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AM Wall Anchor & Water Proofing Blog Article:

Foundation Issues in Old Homes: How to Identify & Repair

Victorian-style old home on top of a hill

As homes age, foundation issues can show up, leaving you scrambling to understand what’s going on, wondering how to fix it, and worried about whether those cracks in your basement are just unsightly or if they’re jeopardizing your home. Old house foundations can be particularly troubling because they may use construction methods and materials you aren’t familiar with. We’ve seen a lot of different issues helping homeowners with foundation repair across Western Pennsylvania, so let’s talk about what to watch for on older properties.

Risk Increases with Age

Old homes see more foundation issues partly because they’ve had more time for foundation issues to develop. That’s longer the land and materials the home is made of have been subject to the elements and more time for poor maintenance to leave issues unchecked for too long. While not every old house has foundation issues, every old house does need a comprehensive inspection and a plan to keep its foundation healthy, waterproof, and strong for years to come.

Other Foundation Issue Risk Factors in Old Houses

  • Uneven Settling – Over time, the weight of your home on top of soil that is expanding and contracting from changes to the temperatures and moisture content will cause the house to settle. Ideally, this settling will be uniform, with the whole house settling at approximately the same rate. If there’s a large difference in the settling of the land under one part of the house and another area where the foundation is sinking faster, however, foundation issues can develop.
  • Outdated Materials – Advancements in construction materials have given us better types of cement, metals, and treated woods that are both stronger and more resilient to weathering and aging. It was also common in the past to reduce the cost and effort needed to lay a home’s foundation by using rock substrate in the concrete that was found on-site during excavation. The use of older, less durable materials and substrates that weren’t properly prepared for use in concrete can leave you with a foundation that is beginning to fail.
  • Obsolete Construction Practices – They don’t build them like they used to, and that’s a good thing in some cases. Along with the materials used, construction standards have changed over the years as we’ve learned more about building properties to provide safer, longer-lasting spaces. 
  • Poor Drainage Design – Whether it wasn’t accounted for by the original builders or time has altered the topography of your land, poor drainage can increase the hydrostatic pressure around your foundation, putting it at risk.
  • Lack of Waterproofing – Many older homes either weren’t professionally waterproofed, have been left behind by modern techniques and technology, or no longer have adequate waterproofing due to wear over time. 

Signs of Old Home Foundation Issues

  • Windows and Doors Won’t Shut – As the house settles unevenly, the floor, walls, and ceiling move out of alignment, and the clean right angles of corners disappear. No place is this more apparent than in the rectangular portals of doors and windows that rely on parallel alignment to open and close smoothly.
Interior of old home wall showing cracks and signs of foundation issues
  • Cracks in the Foundation Floor and Walls – While small cracks may just be unsightly, larger cracks could destroy the structural integrity of your foundation. These can be caused by uneven settling, concrete that lacks sufficient Portland cement or the proper substrate in the mix, or outdated building methods that can’t withstand the pressure of the moisture and soil pushing against them.
  • House Structures Pulling Away from Each Other – Whether due to uneven settling or improper construction, walls pulling away from floors or chimneys and other structures moving out of plumb need immediate attention.
  • Bowed Walls – When the hydrostatic pressure gets to be too much for your basement walls, they can crack and bow or lean inward. If the underlying foundation issues aren’t addressed immediately, your home could be at risk. 
  • Uneven Floors – As the foundation shifts, floors can start to develop undulations beneath carpet or laminate, and tile can crack or lift. As the floor worsens, it soon begins to affect the walls and roof of your home until your problems go beyond an old house’s foundation to the whole house.

Preventing and Fixing Foundation Issues

  • Improving Drainage – Improving your exterior drainage can help reduce the pressure against your foundation and prevent the oversaturation that can lead to flooding. This includes installing gutters and downspouts, French drains to collect water and move it to natural drainage, and landscaping that absorbs and holds water for evaporation while anchoring your topsoil. The land also needs to be properly graded and compacted to redirect surface moisture, and in extreme cases, re-excavation and backfilling may be necessary to ensure the land is prepared to support your old home for decades to come without causing foundation issues.
  • Basement Waterproofing – Basement waterproofing helps bring old houses’ foundations into the modern age with professionally installed sumps and sump pumps, Moisture-resistant barriers, and proactive dehumidification. By eliminating excess moisture (whatever the source), you’re protecting your foundation.
  • Foundation Repair – If you have major foundation issues or your minor foundation problems have gone untreated too long for your peace of mind, professional foundation repair may be needed. From wall anchors to restore and support bowed or cracking walls to full reconstruction, an experienced foundation contractor can help you identify underlying issues, the best path forward for your property, and the ongoing maintenance needed to help your old home survive to get even older.

Schedule a Free Old House Foundation Inspection

Professional wall anchor installation completed by AM Wall Anchors & Waterproofing

We’re no strangers to old homes and the foundation issues they face in Western Pennsylvania. The Allegheny Mountains provide a rich and beautiful countryside, but the land and soil aren’t gentle on foundations. When you request a free home inspection, one of our foundation experts will set an appointment to evaluate existing foundation damage, identify future risks, and tailor a repair and mitigation plan that helps restore and protect your home’s integrity. 

 Contact A.M. Wall Anchor & Waterproofing for your no-cost, no-obligation inspection today.

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