10 Ways You Can Tell if Your Foundation Is Bad

Share on

10 Ways You Can Tell if Your Foundation Is Bad

Foundations are vital to any structure as they distribute weight evenly across different building sections. Additionally, they protect against soil displacement caused by seismic activity and other environmental pressures, ensuring your home is safe from potential damage.

Thus, alarm bells should ring when homeowners encounter a problem concerning the foundation.

Not all foundation issues are the same, so it is paramount to identify their degree of severity. Some may only require minimal superficial fixes, while others necessitate professional repair work – which can be pretty pricey if not addressed promptly.

This article will identify ten common signs of foundation problems and recommend troubleshooting steps to help assess the issues.

How to Tell if Your Foundation is Bad

Even though these symptoms could result from various causes, here are several warning signs of foundation issues to watch for that may signify underlying foundation damage:

  • Cracks form at the edges of doors and window frames – especially if they are more extensive towards the top.
  • Doors and windows that functioned without issue now stick, rub against each other, or refuse to open or close completely.
  • Gaps are often visible between the flooring and base molding, mainly if they vary in width.
  • Previously leveled floors have become alarmingly uneven. A simple test to determine if your floor is level, place a marble onto the surface. If it rolls away, you know that your floors are not even.
A 'stairway' crack in the wall of a house.

There are Cracks in Your Foundation

The first step to repairing a foundation crack is to identify what type of crack it is. Here are the most common types.

Horizontal cracks

Neglecting horizontal cracks in your basement’s foundation can be a costly mistake. These fractures are usually caused by imbalanced soil and hydrostatic water pressure compressing against the walls that form its structure. You may have also seen your foundation bending inward and water seeping into your basement.

Stair-step cracks

Stair-step cracks along mortar joints are a common occurrence in block foundations. These potentially damaging fractures can result from foundation settlement or sinking of the soil beneath one section, as well as moisture issues near your home’s perimeter.

Vertical Cracks

Vertical cracks in the foundation wall may not be as severe as horizontal ones and don’t necessarily represent a structural concern. They are often detected in foundations made of poured concrete that runs directly up or down your walls. Over time, foundations shift, and the natural curing process of concrete can cause cracks to form.

Monitor these minor cracks

While any crack in your foundation may cause you alarm, the following are typically cosmetic.

Hairline cracks

It’s common in newly constructed foundations around the nation: hairline cracks. Typically they show up within 12 months due to the foundation settling and drying out. Fortunately, these small cracks are typically only cosmetic and can be fixed without significant expense.

Diagonal cracks

Though much like vertical cracks, diagonal foundation fractures do not usually impact the sturdiness of one’s foundation. The maximum angle these appear varies from 30 degrees to vertical and typically arises because of the concrete foundation’s curing process or its settling over time.

A deep crack in the interior walls of a house.

Interior Wall Cracks

Interior wall cracks may signify that your foundation is flawed and indicate structural damage.

Wall cracks

Generally, minor wall and foundation cracks are no thicker than 1/4 inch. However, if the crack is more extensive than this width, it could indicate a severe issue.

When you take a closer look at your cracks, it is crucial to identify if they are vertical or horizontal. 

Suppose some of the fractures appear at an angle of 45 degrees. In that case, this could mean that there has been an extreme movement within the foundation, resulting in large tears forming on sheetrock walls over time.

Drywall damage

Your walls are designed to be durable, so any unexpected and unusual cracks in the drywall should catch your eye.

If you observe zig-zagging cracks stretching nearly the entire wall height, it’s time to contact a contractor. You may also see the wallpaper separated from the surface and visible crevices where walls meet ceilings. In that case, this might indicate an underlying structural issue – so reach out for assistance.

If a nail comes loose from the wall, it’s not hard to fix. Grab your hammer and tap the nail back into place – easy.

If you notice nails popping out of the walls in your home, this is an obvious sign that something isn’t quite right. As drywall shifts and moves around, it can cause nails to be dislodged from their original positions. To prevent further damage, examine the inside and outside for any other cracks or signs of distress.

Uneven Floors

Identifying uneven flooring is one of the clear indications that a home’s foundation could be in trouble, particularly for older homes. It should be taken seriously and requires immediate attention.

Warped and uneven floors may indicate many issues, such as subpar wood quality, excessive moisture beneath the floorboards, potential termite damage, or foundation complications.

Without the proper support, your floors may feel spongy or springy. Don’t let this be an ongoing issue in your home. 

Doors Not Shutting Properly

Even though fixing a stuck door is simple, the issue is still significant. Do your doors appear reluctant when you try to open and close them? If so, it may be a sign of an underlying foundation problem.

If interior doors are affected, they may stick in the door frame. For exterior doors with foundation problems, it is more probable for them to drag at the threshold and appear skewed at the upper part.

French or double doors may not close flush in the middle or even hang properly.

Broken Tiles

If you notice your tiles have cracked without any identifiable explanation, the underlying factor is likely a problem with your foundation.

If you have tiles in any part of your house, such as a bathroom or kitchen, ensure they are not cracked. Tile floors can become uneven and start to sink due to their delicate nature, which leads them prone to breaking easily. You must check for these signs before any further damage occurs.

Gaps Between Windows and Doors

When doors or windows start to pull away from the wall, this is a tell-tale sign of underlying foundation issues. If left unresolved, these cracks can cause irreversible and costly damage.

Pay attention to any gaps that may appear around exterior window frames or alongside your external doors. If you find that the doors no longer latch, this should be a red flag and signify an issue developing with the condition of your foundation.

Drainage Issues

Proper drainage is integral to any home and requires constant upkeep to remain functional.

Clogged main sewer lines or leaking pipes can cause drainage issues which, when left untreated, could imbalance the land’s soil due to contraction or expansion. Water damage could destabilize the house’s foundation and should be addressed quickly.

Weeds clustered around the foundation line could signal an overabundance of moisture, leading to eventual damage to the foundation. Even more significant is if weeds are sprouting up from the actual structure- a sure indicator of cracks in your concrete slab.


You might observe one side of your house has gradually sunken lower than the other; it may indicate a foundational problem.

This settling can happen over time and should be addressed. Even the most minor dips, as small as a few inches, can develop into a more significant issue if neglected for extended periods; thus, it is critical to attend to this issue with urgency.

Deep crack in the exterior walls of a house

Exterior Wall Cracks

Pay attention to the cracks on your home’s exterior walls. The direction of these cracks could mean that you have a structurally sound foundation, or it may indicate foundation movement.

Usually, insignificant cracks in the outer façade or steps are not problematic. Large zig-zag patterned cracks around the exterior walls are worrying. There might be an issue with the foundation, which should be inspected.

Crawl Space Moisture

High humidity levels in the pier and beam home crawl space indicate that you already have or may soon experience foundation issues.

Uncovering the source of moisture in a crawl space is essential, as well as taking action to reduce it. Remember that too much humidity attracts unwanted termites and can cause your house’s wooden beams to decay. 

If you have a damp crawl space, the rank, musty odor will likely make its way into your home, potentially leading to mold and mildew growth if not addressed swiftly.


Even experienced professionals need help assessing foundation issues regularly.

While some cracks can be overlooked, others necessitate more prolonged and expensive repairs. This article outlines procedures but cannot replace the expertise acquired through professional instruction and experience.

It may be challenging to sell your home with foundation issues, but it is possible. 

Completing the transaction and selling your home “as-is” to a trusted cash buyer may be best for you, especially if you have foundation issues. You can avoid the hassle and cost of foundation repairs and have your troubled home out of your hair.

Additional Resources:

Get an all cash offer on your home