A crack in your foundation wall or slab floor may not seem like a significant problem when first digesting its appearance; however, sometimes those meaningless cracks can turn into a gigantic disaster…if left unattended. But how should I know if my home is experiencing foundation settlement?

For starters, let’s try to understand what foundation settlement is and what causes it to occur. Simply stated, foundation settlement is the movement your home experiences when the soil below can no longer support the weight of your home. Think of a building a sandcastle at the beach close to where the dry sand meets the waterfront, eventually the tide might wash in and chew away at that compact sand underneath the sandcastle - causing parts of the structure to settle and collapse.

When we go to buy a home we can choose everything from the style and capacity to a location that’s best fit for our family, but we often forget about the soil that makes up the foundation. Why is the soil important? The soil is important because the cause of settlement in your home most likely has to due with a change in the soil.

There are three main changes in soil that can cause foundation settlement:

1.)    Weak soils. –Truth be told, not all soil content is created equal. Unfortunately, some soils underneath our homes are not always capable of supporting the weight and pressure that we apply on them. As a result, our foundations may slightly sink (depending on the severity of the settlement) around the footing and lead to exterior foundation wall cracks, chimney separation, drywall cracks and more.

2.)    Changes in moisture content. – When the soil surrounding our residency experiences periods of droughts and periods of flooding, you can be sure that the soil underneath our home reacting. A period of droughts often causes the soil to shrink (especially clay) and creates an empty space for your home to settle into. When the soil around our home has absorbed considerable amounts of moisture from a heavy rainfall, we can also expect weakened soils – causing the home to shift or sink (similar to stepping into mud and your foot squishes into the surface).

3.)    Poorly compacted fill soil. – When new housing development is finished with signing all the contractual paperwork, the process of soil placement occur. In order create flat and buildable lots, often times, fill soil is used from hilltops and various other local geography....and if the soil is not properly compacted, the soil will begin to compress under the weight of the new home – resulting in structural settlement.

When it comes to foundation settlement repair, it’s good to be a homeowner in today’s day and age because there are several solutions to choose from. Some older and out-dated solutions for repairing a settled foundation include foundation replacement, concrete underpinning and concrete piers. While each one of those solutions may seem to “repair the foundation,” they essentially neglect the biggest cause for the foundation to settle – soil. Foundation pier systems are a durable and long-term solution to foundation settlement as they provide durability and are resistant to corrosion, they also effectively address the settlement your foundation is experiencing because the piers are driven deep to stable soil layers.

Identifying foundation settlement isn’t always the easiest stone to uncover as a homeowner because of the uncertainty with associated repairs vs. the uncertainty of actual damage. Have no fear – Yellowstone Structural Systems is here to help! We are a responsible foundation repair company providing our innovative solutions to residential buildings all throughout the Greater Billings & Missoula area. We’ll start off by thoroughly inspecting your property and foundation and provide you with a free foundation repair estimate to getting your home back to a safe and sound structure.