The strength of any building is dependent on the strength of the foundation on which it’s built upon. Without a strong foundation, a building’s structural strength is unstable.
But how do you know if your rental property has foundation problems? Well, here are five warning signs you should be on the lookout for.
1. Compromised Foundations
Cracked and crumbling foundations are signs of serious foundation problems. Foundations are built to last. Whenever doing routine property inspections, start with the foundation.
Generally, foundations should never show any noticeable signs of structural damage. Common signs of foundation problems include:
- Moisture (including stains, mold and pooling water) – Puddles and other signs of moisture indicate poor drainage.
- Flaking or crumbling concrete – Use the “poke test” to identify crumbling concrete. The test involves using a screwdriver to “poke” the concrete. If you can excavate a hole in the concrete with it, then it’s a sign of deteriorating concrete.
- Gaps or raptures, and hairline cracks and fractures (zigzagging, horizontal or vertical)
- Buckling, sagging or sloping of foundation walls or floors.
When having inspections conducted, make sure to include all exterior foundation surfaces and inside the home.
2. Ill-Fitting Doors and Windows
In a properly built house, all doors and windows should fit snugly in place. They should fit their frames and should not be too loose nor too tight. However, not all cases of ill-fitting doors and windows point to foundation problems. But even so, they’re worth fixing.
This is because they can cause an unusually high utility bill due to uncontrolled heat loss.
When looking for these warning signs, remember also to include attic windows, HVAC vents and garage doors.
It’s possible to identify these signs early by conducting regular inspections. This not only helps keep the foundation repairs to a minimum, but also helps extend the property’s life as well as keep your utility bills to a minimum.
3. Buckling, Cracking or Crumbling Walls
Naturally, all properties settle with time. Building materials, in fact, are designed to “give” a little bit. However, when settling is excessive, it leads to foundation issues.
This excessive settling becomes manifested as crumbling, buckling and cracks in the upper walls of the home.
Again, regular inspection is key. A property owner should conduct inspections on all walls for:
- Water damage (stains, mold and moisture)
- Crumbling and decay – particularly structures with brick facades or cement
- Shifts, warps, fissures and cracks
During the inspection, don’t forget to also check chimneys, molding, joints, pillars and corners. A foundation without problems should be straight and flush.
4. Warped Ceilings and Sagging Floors
Foundation issues can also be manifested in the upper levels of a home in the form of warped ceilings and sagging floors. During the inspection, also look out for gaps that are exposed on the ceiling and vertical wall joints.
To verify whether the floor and ceiling’s slope is consistent or not, use a level tool. If you don’t have one, use a tennis ball instead. Although a “low-tech” solution, the tennis ball works just the same way.
If the gradient is without a problem, the tennis ball shouldn’t move. Make sure to test it on random locations of the house.
5. Soil Shifting and Water Damage
One leading cause of foundation failure is improper water drainage. Improper water drainage leads to unnatural soil shifting. This happens when there’s rapid expansion and contraction of the soil adjacent the home.
The rapid soil expansion occurs during wet spells whereas rapid soil contraction occurs during dry ones. The rapid expansion and contraction puts immense pressure on the underlying foundation.
Soil shifting is also a sign that foundation failure has already occurred. Foundation cracks are pathways through which water flows to lower soil levels, causing immense moisture buildup in areas adjacent to the house.
Without immediate intervention, water can seriously damage the foundation of a property and result in expensive repairs. Luckily, property owners can check for water damage by inspecting the soil surrounding the property to identify whether it is unusually dry or unnaturally wet.
If the area is unusually dry following heavy rainfall or if the area is unnaturally wet without any recent rainfall, then it’s a telltale sign of water damage.
There can also be invisible water leaks. This especially occurs in other parts of the home where there’s improper drainage. Property owners should, aside from a top-to-down inspection of the property, check for hidden drainage by:
- Turning off all water-based faucets, spigots and appliances
- Taking note of the water meter readings
- Waiting for around 8 hours, then;
- Checking for unusual changes in the meter readings
If there’s an unusual meter reading, chances are there may be water leaks beneath the floor or behind the wall. Call in both a foundation repair expert and plumber straightaway. If the problem is left unattended longer, the problems could get worse. So act fast!
To avoid serious foundation issues, make sure to have your rental property inspected regularly. A house is only as strong as its foundation!
Author Bio: This article was written by Stephen Fox. He runs Upkeep Media, a real estate marketing agency. When he isn't reading on the latest marketing trends he spends his time with his family and playing basketball.
If you liked this article, subscribe to Rentometer's email newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in rental housing.