Recognizing Foundation Problems

Don't wait for seasonal or climatic changes to further damage your home. Call or contact Ram Jack of Florida today and let us evaluate your home. Ram Jack is the full service foundation repair company that pioneered the industry with professional evaluation study methods.

Foundation problems diagram

Causes of Foundation Problems

Causes of foundation problems diagram

Water is the main enemy in expansive soil problems. There is either too much water, causing the soil to swell, or not enough, causing the soil to shrink. Moisture beneath the center of your foundation remains consistent unless aggravated by the introduction of excess moisture, such as plumbing leaks or sub-surface water movement. As evaporation and transpiration cause the soils to dry and shrink around the perimeter of your foundation, the structure begins to move. Uneven moisture causes uneven movement, which can lead to both structural and cosmetic damage to your home.

If all soils beneath a foundation swells uniformly or shrinks uniformly it is unlikely to cause a problem. But when only part of the foundation heaves or settles, differential movement causes cracks and other damage.

Most differential movement is caused by differences in soils moisture. After construction, soil beneath part of the foundation becomes wetter or drier than the rest of the soil.

Here is why this happens:

1. When there is a gain in soil moisture: This is the most serious threat since the swelling potential of expansive soils is much greater than the shrinkage potential. Moisture gain can come from plumbing leaks, subsurface water like wet weather or a high water table, or surface water. Surface water is improper drainage of landscape water or rainwater.

Poor drainage can be a major contributor to soil moisture gains. Roof runoff should be directed away from the house through the use of gutters. Gutter downspouts should not be permitted to discharge the water next to the foundation. Surface drainage next to the foundation should slope away from the house approximately 1/4" per foot.

2. When there is a loss of soil moisture: The soil may be at or near its optimum moisture content when the foundation is built, but it may lose enough moisture during a drought to cause the foundation to settle. Settlement is usually greatest near the perimeter of the foundation where the soil dries most quickly.

3. Extremely low or high soil moisture during construction: If the soil content is very low when a slab-on-grade foundation is poured, soil to the slab edges regains moisture first because it is directly exposed to rain water or irrigation water.

If the soil moisture is extremely high during construction, the slab will hold in the moisture except at the perimeter, where it is exposed to more wind and heat. In cases like this the slab edge loses moisture at a different rate than the soils under the house and the house will settle.

Why foundation problems happen

Differential Settlement is the Real Enemy

Pictures of interior cracks and exterior cracks

A few things need to be understood about settlement. First, all houses settle. The amount may be so small as to be undetectable or may be so uniform as to leave no signs, but it unquestionably happens. Second, because of the natural and construction-related variations in soil properties, not every point on a foundation settles the same amount. To avoid continued settlement and to prevent future cracks in walls you must stabilize differential settlement, the difference in settlement between various points on the foundation. It is important to remember the distinction between total and differential settlement. The Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, for instance, has settled several feet without significant distress to the structure and remains in service because the settlement has been uniform. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, on the other hand, is useless for anything but the Kodak moments of tourists.

Foundation stabilization can only be achieved through underpinning. Underpinning is the process of modifying an existing foundation system by extending it to, or into subsurface strata that is deeper and more stable than the near surface soil that supports the existing foundation system. Underpinning extends the foundation support to depths that provide greater bearing capacity and/or are less affected by climate and soil conditions.

After the pier is installed, the hole is covered. The pier is not exposed.

If underpinning is properly designed and installed it will provide the basis for lifting the structure to a more acceptable elevation and provides vertical support to prevent the underpinned areas from future settling.

Ram Jack of Florida will professionally evaluate your home to determine what settlement issues you may have. Our technicians are trained and certified through the Ram Jack training program. The evaluation process involves investigating the entire structure, not just the areas of visible settlement. Once the settlement has been accurately diagnosed, a service plan with a diagram of your home including the location of the necessary piers to stabilize the foundation will be provided to you at the end of the evaluation.

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For a professional evaluation of your commercial structure, contact our office at 1-877-726-6372 to schedule an appointment or email us at