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Navigating the Foundation's Settlement: A Comprehensive Q&A Guide

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

Step cracks
Step cracks

Step cracks

Frequently Asked Questions about Foundation Settlement:

Q: Is foundation settlement repair a DIY (Do It Yourself) project? Can I hire a handyman for the job?

A: I often receive these questions from my clients, and the quick answers are both "No." Foundation problems, including settlement, should always be addressed by a professional with the necessary expertise. My recommendation is to hire an unbiased and impartial professional to assess and provide their evaluation and opinion. It's best to avoid salespeople who might push their company's services or products. Each situation is unique, and some issues may require addressing the root cause, while others may involve stabilizing the foundation after correcting the underlying problem.

Q: What is the primary cause of foundation settlement?

A: Foundation settlement can be attributed to several factors, with changes in soil moisture content being a major contributor. Let's explore this further:

Drying: Soils tend to shrink during dry periods, especially in regions with excessive vegetation around foundation walls or where trees draw significant amounts of water from the soil. As the soil dries out, it develops voids (air gaps) that can collapse. When the soil beneath your foundation walls becomes excessively dry, settling occurs, leading to foundation settlement.

Wetting: This occurs during heavy rainstorms or flooding when the soil beneath your foundation becomes oversaturated, particularly with clay-type soils. Poor drainage can exacerbate the issue, preventing water from draining away from the foundation.

Plumbing Leaks: Leaks in water or wastewater pipes due to factors like broken pipes or root intrusion can saturate the soil around your foundation, contributing to settlement.

Voids in Fill Soil: Often, builders disturb the soil when grading the ground before constructing a foundation. Loose fill soil is commonly used and may not achieve the same density as the original soil. Without proper compaction, voids remain in the fill soil, leading to future settlement and affecting the foundation.

Differential Settlement: This form of settlement occurs when one side of the house settles more than others due to localized issues. Factors like the presence of a large tree near one corner, a broken downspout drainpipe, a water leak, or negative grading can significantly impact the soil, leading to differential settlement.

These are some of the major factors contributing to foundation settlement. While we've covered several key elements, it's important to note that addressing every condition is beyond the scope of this educational blog.

If you have questions or concerns about your foundation, please feel free to reach out to us at We're here to help.

Step cracks
Step cracks

Picture shows both signs of a bow and settlement

Written by Firas Abdelahad, P.E.

Firas Abdelahad has been a practicing structural engineer since 2005, collaborating with a diverse range of professionals, including consultants, architects, investors, homeowners, contractors, and subcontractors. Together, they tackle the various challenges that can arise during the design and construction phases of projects.

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