Foundation systems have other members besides the perimeter foundation wall. In your basement or crawlspace, look for posts and concrete supports, or piers. Posts should stand straight and be firmly installed underneath the girder or support beams. At the bottom of the posts there should be footings to give the post/column the proper support to carry the load from above. You should never see the bottoms of these support posts, metal or wood, with indications of excessive moisture. Moisture will remove the integrity and strength of the post.

Signs of moisture in under your home may indicate poor drainage around the perimeter of your home and could eventually cause damage to your homes foundation and allow extensive settlement.

Severity of Foundation Cracks and How to Recognize Them

Recognizing which are insignificant and which are serious is nice to know. Here’s a list from least to most serious:

  • Hairline cracks in the mortarbetween concrete blocks are rarely worth worrying about.
  • Cracks at an L-shape section, such as where a foundation steps down to follow a hillside, are probably shrinkage cracks, especially if they randomly wander and get smaller down to a hairline crack. There is not a structural issue, though you might need to plug them to help keep moisture out.
  • Stair-step cracks in masonry jointsare a bigger concern, especially if the crack is wider than ¼ inch and the wall is bulging. Moisture problems at exterior are probably causing pressure on the wall.
  • Horizontal cracksare most serious. These mean your home is shifting off the foundation. Freezing soil next to foundation can cause this and the bad news is: You may need a new foundation or major repairs to correct.

Our home inspectors can help in determining whether any of these warning signs point to normal settling or to structural damage. A structural engineer may need to be called in to provide a technically exhaustive report on ways to correct these issues. Expect to pay $500-$700 for a structural engineer to inspect your foundation and provide an evaluation, and as much as $2,000 for a full set of drawings for an engineered solution.