How to Know if Your Foundation is Settling


A settling foundation is serious and shouldn't be ignored, but what is it and what are the signs of it?

To begin, each house rests on soil... obvious, right? Well, foundation settlement is the movement your home experiences when the soil underneath it can no longer support its weight.

But how can you tell your home is moving? Here are some common signs, from both the outside and inside of your home:

Outside Your Home

Sign #1: Stair-Step Cracking

When it comes to a settling foundation, stair-step cracking in brick or block walls is a no-brainer symptom. The vertical cracks in your walls may even continue to widen as the foundation settles further. If you notice these cracks widening, it's a sign that your wall is rotating.

Sign #2: Separating Chimneys

A chimney separating from a home is one of the most alarming and scariest signs of foundation settlement. Did you know, brick chimneys are sometimes built on a separate foundation from the rest of the home? This increases the likelihood of chimney settlement.

Sign #3: Problem Doors and Windows

The first sign of a foundation settlement problem is through a door or window, since areas with openings are the weakest parts of walls. Here are four common signs of settlement through doors and windows:

1. Doors and windows out of square

Have you ever noticed your door or window is jammed, tough to open at times, or it rubs hard against the frame? This is a sign your door or window may be out of square. It may also cause the window to not latch closed properly.

2. Cracks extending from the corners of door or window frames

Big cracks start out as small cracks that were never treated properly. Sometimes you'll hear, "small cracks are normal as a house settles!"

3. Doors and windows separating

Doors or windows may pull away from a frame or exterior finish. If this happens, have a professional take a look before it becomes something more serious.

4. New caulking around doors and windows

Do-it-yourself (DIY) caulking is a common method homeowners use to close gaps caused by separating windows or doors. Behind the caulk could be a more severe problem.

Inside Your Home

Sign #1: Foundation Wall Cracks

Similar to the outside of your home, foundation wall cracks can also be seen inside your basement or crawl space. Stair-step cracks are most commonly found in foundation walls made from concrete blocks, whereas vertical cracks are most commonly found in walls made from poured concrete. They will usually start out narrow at the bottom of the crack, then widen as they move up the wall. These symptoms may be hidden, however, in a finished basement.

Sign #2: Drywall Cracks

An easy sign of foundation settlement is cracks in drywall throughout the home. Any cracks that follow drywall seams, and drywall tape that buckles, pulls, or rips are also signs of a settling foundation.

Sign #3: Problem Doors and Windows

Doors and windows are dead giveaways of what is going on with your home's foundation. Do any of your doors or windows 'stick' when you try to open or close them? Has the top of any doors been shaved down to make it open or close more easily? Have locks or latches been moved or replaced so they would work properly? If you said 'yes' to any of these questions, chances are you could be dealing with a foundation settlement problem.


At first, you might try to patch your drywall, maybe caulk your windows or tuck-point brick work, but at what point does it become cause for concern? When these repairs become a part-time weekend job? These repairs will not do anything to slow down the damage caused by a more serious, underlying problem.

The signs above will help you identify if your home is experiencing a foundation settlement problem. For any further questions, please Frank's Basement Systems at 1-716-303-3189, we would love to help.

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