All About Old House Foundation Problems | Types, Materials & Methods of House Foundation | Why Do Older Homes Have Foundation Issues

All About Old House Foundation Problems

Introduction of Old House Foundation Problems

The concept of living in a house came after the ancient humans rejected living in caves, and felt the urge to construct something new as their living place.

Starting with natural construction materials such as stones, and wood, we progressed to the era of building homes with long last construction materials such as bricks, cement, and concrete.

In the beginning, the urge was just about living in someplace safe from natural calamities, and attacks from wild animals, but as humans grew their Architectural and aesthetic sense, we started seeing houses as objects of beauty.

Thus from the era of huts, which can be constructed haphazardly, with bare construction materials and just for living purposes; we came to the era of houses, constructed compactly utilizing every bit of space, with long-lasting construction materials, not only just for living purpose but an element of eye-pleasing as well.

Thus starting from building on our own, we progressed to hire construction specialists for building our “dream homes”.

Old House Foundation

Old House Foundation

A house can be denoted as “Old” when the house has been used extensively by some other people for more than 50 years. As technology upgrades, day by day, the type of construction and materials of construction are also getting updated day by day.

Thus like the older times, when people mostly used wood, stones, and other construction materials for building houses, recent times enables people to use more structurally stable as well as environmentally friendly construction materials, a well-processed approach to use every bit of space, and structurally stable construction procedure, which permits the houses to live more without having any problems.

As a house becomes old, many types of problems related to the house started coming up eventually. Most of the problems are associated with the type of construction materials, as the materials used for constructing that house 50 years back, become mostly outdated due to the rapid changing of construction materials.

Along with construction materials, the type of construction also becomes outdated as the recent construction is found to be more structurally stable as compared with the past.

Due to nowadays rapid construction, land requisition is one of the biggest problems a person will face while investing in a new home.

Due to the scarcity of land, the government has enabled the apartment concept where a lot of families can stay on a particular piece of land, with the help of increasing verticality of the building.

At first, due to land issues, the government launched low-height apartments consisting of 2-3 floors, but as the issue became bigger, construction of large-height buildings started.

Nowadays, building heights can be increased to the extent they can accommodate a large number of families, having floor numbers of 50 or more.

Due to everyone’s different choices, some people choose to stay in the apartment as mentioned above. While others took the option of buying an old home and refurbishing it using modern technology.

Buying an old house can take a lot of factors, some of which have been described in the following:

The very first factor is the technology itself. The technology that was used for building the house 50 or more years back is practically extinct at the time the person is thinking of buying that house, is due to continual technological up-gradation.

So to refurbish that house, excellent structural choices have to be made by the owner to provide better technology without disturbing the house structurally.

Another factor is that Construction materials were used to build that house. Just like technology, building construction materials are continually getting improved, from short-term usable construction materials to long-lasting nature-friendly construction materials.

Thus to replace the older construction material with the newest one, the owner has to make sure the quality of the house improves with respect both aesthetically as well as structurally.

There is a probability that the climate condition of the land might change within 50 years. Such as, the rainfall might increase or decrease, and the water table gets increased or decreased.

Due to that the soil condition and the topography of the land might change as well. So one needs to consider it while buying an old house and implement additional structural support for it.

The biggest problem associated with buying an old house is the problem related to the foundation. As with the age of the house, the foundation gets old as well. n addition to it, the type of foundation used at that time might be extinct as well, along with its construction material.

As the foundation is the root of the tree called the house, it takes the different it’s acting on the house, including dead load and live load, and distributes them to the subsoil below it, its role is the most important one in building a house.

So to refurbish the foundation, the house owner needs to take extra care on the matter, not to disturb the house, as the foundation is the one that carries the house.

A slight error in the building or refurbishing the foundation might lead to a major accident, resulting in the complete demolition of the building as well.

Also Read: How to Identify Common Signs of Foundation Problems in Houses or Commercial Buildings?

Types, Materials & Methods of House Foundation

Types, Materials & Methods of House Foundation

As already mentioned earlier, the foundation is a structural unit of a house, which carries all the loads acting upon the house and distributes evenly to the subsoil below it.

There are many factors on which choosing a type of foundation depends; some of them are:

  • The topography of the land, or in other words, climate condition;
  • Safe bearing capacity of the soil,
  • Type of house, number of inhabitants on the house and the loads acting
  • Construction materials available,
  • Financial implications of the owner.

Depending upon such factors, the type of foundation can be classified as below:

1. Basement Foundation

Basement Foundation

The basement foundation is the one that consists of an underground floor of a house. The basement foundation is mostly in use in European countries, which partially acts as a shelter from natural calamities, such as devastating tornadoes and tsunamis.

There are generally two types of basements; each is used for some specific purpose. They are as follows

Full Basement: Full basement is a type of basement, which is completely underground, and thus has no windows. They are generally constructed with the help of structural walls.

The structural walls are intended to resist the pressure of surrounding soils, which are generally constructed of concrete. The full Basement can be finished or unfinished depending upon the owner’s choice.

Finished full basements generally serve as living space area, whereas unfinished full basement serves as storage spaces for household equipment. Finished full basements consist of that much of a space to allow a person to stand in.

Daylight Basements: Often denoted as “English Basements”, Daylight basements are basements that have parts of floors above the ground, thus allowing windows to provide daylight, as the name indicates.

This type of basement can be witnessed in especially England. Many a time, daylight basements are constructed on slopes, allowing some portion to be projected above ground.

Daylight basements can be used for various purposes such as storage space, a garage room, a maintenance room, or a living space. The buried portion can often be used for the laundry room or HVAC room.

Walkout basements: Walkout basements are the one generally daylight windows, which have a direct connection with the above ground through the stairwell or by any means.

This type of basement is partially underground and has direct access to the ground. Mostly used in hilly regions, due to its aesthetically pleasing architecture, significant value can be added to the house.

Sub-basement: Sub-basement is one where an additional floor is added below the basement floor. Sub-basement can be used for storing water tanks or for pipelines, and electrical connections and is generally unusable for the living area.

2. Crawlspace Foundation

Crawlspace Foundation

As the name indicates, a crawlspace foundation is a type of foundation that elevates from the ground level(by around 18 inches or more), and uses footing, concrete or structural walls, to provide adequate support to the house.

This type of foundation is mostly adopted in regions of hilly topographical areas, and also where the amount of Rainfall is more.

The primary purpose for using a crawlspace foundation is that it protects the house, including its plinth, wall, and slab from the effects of moisture that might get stored up in the soil, thus allowing the protection of the house from the poor characteristics that might exist in the soil, by avoiding direct contact with it.

This type of foundation protects the house from the adverse effects of soil and is also less expensive than a full basement. Thus crawlspace foundation might be a good choice for medium-cost houses.

A crawlspace foundation is generally used for storing up general appliances of the house, thus many people consider it as a partial basement, but it can not be converted into a full basement, as it generally doesn’t accommodate the stand-in of a person.

3. Concrete Slab Foundation

Concrete Slab Foundation

One of the most common types of foundation is the Concrete Slab foundation, which can be called a grade Slab foundation as well.

The reason this type of foundation is chosen in most places is the strength that this type of foundation provides in the place where the soil does not give adequate bearing capacity.

The method for this type of construction is that a concrete slab of 150 millimeters or more in width, Is supported on a footing that might be underground.

This Slab, which is in direct contact with the soil, takes the loads from the building and evenly distributes them to the footings, further getting distributed to the subsoil below it.

Some of the major advantages of using this type of foundation are

  • The major advantage of using this foundation is the strength that it provides irrespective of the soil type. Concrete attains strength with time, thus this foundation gets stronger along with its age.
  • It evenly distributes the loads, that are getting applied to the ground floor, to the footings, and further to the subsoil. This avoided concentrated loads, and by uniformly distributing the loads, it protects the soils from sheer failure.
  • Concrete is the most common construction material nowadays. The reason for that is the strength it provides, regarding the low cost of the material. Also, due to being a very common material, the repair techniques available for concrete are widespread, which allows not to repair of any sudden defects in the foundation, but also to attain its previous strength.

4. Wood Foundation

Wood Foundation

Mostly extinct nowadays, this type of foundation is constructed of moistureless wood and timber. Although this type of foundation has been stopped constructed, due to the availability of many various long-lasting materials available in the market.

This type of foundation can be used for a temporary house and can be very quick in an erection. But it can not be used in permanent houses due to its disadvantage in the presence of moisture and fire.

The most common materials being used for constructing the foundation are

Bricks: Mostly used in residential houses, bricks are a popular choice for constructing a low-cost foundation. Advantages of bricks include their less absorption of water which particularly helps them to lay having direct contact with soil. Also, the strength it provides is very good.

Poured Concrete: As already mentioned previously, poured concrete is the most popular choice for construction nowadays. Although it has side effects on nature, trials have been getting conducted to produce nature-friendly green and recyclable concrete.

Wood: Mostly extinct nowadays, using wood as a foundation material has been in the era before concrete was invented.

Precast Concrete Panels: Another one of the most used materials is precast concrete panels. This has been very much in use nowadays. It helps in the quick erection of the foundation within a short time, allowing a foundation of a temporary structure.

Stone: One of the major advantages of using stone as a construction material is that stone neither absorbs water nor does it swell under any weather condition, thus can be indicated as impermeable material. So it can be used in places, having direct contact with soil.

Also Read: All About Green House Color Schemes | Things to Know When Choosing Green Siding Colors | What Are the Different Siding Parts Called

Why Do Older Homes Have Foundation Issues?

Why Do Older Homes Have Foundation Issues

One of the main issues associated with foundation is age. As the materials used 50 years back for constructing that foundation, due to adverse effects of soil, weather condition, being constant under loads, and due to the application of impact or severe loads, the strength of that foundation has been reduced drastically.

Thus it will result in the sudden collapse of the house if no necessary action is taken. Due to the rapid advancements of modern technology in construction, the structural concepts have been described far better, which was absent 50 years back when that old house was constructed.

Thus due to the lack of structural as well as material knowledge, the foundation constructed often faces problems.

Also, Read: Cracks in Brick House

Common Problems Caused by Older Homes Foundation

Common Problems Caused by Older Homes Foundation

Some common problems caused by an older homes foundation are as follows:

Roots of Tree: While a tree is cut, most of the time, the roots are left out pulling out. And for some large trees, the roots can extend to several meters beneath the ground, which is quite impossible to dig and pull out.

Thus as the roots are left out, they started growing in the presence of moisture which is getting plenty from the soil. Due to its slow growth, it might not be noticed at an early age, but with time it comes to the ground level eventually.

At that time, the strength of the foundation has been weakened due to age as well. So most of the time, it cracks the construction material(mostly concrete slab) and started growing within it. This is one major problem regarding an older house foundation.

Solution: When the tree is cut, it should be taken care of so that the root does not extend up to the ground level. There are many chemicals in the modern market which ensure the stop of root growth.

Water Damage: Every problem regarding foundation, is partially or fully related to water. So to keep the house safe, one needs to ensure to keep liquid water, and moisture out of the house.

With increasing moisture, there might be signs of capillary cavities on the wall, which is a result of the permeability of the foundation.

Many a time, due to the absence of a surface drain, the water from the roof directly comes into the surrounding soil through a rainwater pipe, resulting in increases in the water table. Thus it increases the moisture of the soil, resulting in failure of the soil as well.

Solution: To keep the moisture out, one needs to leave sufficient space for the accumulation of water, sometimes a slope may be provided to keep water away from the foundation, To prevent water from coming directly onto soil, adequate surface drains should be provided which will lead to nearest storm water drains.

Cracks in Foundation: This type of defect is mostly observed in the concrete slab foundation. Due to inadequate curing or improper workmanship, hairline cracks in a foundation can be observed.

Many a time, it might occur due to the low bearing capacity of the soil, resulting in uneven settlement of the foundation.

Solution: Proper workmanship and adequate curing should be done in the foundation to avoid hairline cracks. Moisture should have to keep out from the house to ensure a low water table, thus preventing uneven settlement of the foundation.

A slab leak can be a potential threat to an older house foundation as well. It is generally a pipe leak that occurs beneath the foundation of a home. To prevent it, waterproofing of the slab must be ensured.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Old House Foundation Problems

Common Foundation Problems Found in Older Homes
  • Uneven Floors. Don’t overlook your creaking and uneven floors!
  • Sticky Doors and Windows. “No!” You say.
  • Drywall Cracks. Cracks in your drywall are another issue that can be caused by a slowly shifting foundation.
  • Cracked Concrete Foundation. This one’s obvious.

Old House Foundation Types

House Foundation Types
  • Concrete slab.
  • Crawlspace.
  • Basement.
  • Pile (raised)

House Foundation Materials

8 Types of Home Foundations
  • Poured Concrete Slab. Concrete slab foundations (slab-on-grade foundations) with a thickness of four to eight inches, cost less than basements or crawl spaces.
  • Crawl Space Foundation.
  • Wood Foundation.
  • Stone.
  • Pre-Poured Concrete.
  • Concrete Masonry Units.
  • Concrete Panels.
  • Below-Grade ICF Walls.

How to Build House Foundation Step by Step?

The 5 Steps To Building A House Foundation
  1. Clear The Ground. determine soil conditions (builder/designer are best advisors)
  2. Prepare The Area. dig area 2x the depth your foundation will be.
  3. Build A Frame. create a wood outline of your foundation’s dimensions.
  4. Mix & Pour The Concrete.
  5. Finishing Touches.

What Is the Best Foundation for a House?

Because a slab is by far the most cost-effective choice, customers flock to this budget-friendly option. It’s quick and easy, as far as foundations go – a slab can often be poured directly on the ground or on a bed of gravel.

What Is the Strongest Foundation for a House?

Foundations are mostly constructed from strong materials so they can hold the house in place even during earthquakes and cyclones. Therefore, they are generally made up of concrete which is the strongest construction material.

How to Tell What Type of Foundation a House Has?

One of the best ways to find out is to check if there is a crawl space beneath your home. While concrete slab foundation rests directly on the ground, the other types of foundations will have space between the ground and floor joists.

Bowing Walls in Old House

BOWED WALLS – What Causes Them?
  1. When the ground freezes and then thaws, it expands and contracts water in the soil. This cycle causes the soil to push against the foundation wall, resulting in bowed walls.
  2. Bowed walls are commonly seen in older homes due to soil settlement and repetitive freeze and thaw cycles.

Common Foundation Problems in Old Houses in the USA

  • Uneven Floors. Don’t overlook your creaking and uneven floors!
  • Sticky Doors and Windows. “No!” You say.
  • Drywall Cracks. Cracks in your drywall are another issue that can be caused by a slowly shifting foundation.
  • Cracked Concrete Foundation. This one’s obvious.

Repairing Foundation Issues in Older Homes in the USA

Repairing foundation issues in older homes in the USA is an important and sometimes complex task. Foundation problems can occur due to various factors such as settling, moisture, soil conditions, and structural issues. Here are some steps and considerations involved in addressing foundation issues in older homes:

  • Identify the Problem: Look for signs of foundation issues such as cracks in walls or floors, doors and windows that stick, uneven floors, or gaps between walls and ceilings. A professional inspection by a structural engineer or foundation specialist can help determine the extent and cause of the problem.
  • Consult a Professional: Engage the services of a reputable foundation repair company or a structural engineer experienced in foundation repair. They will assess the situation, provide recommendations, and develop a plan to fix the issues.
  • Understand Repair Options: The specific repair method will depend on the type and severity of the foundation problem. Common repair techniques include:
    • a. Underpinning: This involves stabilizing and strengthening the foundation by installing additional piers or pilings beneath it. Methods like steel piers, helical piers, or concrete piers may be used.
    • b. Mudjacking: Also known as slabjacking, this technique is used to lift and level concrete slabs by injecting a grout mixture beneath the sunken areas.
    • c. Foundation Wall Repair: For issues with foundation walls, techniques like carbon fiber reinforcement, wall anchors, or helical tiebacks may be employed to stabilize and strengthen the walls.
    • d. Drainage and Moisture Control: Addressing water-related problems is crucial for long-term foundation stability. Solutions may include improving grading around the house, installing or repairing gutters and downspouts, and implementing proper drainage systems.
  • Obtain Permits and Insurance: Depending on your location and the extent of the repairs, you may need to acquire permits from local authorities. Additionally, verify that the foundation repair company has proper insurance coverage to protect you and their workers during the project.
  • Budget and Financing: Foundation repairs can be costly, so it’s important to plan your budget accordingly. If needed, explore financing options through loans or home equity lines of credit to manage the expenses.

Cost of Fixing Foundation Problems in Historic Houses in the USA

The cost of fixing foundation problems in historic houses in the USA can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the extent of the damage, the size and construction of the house, the location, and the specific repair methods required. Foundation repair costs can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars or more. Here are some cost factors to consider:

  1. Foundation Assessment: Hiring a structural engineer or foundation specialist to assess the extent of the damage and provide recommendations can cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
  2. Repair Techniques: The specific repair methods used will greatly impact the cost. The complexity of the repair, the materials needed, and the labor involved will all contribute to the overall expense.
  3. Foundation Type: The type of foundation in the historic house will influence the repair costs. Common types include concrete slab, crawl space, and basement foundations. Repairing a basement foundation, for example, may be more expensive than repairing a crawl space foundation due to the additional labor and materials required.
  4. Accessibility: The accessibility of the foundation can impact costs. If the foundation is easily accessible, repairs may be more straightforward and less expensive. However, if the foundation is located in a tight or hard-to-reach area, it may require more effort and specialized equipment, increasing the overall cost.
  5. Additional Repairs: Foundation problems in historic houses can sometimes cause damage to other parts of the structure, such as walls, floors, or plumbing systems. These additional repairs will add to the overall cost.
  6. Historic Considerations: When working on a historic house, special considerations may need to be taken into account to preserve its historic integrity. This can include using specialized techniques or materials, which may increase the cost.

Costs of Repairing Old House Foundation Issues in the USA

Overall, the cost of foundation repair tends to be between $2,000 and $7,500, with a national average of $4,500. You may be able to have very small cracks filled with epoxy for a few hundred dollars, but severe foundation problems can run you up to $15,000 to $25,000.

Foundation Issues in Old Homes

Foundation issues in old homes can occur due to a variety of factors, including settling, moisture, soil conditions, and structural problems. Here are some common foundation issues in old homes and how to address them:

  1. Cracks in the Foundation: Cracks in the foundation walls or floors can be a sign of foundation movement or structural issues. The appropriate repair method will depend on the severity and type of crack. This may involve filling and sealing minor cracks with epoxy or polyurethane injections, or more extensive repairs such as installing carbon fiber reinforcement or using helical tiebacks for stabilization.
  2. Settling or Uneven Floors: Uneven floors or sagging areas can indicate foundation settling or structural problems. One approach to address this is by installing additional support, such as steel or concrete piers, to stabilize and level the foundation.
  3. Moisture-Related Problems: Excessive moisture can cause foundation problems, such as soil expansion or erosion. Implementing proper drainage solutions, including improving grading around the house, installing or repairing gutters and downspouts, and ensuring proper drainage away from the foundation, can help mitigate moisture-related issues.
  4. Rot or Decay in Wooden Foundations: Some old homes have wooden foundations that can be prone to rot or decay. In severe cases, the damaged wood may need to be replaced. Proper moisture management, including repairing leaks and ensuring proper ventilation, is crucial for preventing further deterioration.
  5. Crumbling or Deteriorating Masonry: Old homes with masonry foundations may experience crumbling or deteriorating mortar or bricks. Repointing, which involves removing deteriorated mortar and replacing it with new mortar, can help restore the integrity of the masonry foundation.
  6. Structural Issues: In some cases, foundation problems in old homes may be due to underlying structural issues. Consulting with a structural engineer or foundation specialist is crucial to assess the extent of the problem and develop an appropriate repair plan.

Old Foundation Types

The main three are basements, crawl spaces, and slabs. While the types of foundations used were the same as now, the materials and building methods were different. For example, most foundations built before the 1940s were constructed using materials found at the property’s site.

Old Home Foundation Repair

When it comes to old home foundation repair, there are several steps and considerations to keep in mind. Here’s a general outline of the process:

  1. Inspection: Begin by hiring a professional, such as a structural engineer or foundation repair contractor, to inspect the foundation and assess the extent of the damage. They will identify the underlying issues and recommend appropriate repair methods.
  2. Repair Methods: The repair methods for old home foundations will depend on the specific issues identified during the inspection. Some common techniques include:a. Underpinning: This involves installing additional support, such as piers or helical anchors, to stabilize and lift the foundation. It’s often used for foundation settling or sinking.b. Crack Repair: Cracks in the foundation can be repaired using epoxy or polyurethane injections. The cracks are filled to restore the structural integrity of the foundation.c. Masonry Repairs: If the foundation is made of masonry, such as brick or stone, crumbling or deteriorating sections may need to be repaired. This can involve repointing, where the deteriorated mortar is replaced with fresh mortar, or replacing damaged masonry units.d. Waterproofing: In cases where moisture is a concern, waterproofing techniques, such as applying sealants or installing drainage systems, may be necessary to prevent further damage.
  3. Preservation Considerations: When working on an old home, it’s important to consider the historical and architectural significance of the property. Consult with professionals experienced in historic preservation to ensure that the repairs are carried out while preserving the character and integrity of the home.
  4. Obtain Permits: Depending on local regulations and the extent of the repairs, permits may be required before starting the foundation repair work. Check with your local building department to ensure compliance with any necessary permits or approvals.
  5. Hiring Professionals: It’s recommended to hire experienced professionals who specialize in foundation repair for old homes. Look for contractors or companies with a proven track record of successfully working on similar projects.

When to Walk Away from Foundation Issues?

You should walk away from foundation issues if the person selling the house refuses to lower the asking price to compensate for the necessary repairs. That means you’ll need to have already had the home inspected by either a foundation repair contractor or a structural engineer.

Is It Safe to Live in a House with Foundation Problems?

Most of the time, it’s safe to live in a house with foundation problems. However, because foundation issues worsen over time, you should have the problem fixed as soon as possible. Contact an experienced foundation repair professional in your area and ask them to come out for an inspection and estimate.

Foundation Problems Vs Settling

With soil expansion and contraction, it is normal for a part of a building to move a few inches. A foundation problem, on the other hand, is a more serious matter and should be monitored with extreme caution.

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