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Why does a house settle?

If you’ve just built or moved into a home and have noticed that it’s settled a bit, don’t fret: every home will settle over time. Settling happens for a variety of reasons, and it’s not usually something to worry about – unless, of course, it leads to foundation damage.

But why does a house settle in the first place?

When a house is being built, the builders pour concrete over steel to create the foundation. The steel is used to preserve the structure’s integrity. But like anything else, even the most well-built foundation will be exposed to climate changes and shifting soil. You can expect small cracks in the concrete – and a bit of gravity.

When we talk about settling, we mean the natural process of a house sinking down a bit further into the ground beneath it.

Construction workers building the roof of a house

Homes begin settling almost as soon as they’re constructed – but that doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing.

Basically, two things cause a house to settle: gravity and exposure to the elements.

When does settling cause foundation damage?

Settling: normal and not to be worried about.

Foundation damage: not good and usually a cause for concern.

While most settling is normal, there’s a point at which you’ll want to call in the professionals. A home that was built without having its soil properly prepared or inspected can be subject to more serious foundation problems, as can a house that’s experienced extreme weather. In Texas, we see a lot of homes built on expansive clay soil; after a rainy season (which isn’t saying much in this part of the country), the clay will have expanded. When the clay dries out again, it will crack – and cause a home’s foundations to do the same.

A bit of settling and subsequent foundation damage is to be expected – but if you start to see any suspicious cracks, it’s time to call in the experts!

For more information on home settling and the signs of foundation damage, see the resources below:

  • See some examples of cracks that indicate foundation damage here
  • The differences between foundation problems and normal settling
  • How soil contributes to foundation problems