Why do I have foundation failure?
Asking this question is a natural reaction when you discover you have foundation failure at your house. Why did this happen? There are several reasons for foundation damage. And quite likely, this condition will prove to be a true adventure in home improvement. Your foundation issue may not mirror the mind- boggling tilt of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but it’s likely to have the same cause –It’s called inferior soil support.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa was built on a dense mixture of clay, sand, and shells. By the time the builders had finished the third of eight planned stories of the bell tower around five years into the project, the tower’s foundation had begun to settle unevenly on the ground beneath it. And that’s what caused the vision of a building with a terrible tilt.
If your home was built on soft, low density soil or fill that was improperly compacted, you can have foundation failure. In fact, that’s the leading cause of foundation problems. And just like the case of the Leaning Tower of Pisa – the trouble may not show up for many years.
Structural engineers have a fancy name for the diagnosis. They call it differential settlement. All this means is that your house settled unevenly. All buildings settle somewhat in the years following construction. Settling is natural, and it generally isn’t a problem if the settling is uniform. But if the soil doesn’t have great support, you can get this uneven settling. Just like the Tower of Pisa.
If your support soil contains an expanse of clays, excess moisture resulting from improper drainage can cause the soils to swell and expand, lifting the foundation.
In fact, improper drainage by itself can cause foundation failure. Excess moisture can erode or consolidate soils. If the soil expands, contracts, or shifts away from the foundation, you’re likely to have problems. Many poor drainage issues are due to improper guttering or plumbing leaks. The slope or the grade of the land can cause drainage issues too, also resulting in foundation issues.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa didn’t right itself, and it didn’t improve over time, in fact the slant got worse. Once you know you have foundation damage, it’s time to call a foundation repair expert.