Forget about your beloved deck or your cozy living room: the unseen and often unappreciated home foundation is one of the most important structural elements of your home. It’s underneath your home, protecting it and supporting it. Caring for your home foundation is a critically important maintenance task for all homeowners.
The Function of Your Home Foundation
Every part of your house has a function but your home’s foundation has some of the most important functions of all. The foundation is the lowest part of your building and is often located underground. It transmits the load of the house into the soil. The foundation, walls, and roof of the home also act as a barrier to the elements, preventing water and temperature changes from affecting the rest of your home.
Foundations vary depending on the type of house you are building. In general, a house has a relatively shallow foundation compared to that of an apartment building or skyscraper. While foundations are made out of many different materials including rock and wood, in the United States, most foundations are concrete.
“Footing” is another name for a shallow foundation that is a meter or so under the soil. A spread footing is made up of pads of concrete installed below the frost line. Another shallow foundation is the slab on grade foundation. This foundation is a concrete slab on the surface of the ground. The type of foundation that your home uses depends on the house structure and on the soil underneath.
Common Problems With Your Home Foundation
Although it’s hard to make large changes to your home foundation, the soil around the foundation can cause the foundation to change on its own. This has implications for your home maintenance. Shifting soil or wet soil can lead to cracks and leaks in your foundation, and these can be serious for your home. They can cause mold, property damage, and structural concerns. When you’re , you need to watch for:
- Cracks in the floor and walls. Look under the flooring to see if there are any emerging cracks.
- Water damage to the floor and walls. Look for soft spots, feel the walls for damp, and look for staining. This can tell you where the foundation is shifting and cracking.
Why do foundations crack and leak?
Shifting and expanding soil is the cause of many foundation problems. Clay soils swell when they encounter water, causing your foundation to move. They shrink when they’re dry, and moisture moves away from under or beside your foundation. This causes your foundation to experience pressure and settling, leading to cracks.
Water in the soil not only causes the soil to shift, it can leak into the walls and the foundation and cause even more damage. Water can gently erode your foundation or basement walls, especially if it gets into a crack and expands during the colder winter months. To ensure that water is not a problem for your foundation, you need to make sure that your soil gently slopes away from your house and that your drains do not get clogged and send water over the sides, making the area around your foundation wet.
Maintain your indoor and outdoor plumbing as well so that damaged plumbing does not cause problems in the walls around your foundation. For instance, a burst pipe in the winter can not only cause home damage, it can send a lot of water into the soil, leading to further structural damage.
What Home Maintenance Does Your Foundation Need?
Foundations aren’t something to pour and leave alone. They need ongoing to work well. However, unlike other parts of your home, your foundation isn’t something that you can replace if it gets old and worn. You need to proactively work to prevent problems and repair your foundation, since if it gets damaged it can have serious impacts for the longevity of your entire home.
Your foundation needs maintenance throughout the year. Follow an annual maintenance schedule to make sure that your foundation does not shift and crack. If you notice that you have a crack or leak, contact a building specialist to investigate the underlying causes of the problem and solve the immediate concern about water leakage.
Harry Helmet is dedicated to the maintenance and longevity of your home. If you’re trying to build or maintain your home from the ground up, contact us. Talk with us about our home drainage products and learn more about gutter guards, Helmet Heat, and roofing products that can protect your home foundation.