Brand-new homes typically settle over the first few years of existence. Such settling is nothing more than a matter of the home bearing down on soil underneath and compacting it. It is minor enough that any damage done is merely cosmetic.
The Concrete Raising Company in Salt Lake City says that settling occurring many years after a house is built could indicate that other issues are in play. Settling should not be an issue after the third or fourth year. Any settling after that could signal that there are issues with underlying soil, the house itself was poorly constructed, or something else.
Below are descriptions of some of the most worrisome signs of house settling. If you’ve noticing any of them, you might want to have a professional inspection of your home. The sooner you do so, the sooner you can correct minor problems – before they become major.
Sticky Windows and Doors
Both windows and doors are squared when first installed. That means that they sit squarely in their frames and in perfect alignment. You can open them without much effort. As a house settles however, window and door frames may become slightly out of square. This is particularly noticeable with windows. Out of square windows seem to stick. You cannot get them open without Herculean effort.
Severely stuck windows and doors indicate that their frames are significantly out of square. This could be because one side of the house is sinking while the other is not. Such sinking throws off the entire level of the house.
Wall and Ceiling Cracks
Minor cracks are fairly normal when a new house settles. These types of cracks tend to appear where pieces of drywall meet. If your house is settling because of an underlying structural problem however, cracks can appear just about anywhere. Extremely serious settling will lead to those cracks eventually becoming wide gaps.
One of the most obvious signs of severe house settling are slanted floors. Assuming your house was built properly, all the floors would have been level from the start. The fact that they are no longer so is proof that one area of the house is lower than the other. However, slanted floors do not guarantee settling.
Floors slanted to one side of the house or the other indicate settling. Slanted floors that slope inward may be a sign that the main beams supporting the house are failing. In such a case, there may be no settling occurring at all. You have to check on the direction of the slope to determine what is causing it.
Broken Water Pipes
A severely settling house can put a lot of pressure on water pipes, causing them to bend and twist beyond their ability to withstand the pressure. The end result is bursting. Under normal circumstances, pipes should be able to go decades without any problems. If your home has suffered burst pipes on more than one occasion in recent years, you could be looking at settling issues.
Cracks in the foundation are another sure sign of settling. Cracks are likely to occur in the mortar between bricks or cinder blocks. If you look closely enough, cracks will tell you exactly what direction the house is settling in and to what degree it has already occurred.
Repairing Settling Problems
There are different ways to address settling houses depending on the seriousness. The Concrete Raising Company says minor problems can often be addressed with something known as slab jacking. In most cases of severe settling though, pier jacking is the better option.