How well do you think your home’s foundations are holding up? Damage is seldom sudden and catastrophic, but rather the result of slow processes that are taking place underneath the property. The materials and quality of workmanship put into the construction of a home are just one part of the story. If the soil isn’t good or loses its integrity after years of impact from the elements, even the strongest foundations will begin to suffer under the strain.
The reactivity of soil refers to how it responds to a number of factors – chief among them being expansion and contraction due to changes in moisture. Heave and subsidence puts foundations at risk of damage, which will subsequently compromise the property that is being supported. Victorian homeowners living in areas such as Melbourne, where there are high concentrations of Basalt clay, have particular cause for concern.
The type, speed and extent of damage will vary greatly depending on factors such as climate impact on moisture levels, the reactivity of the soil, and the lay of the surrounding land. Moisture increase causes swell which may then result in uplift of concrete slab foundations. This will have a detrimental impact on foundations and other structures over time. However, as the seasons change and moisture levels vary, soil will once again subside and further damage your home’s foundations. For weatherboard houses, re-stumping may be necessary to ensure that your foundations remain strong. Heavier, deeper or reinforced footings are typical methods used to combat reactive soil conditions.
Distress may be concentrated in single or multiple areas in your foundations, so it is important to inspect your home routinely for signs of damage from changing conditions. It is possible to have the reactivity of soil tested in a laboratory if you suspect that your foundations are the cause of structural problems in your property. For new builds, typically a geological survey is conducted to determine the integrity of the site prior to the commencement of works.
Brickwork and plasterwork present two of the areas where damage caused to concrete slab foundations is usually most noticeable. Cracks forming and becoming more pronounced over time is not something to ignore. It is a strong indication that there is a problem with your home’s foundations. Other indications may include doors and windows jamming, framework separating from walls, or moisture penetration in lower walls.
There are also signs to look for that are associated with weatherboard properties. If walking in parts of a room makes you feel like you are bouncing on a trampoline, it suggests that your foundations are failing. The same principle applies to floors that have become sloped over time. Decaying foundations underneath your property require immediate attention so do not ignore the signs that the sub-floor structure tasked with supporting your home has been compromised.
Of course, unless you are a structural engineer or qualified builder it is difficult to determine with any degree of certainty whether your foundations are the problem. Before investing in repairs, you may want to consider having a building or site inspection carried out. When it comes to foundations you need to address the source of the problem, otherwise all you are doing is applying a temporary band-aid to an ever-increasing wound.
For homeowners in Victoria, Houspect is available to provide building inspections by expert inspectors who are also qualified builders. Call our offices today if you have noticed signs that could indicate that your foundations are failing. All reports are professionally prepared and delivered to you in an easy to understand format.