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House Settling

Previously, we’ve talked about foundation leveling and foundation repair and in doing so we mentioned the term House Settling once or twice, so we figured now would be a good time to talk about this subject.

So what exactly is this? House settling is a movement or series of movements or shifts that your house or parts of your house undergo, mainly as it acclimatizes to both itself as well as the soil it rests upon and the climate around it. One thing that we must have in mind is that this is a normal process that all homes go through and it is rarely due to neglect or shortcuts by the builder o previous owner.

As previously stated this can be due to climate, materials and the home’s own weight on the soil. Generally a new home settles within about 1 or 2 months after being built, although the settling could even prolong itself up to three years. This happens as wood and concrete lose moisture, however the longer settlement periods can be the result of climate and temperature changes or even due to the time it takes for the house to compress the soil under the foundation.

Whether you know it or nor you might be well familiarized with this phenomenon already; the Tower of Pisa being the most recognizable case of settling in the world. Although this is an extreme example and highly unlikely to happen to a regular Texan home.

But let’s go back a little and go into more detail about the different factors that can bring about house settling. First, there’s the soil. As explained in previous articles expansive clay soil can cause homes to shift and sink with ease. Then there’s the materials the house is built of; wood and concrete. When houses are built the lumber and concrete are fresh and it will be only through time that they will dry causing some shrinkage.

Weather is another factor; climate changes bring about small changes in the house; specially when there are extreme weather conditions, which can accelerate settling. And we all know just how extreme the weather conditions can be in our beloved state. This goes hand in hand with seasonal changes; e.g. a house built during the dry season will soon face the expansion of the soil it rests upon as soon as the rainy season arrives. Or a house built during the summer will face a the equivalent challenge in winter when temperature drops (not to mention the possibility of snow).

With House Settling being a normal process this shouldn’t cause major damage, save for small cosmetic ones, however in some cases a home may not settle correctly and this in turn brings about foundation issues. So this is why we have to stay vigilant and learn to identify the difference between the telltale signs of foundation damage brought upon by irregular settling and the small changes in your house brought upon the normal settling of the structure.

So the house has settled. What are the changes that reflect the settling, without there being foundation damage?

Small hairline cracks that might appear where the wall meets the ceiling. These are pretty simple to solve and can be patched by you. Sometimes you might encounter small cracks in the foundation, which you have to make sure to fill out as soon as you set them so they don’t become a bigger issue. Air gaps are another symptom of normal house settling; this might be produced between the insulation and the walls or siding. This make the heating or cooling of the house more difficult. Try and fill them with spray foam or other sealant.

All in all if you fix this signs or changes as soon as you encounter them you will avoid them becoming bigger issues; and the best part is that, given they are not so serious, you could do it yourself if you want to.

However, there’s the other side of the coin: the house settling incorrectly, bringing about foundation damage. So what are the indicators that the house hasn’t settled correctly?

Wall cracks are the most common of the telltale signs of foundation damage; and unlike the small hairline cracks found where the wall meets the ceiling, these cracks can be horizontal, vertical or follow a stair pattern. If you have any of these cracks, and they are wider than 1/!6 of an inch, be on the look out. Also if there’s any cracks inside the house that match cracks on the exterior then this usually a sign of foundation problems.

If windows and doors stick or become hard to open and close then this is not a good sign as they generally indicate structural issues. This might be because the locking mechanism is no longer lining up correctly. In the case of windows if there are any gaps between the window frames, trim and wall then this means the house has or is still settling in a way that it is damaging itself.

Cracks in foundation; a structural crack is generally uneven, wider than a penny and over time can cause serious damage to your home.

Counters separating from walls, just like baseboards, are another sign to look out for. Given that they were put into place before the house started settling, they can become separated from the walls or crack. This is one of the easiest signs to spot

With the settling taking place in an incorrect manner floors might soon start to slope and this can be a sign of serious issues; a cracked foundation or a rotten floor might be the reasons behind this.

Leaking or burst piping can be the result of the foundation moving, and moving everything along with it. So make sure to regularly check if they aren’t leaking or about to burst.

With this information you will be able to identify the differences between normal house settling and an abnormal settling that has caused foundation damage. Remember to be regularly on the look out for any signs of damage; and in the unfortunate case you come across them, give us a call. We will help you determine exactly what is going on and how to move forward to best look after your home.

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