By Shawn Kyles

Homes are built on foundations that support the building?s structure. When a foundation is damaged, the entire house is often affected. Foundation problems can be divided into two categories; existing damage that needs to be addressed, and issues that can eventually lead to foundation trouble.

When a foundation or foundation wall is cracked, buckled or bowed, it compromises the home?s structural integrity. Once the structure is weakened, not only will the situation become worse over time, it could result in the building?s collapse, especially during an earthquake.

Visually inspecting the foundation is one way to determine if any repairs are needed. Signs of foundation problems include sloping or uneven floors; cracks in flooring or floor tiles; interior and exterior wall cracks, doors and windows that that stick or don?t work properly, and trim or molding that isn?t aligned.

Many foundations are damaged due to water. When rain collects on a roof because of poor drainage, it can drip into a home and basement. Water from plumbing leaks, sprinkler systems and other sources can also seep into a home if it isn?t directed away from the foundation. The accumulation of water inside a structure will not only cause mold and mildew to grow, it will damage wooden supports, enter small cracks and eat away at the foundation.

Foundations can also become damaged due to soil conditions. Certain types of soil, called ?expansive soil? will increase in size when wet and contract when dry. When wet soil expands, it will push a foundation up and when it dries, the foundation will settle. This up and down motion, which can occur many times throughout the year, can cause a foundation to crack. While expansive soils exist in every state, they are most commonly found in California, Arizona and Colorado.

Issues that can lead to foundation problems include blocked downspouts (or no downspouts), insufficient grading and trees growing too close to the house. Tree roots can damage a foundation in two ways, by growing under a home and by absorbing the soils moisture, which will cause a foundation to sink.

Conducting foundation inspections is an important part of maintaining your property. Regular inspections can help minimize upkeep expenses by preventing serious structural problems from occurring. Many foundation repair companies offer free inspections conducted by qualified professionals who can spot both existing and potential issues. It?s an easy way to ensure you home retains its value over time.

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