Foundation Settlement in Georgia: What It Is & What to Do About It
Your home is a safe haven, a place to relax after a long day at work or running errands. However, foundation settlement can put a damper on your home’s comfort.
Settlement causes your home’s foundation to sink into the ground which damages floors, walls, doors, and windows. Furniture might lean forward or backward, your front door may drag across the floor, and cracks will start to open up in the walls.
Relaxation doesn’t come easy with these problem signs in view. But don’t worry, foundation settlement can be fixed with professional help; here’s everything you need to know.
What is Foundation Settlement?
Foundation settlement refers to the downward movement of a building’s base structure. Generally, settlement occurs when soil below the foundation becomes eroded, expanded, or poorly compacted.
Foundation settlement is easily identified by cracks and crevices in your foundation. Keep in mind, even small cracks are problematic for your home, and they will only get bigger over time.
How Much Foundation Settlement is Too Much?
Every home will experience some kind of settlement. The process naturally occurs due to gravity and the weight of your home.
However, as soon as you notice visible cracks in your foundation, or structural problem signs, too much settlement has occurred.
Don’t wait to contact your local foundation expert – settlement won’t fix itself.
Causes of Foundation Settlement
As stated before, weakened soil is the prime cause of foundation settlement. Here, we’ll go over the most common reasons why underlying soil shifts.
- Soil washout
- Expansive soil
- Drought and dry soil
Let’s explore each one more in-depth.
Soil washout is what happens when too much water gets under your foundation and washes soil particles away.
Soil washout happens for a few different reasons:
- Heavy precipitation (Most areas in Georgia receive 45-60 inches of rain)
- Faulty drainage (clogged gutters or downspouts)
- Negative grading (water drains toward your house)
- Interior leaks (burst plumbing pipes, etc.)
This type of erosion makes the ground too soft to support the weight of your heavy foundation, so it starts to sink below the surface and damage your home.
Drought and Dry Soil
Another factor that damages soil is dry conditions. If it’s been a while since rain has fallen, moisture content in the soil will begin to dry up.
This is a problem because soil requires some dampness to keep its shape. Without enough moisture, soil (especially clay soil) becomes shrunken, cracked and brittle.
Since your foundation is constructed with heavy building materials and lifts the entire weight of your home, the dry, brittle soil won’t be able to support it. Eventually, the structure will experience foundation settlement as it crushes the dried-out soil below it.
However, drought isn’t even the biggest problem your foundation can face. The first rain or snow after the drought is the real danger.
Expansive soil describes the process by which soil literally expands as it absorbs water. Georgia’s red clay soil is one of the best-known examples of expansive soil in the United States.
When the ground swells, it puts pressure on your foundation and causes sections to become cracked and uneven, but the real danger lies in what happens once the water has drained.
The ground shrinks back to its original position, and the now uneven foundation settles unequally. Consequently, structural issues pop up throughout your home.
Signs of Foundation Settlement
While foundation settlement may seem like a daunting problem, identifying signs of foundation settlement is simple. Most problem signs are visible to the naked eye.
A few of the most common ones to look out for include:
- Cracked walls
- Floor and wall gaps
- Stuck doors and windows
Learn more about these problem signs below.
When your foundation settles, it causes the main structures in your home to shift in unnatural ways. This includes walls, both inside and outside the house.
As you can see, the walls inside your home will form cracks at their weakest points (usually above door and window frames). Meanwhile, exterior walls made from brick, block, or other masonry tend to form cracks in a “stair-step” pattern. If you notice any cracks in your home’s walls, it’s most likely a side effect of foundation settlement. Don’t ignore this problem sign: it will only get worse over time.
Floor and Wall Gaps
While foundation settlement makes your walls shift, it also causes floors to shift too. This combination can lead to floor and wall gaps in sections of your home.
This is literally what it sounds like: actual space between your floor and wall. Referencing the image, you can see that this looks unsettling, and it makes your floors uneven and your walls damaged.
Floor and wall gaps can also make it easier for pests and moisture to enter your home. No one wants to deal with all that on top of structural damage.
Stuck Doors and Windows
When structures like your floor or walls are shifted out of line by foundation settlement, it can cause doors and windows to become stuck.
Door and window frames become unaligned, and they become difficult or impossible to open. Doors may drag on floors and windows simply won’t budge.
While this can be caused by other factors, it’s worth it to have a professional check your foundation to avoid the possibility of more damage.
What to do About Foundation Settlement
Since foundation settlement stems from soil issues, fixing the problem requires solutions that remove weak soil from the equation.
Whether your home rests on a concrete slab, crawl space, or basement, we have a foundation solution to protect your home from settlement. Here are the most common solutions we use at Aquaguard:
1. Pier Systems
Pier systems are long, steel rods that are inserted into sturdy, tightly compacted soils deep below the surface. These soils are not weakened by weather and won’t buckle under heavy weight.
As you can see in the image, once the pier systems are inserted below the ground, they are attached to your foundation and lift everything back into place. In the process, this can close cracks and keep your foundation stable.
2. Wall Anchors
Wall anchors are commonly used to repair bowing basement walls. These tools use tension between two steel anchors – one secured to the foundation walls and another placed into virgin soils outside.
A strong steel rod connects the anchors, and the tension stabilizes the damaged foundation. Weather issues won’t affect the steel anchors, so settlement will be avoided.
3. Crawl Space Support Posts
A support post like the IntelliJack™ system restores stability and straightness to a sagging crawl space. Shown in the image, once installed in your crawl space, support posts correct problems such as sloping and overly springy floors, interior wall cracks, and out-of-level level door frames.
Additionally, IntelliJack™ support posts can be professionally adjusted over time to provide additional straightening and leveling action if necessary.
Have Foundation Settlement? Call AquaGuard, Atlanta’s Foundation Experts
Foundation settlement can ruin your home and make the space unpleasant. AquaGuard is here to ensure that the repair process goes smoothly and provides the best results.
If you’d like to learn more, read our Atlanta Guide to Foundation Repair in this article,
If you’ve noticed problem signs throughout your home, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can schedule a free inspection with one of our specialists where we’ll identify the problem and provide you with a free estimate. Keep your home safe with AquaGuard!
Foundation Settlement FAQ
For the majority of home insurance plans, it’s your responsibility to take preventative steps to defend your foundation against problems like water damage or tree roots damaging the structure.
However, home insurance companies usually cover foundation settlement brought on by an unexpected event. Some examples include tornados, vandalism, falling trees, or lightning strikes. It’s best to check with your individual provider for the exact details of your plan.
No, sinking and settlement are used interchangeably with one another. Keep in mind, every home experiences some kind of settlement.
Our team looks for “differential settlement,” the process by which your home’s foundation sinks into the ground unevenly.
Measuring foundation settlement on your own isn’t easy or advised. For the most accurate results, we recommend calling a professional for an inspection and learning more about foundation repair in this article.
Our team uses a rotary laser, which is lined up with exterior brick or masonry. A remote control is pressed, and the laser moves across the home. If the house is settling, the laser will go out of line with the sinking wall.