How to Stop a House From Shifting? We Have the Answer!

July 25, 2023

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how to stop house from shifting

Over time, houses settle and move. But when foundations sink unevenly, or soil problems cause shifting, homes can become unsafe and require expensive leveling. If your house starts leaning more than normal, swift action is needed to stabilize shifting and prevent further damage. 

So, how to stop house from shifting? With the right fixes, you can get your home off the slope and keep it on solid ground. That typically means you need professional intervention for house leveling or slab jacking services.

Here are tips on recognizing and repairing a shifting house.

Watch for Signs Your Foundation is Sinking

Look for these common indications that your foundation may be sinking:

  • Doors and windows stick and rub for no reason
  • New cracks form in walls, floors, or ceilings
  • Floors visibly slope or feel uneven underfoot
  • Plumbing leaks suddenly develop
  • Exterior cracks form in brick, stucco, or siding

Slab foundations often show few obvious signs of shifting. Check for subtle clues like doors not closing properly or slight gaps between the slab and walls. On crawlspace or basement foundations, large cracks in the concrete may indicate sinking. Thoroughly inspect inside and outside to determine if your foundation is moving unevenly. This may warrant house leveling services.

Check Your Foundation Directly

You can literally look for shifting and sinking by visually examining your home’s foundation:

  • Inspect the concrete or brick foundation walls in the basement or crawlspace for new cracks or separated sections.
  • Check for gaps opening up between the foundation and the siding or exterior walls.
  • Look for sections of the floor in the basement tilting or sloping toward the interior.
  • Verify perimeter beams are still straight and level.

It takes an expert eye to spot minor foundation shifting. But visible cracks, gaps, and tilting are sure signs your foundation is sinking.

Hire an Engineer for an Assessment

For the best diagnosis, hire a structural engineer to inspect your foundation both inside and out. They can evaluate settlement direction and severity, then explain what’s causing the shifting. With an expert assessment, you’ll know the best repairs to permanently stabilize the foundation.

A professional inspection gives you accurate diagnosis and repair guidance. It also provides documentation if you decide to file an insurance claim for any shifting damage.

Determine What’s Making Your Foundation Sink

Once you confirm foundation movement, investigate what’s causing the soil underneath to shift and settle unevenly:

Soil Drying Out

Over time, soil naturally compacts and settles. But when clay soils rapidly dry out, it can cause uneven sinking under foundations. Common drying triggers include:

  • Drought or lack of seasonal rains
  • Cutting down nearby trees whose roots stabilized soil moisture
  • Installing an in-ground pool that disrupts natural moisture levels
  • Grading that changes drainage and allows faster soil drying

Look for obvious soil drying triggers around your property. Addressing the root cause of moisture loss is key to stopping associated foundation shifting.

Nearby Construction

Vibrations and soil disruption from construction can undermine nearby foundations. Watch for sinking signs if major projects like these are happening nearby:

  • Pile driving for new structures
  • Demolition or underground utility work
  • Large trucks passing daily for new developments
  • Extensive digging or grading work on adjacent properties

If heavy equipment is shaking the ground for weeks, your foundation can start sinking in response.

Erosion and Drainage Issues

Water draining or washing away soil is another common cause of uneven settling under houses. Check for:

  • Gutters, downspouts, or drain pipes leaking water at the foundation
  • Sloping yards where rainwater flows heavily toward the house
  • Basement walls with only small window wells that frequently overflow
  • Downspouts emptying too close to the foundation
  • Nearby creeks eroding the ground under part of the home

Improper drainage removes soil and creates voids under foundations. Make sure water moves away from your home’s perimeter.

Plumbing Leaks

Leaks from supply lines, sewer pipes, or septic systems create sinkholes as soil erodes away underground. Watch for new plumbing leaks or septic odors around bathrooms and kitchens. Damage from chronic leaks causes foundations to shift and sink as supporting soil gets washed away.

Expansive Clay Soil

Some types of clay soil greatly expand when saturated and shrink when dry. These expansive soils can damage foundations as they grow and contract with changing moisture. Cracks form as the ground moves, allowing more water in and worsening soil expansion.

Inspect the exterior after heavy rains for stuck doors and new cracks indicating expansive soil. Maintaining more consistent moisture can help minimize clay expansion damage.

how to stop house from shifting

Solutions for Sagging Foundations

Once you know why your foundation is shifting, you can pick repair solutions that address the causes. Here are common ways to shore up and prevent sinking foundations:

Drilled or Pushed Piers

For major sinking, smart modern piers can lift and permanently stabilize foundations. Steel piers are driven into dense load-bearing soil or bedrock beneath sagging sections. Hydraulic concrete piers are drilled down then expanded under compromised areas. Installation costs $5,000 to $10,000 but offers long-term correction of uneven settling. Piers shore up sinking slabs, crawlspaces, or basements for good.

Concrete Pilings

In severe cases, a web of concrete-reinforced pilings may be required under the foundation. A 3-foot grid of 12 to 16-inch pilings is driven into subsoil across problem areas for support. Though expensive, concrete pilings can repair badly compromised foundations and stop further sinking. This labor-intensive process costs $10,000 to $30,000.

Pressurized Concrete

For minor settling, pressurized concrete can be pumped under sinking sections to level and stabilize the foundation. Holes are drilled through the slab, then concrete injected to fill voids and raise settled areas. Costs typically run from $5,000 to $8,000, depending on the scope. It offers targeted reinforcement without major excavation.

Interior Supports

If shifting is minimal, new piers placed inside can level floors and doors. Concrete or adjustable steel piers brace sagging perimeter beams, ductwork, and pipes in basements or crawlspaces. Interior supports are much cheaper than exterior foundation repairs but only help if problems are caught early before shifting worsens.

Improve Drainage to Stop Soil Saturation

Where overly saturated soil is causing foundation movement, improving drainage can stabilize the ground. Here are some options:

French Drains

French drains are perforated pipes that redirect groundwater away from your foundation. They’re placed in gravel trenches around the perimeter to capture rain and keep the soil around your foundation drier and firmer. French drains provide an outlet for moisture and prevent water from pooling against basement walls. Installation averages $3,000 to $5,000.

professional french drain installation

Surface Grading

Grading your yard to create a slope away from the house helps surface water drain off. Aim for at least a 6-inch drop within 10 feet of the foundation. Extend downspouts and hardscape features like patios out past this zone. Proper sloping reduces how much rain saturates right next to your home’s walls.

Downspout Extensions

Make sure downspouts carry roof runoff well away from the foundation before dumping water. Extend the downspout out at least 10 feet with PVC pipe or drainage tubing. A splash block further spreads and redirects water downstream. This keeps large volumes of rain from pooling at the base of your home.

Window Well Drains

For window wells that frequently flood in basement foundations, adding a drain pipe prevents water damming up against glass block windows. Install a perforated drain line at the bottom of the window well that daylight away from the house. Then cap wells with supreme covers to keep out leaves and debris.

Relieve Outside Pressures Pushing on Walls

In some cases, exterior forces gradually shift foundations out of position. Here are ways to take pressure off of foundation walls:

Remove Soil Buildup

Over time, dirt, mulch, and debris can bury the lower part of your foundation. Remove any soil, planters, or other items pushing against exterior walls. Aim to see 4 to 6 inches of bare foundation all around your home. Eliminating this extra soil weight relieves pressure that can shift walls.

Cut Back Landscaping

Heavy plantings push foundations outward as roots grow and expand soil. Prune back bushes to 2 feet away from walls and remove trees within 10 feet. Replace deep-rooted shrubs with decorative grasses and perennials with smaller roots. Managing encroaching landscaping reduces outward pressures.

Lighten Planters

Heavy stone, concrete, or plaster planters resting on footings can cause sinking and tilting over time. Replace masonry planters with lightweight pots on casters or stands. This removes hundreds of pounds of dead weight pushing on your foundation.

Stabilize Soil Moisture Levels

Where overly dry or saturated soil is causing shifting, better moisture management can stabilize foundations:

Water Regularly

During drought, thoroughly water within the 6 feet closest to your foundation walls. Aim to keep this soil consistently damp 12 inches down without oversaturating. Consistent moisture keeps dirt firmly compacted instead of shrinking away from the foundation.

Add Shading Plants

Trees or shrubs shade the ground, reducing moisture loss around foundations. Plant away from walls to avoid root damage. Evergreens and dense ornamental grasses work well to hold soil moisture and temperature stable.

Apply Protective Mulch

Cover bare soil with 4 inches of organic mulch, leaving a gap next to the foundation. Mulching prevents surface evaporation that can shrink clay soils. It also buffers soil moisture and temperature changes. Replenish fading mulch every 2 years.

Know When It’s Time to Call the Pros

Repairing a shifting foundation demands special expertise and equipment in moderate to severe cases. Seek professional help for:

  • Visibly leaning or out-of-plumb walls
  • Floors sloped more than 1 inch across a room
  • Large gaps between walls, floors, and ceilings
  • Extensive cracking or crumbling in foundation walls
  • Unsure what’s causing the foundation movement

Foundation repair contractors have hydraulic lifting equipment, reinforced pilings, and injection materials the average homeowner can’t access. They can diagnose the full extent of settling and then make lasting repairs beyond DIY capabilities. Don’t take chances with major foundation issues.

contractor leveling a foundation

Stop Shifting Before It Starts

Since fixing foundation problems is expensive, it’s ideal to prevent them in the first place. Some proactive measures include:

Regular Inspections

Periodically look over the exterior foundation for developing cracks or signs of sinking. Check for plumbing leaks annually. Catch problems early before they escalate.

Make sure you read the current HUD requirements for foundations; this ensures that yours is safe and up to code.

Control Moisture

Maintain drainage and moderate soil moisture around the foundation. Keep downspouts extended, plants pruned back, and dirt slopes graded away from the house.

Avoid Heavy Equipment

When possible, have utility work, tree removal, and other disruptive work done far from your foundation. Heavy equipment can damage soil compaction and stability.

Repair Plumbing ASAP

Promptly fix any leaks under sinks, toilets, tubs, or appliances that could erode soil and undermine your foundation. Don’t ignore plumbing problems.

Staying vigilant against foundation threats will keep your house on solid ground for years to come.

plumbing pipes affected by sloping foundation

Conclusion

It can be alarming when a house starts noticeably shifting and sloping. But with an understanding of what causes foundations to sink, many solutions exist to stabilize your home again. Shore up compromised areas, improve drainage, remove pressuring forces, and maintain optimal soil moisture to stop a house from progressively settling. In many cases, prompt action can reverse damage already done. Get professional guidance for significant foundation issues. With proper repairs and preventive care, you can return your shifting house to level and keep it there long-term.

About Better Foundation Repair Corpus Christi

With qualified structural engineers and experienced contractors on staff, you can’t go wrong by hiring Better Foundation Repair Corpus Christi. Our team specializes in concrete slab and pier & beam foundation services for residential and commercial properties. Do you have an emergency? Please call us at (361) 480-0823 24 hours a day.

FAQs

Is it normal for houses to shift?

Some minor settling and movement are normal as all houses adjust and compact over time. However, significant shifting, sloping, sticking doors and windows, or new cracks are signs of foundation problems that require intervention to stop and secure the home’s structure.

What are the signs of a house settling?

Common signs your home is settling include doors and windows that suddenly stick or don’t close properly, new cracks in walls or ceilings, uneven or sloping floors, and leaks developing around plumbing fixtures. On the exterior, clues can include fresh cracks in brick, stucco, or siding, gaps between the foundation and walls, and concrete sinking or tilting in the basement.

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