly and silently leak out and cause horrible foundation problems. – Total Care Restoration

Elevate yard grading to prevent water intrusion

Evaluate your yard’s grading and make sure the landscape has a slight slope away from the house to help keep water from pooling at the foundation and seeping into the basement.

If you find groundwater seeping up from your basement floor, the land your house is built on may have a high water table. Installing a sump pump or French drain system can help to protect your home from water damage. – ServiceMaster Dynamic Cleaning

Consult with a professional

Many cracks in basement walls are superficial and pose no threat to the integrity of your home’s foundation. Prior to initiating foundation repairs, we encourage you to have us come to your home for a free home inspection. If we think the problem might be more serious we may suggest having a structural engineer do an inspection. The engineer will cost a few hundred dollars but may save you a few thousand if your foundation is structurally sound.

If your foundation requires stabilization, our preferred solution is Carbon Fiber Straps from Fortress Stabilization Systems, the only system with ICC building code certification. The Fortress carbon-fiber solution is stronger than traditional steel beams and leaves behind no unsightly obstructions. – Standard Water

Having a professional contractor assess the damage and assist in submitting an insurance claim for water damage, can make a significant difference in the amount paid out by insurance. Insurance companies are looking to minimize payouts and adjusters will look for the minimum required. Since the extent of the water damage and restoration required is often not visible, only a professional who knows what and where to look for can put together a realistic and convincing case that overrides insurance companies’ adjuster estimates. NYTDR has had numerous cases where clients had almost settled for a fraction of what they were able to eventually get the insurance company to pay out. Don’t wait until after your insurance claim to call in a contractor – let them help you get more. – New York Total Damage Restoration

Originally published on Redfin





Moshe Amos

Moshe has more over 15 years as a licensed contractor in the New York City area. 

As a New York State-licensed Mold Assessor, he is especially knowledgeable about mold assessment and remediation.


Fire & Water Damage ‧ Mold Remediation ‧ Asbestos & Lead ‧ All Abatement ‧ Total Renovation