Slab Houses
Look for cracks in the foundation when checking the exterior. If cracks are large enough, ware can seep into your home when the water table rises. Look for cracks in the exterior bricks or separation of siding along the seams. Observe the coloration of the mortar between the bricks, as discoloration could indicate that repairs have been made. Look for gaps between the metal and brick where they meet at the metal sashes of windows. Gaps in excess of 1/4" could spell trouble. Observe the condition of the shingles, keeping an eye out for sagging, or depression of the roof lines. If these depressions are present, an attic inspection should be carried out.

The overhang of your home is comprised of sofit, facia, plywood, and crown molding. Look for separations between all the sheets of sofit to determine if a gap exists. If any is present, that is a sure indication that your foundation is sliding. Check the floors inside the home, looking for any separation between the vinyl tiles, or near walls and cabinets. Flooring commonly conceals interior cracks in the foundation. Cracks in interior foundations are usually discovered when the homeowner decides to replace carpeting or tiling. Look for cracks in sheet rock, especially around windows or wallpaper separating from the wall corners or near cabinets.

Diagonal cracks in the sheet rock are an early indication of abnormal settling of the foundation, sometimes due to undetected cracks in the slab. Separation between sheet rock and window edges or sills are also an indication of possible foundation failure. Be sure that all interior and exterior doors close properly and do not have abnormal reveal between the door and the jamb. Any gaps between installed cabinets or doors are also indications of possible foundation problems and uneven settling of a structure, as are sagging floors.

Crown molding will reveal if the brick walls are moving or settling, so check all the corners. To check the depths on the footings, use a probe rod and insert it into the ground on the outside wall of the house. (Do NOT use a steel probe rod as this may result in electrocution. Use only fiberglass probe rods.) The probe should reach depths of at least 20 inches. The footing under a fireplace should contain at least three feet of concrete and be slightly wider than the chimney base. Mortar joints may open where the chimney meets the wall of the home, which is a sure sign that the foundation is failing. For best results, use a laser level to evaluate how much movement has occurred on the interior and exterior of the structure.

Pier Houses
Undetected faulty pop-off valves of water heaters can allow water under the home and build a moisture field, which can seriously damage the home. 2x10 ft. or 6x6 ft. beams are the main material used to support walls and flooring in the structure. If the house has 2x10 sills, there are usually two 2x10's nailed together with a 2x4 ledge for support of the joist. By using 6x6 sills, the joist are sitting on 16 inch centers of each room. it is recommended that you stabilize these rooms with 6x6 sills and house piers for support. A foundation contractor should be called to perform these tasks as any of these symptoms are serious indications of major foundation failure.

Powder post beetles, termites, and wood rot can destroy the joists and disturb the integrity of the foundation. The joists should have a 16" center. When purchasing a home with wood siding, walk along the perimeter of the home and place your hand on the wall, applying a small amount of pressure. If there is any movement of the wall, there may be some rotting and further inspection is highly advised. Homes with window air-conditioning units are more prone to this. Be sure the air-conditioning unit has adequate drip lines to prevent water from pooling under the house.

Poor ventilation can contribute to foundation failure. The lower the home, the bigger the problem. Wood rot, standing water, mold, and moisture under floors can cause foul odors. As you inspect the exterior of the structure, feel the beams or sills with your hands. Deterioration of the wood can be discovered by the appearance of powder on your hands as you rub along the surface of beams or sills. If powder is found, attempt to pierce the beam or sill with a small knife, etc. and if you are successful in that endeavor, it needs to be replaced.
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