The Difference Between Settling and Foundation Problems

As a homeowner, your house is likely one of the most valuable assets that you own. That said, property damage caused by structural issues is one of the last things that you want to have to deal with. Maintaining the structural integrity of your home is a high priority, and when compromised, it is essential to know the exact action to take that will prevent further structural damage from taking place.

The structural integrity of a home begins with its foundation. Foundations are usually built on a concrete slab, which — over time — may begin to crack due to settling or other common foundation issues. Every home and building tends to settle eventually due to the downward gravitational forces that puts pressure on the house foundation. When this occurs, you could be faced with either foundation settling or foundational problems. For many homeowners, telling the difference between the two can often be difficult. That’s why, in this article, we are going to review and explain the differences between common foundation problems and foundational settling.

Foundational Settling

The all-encompassing term “settling’ in homes is used to describe the natural and gradual changes that take place in a foundation over time. The two major factors of foundational settling are most commonly weather conditions and time. Depending on the composition of the soil and the climate, a new home will gradually and naturally sink into the ground over time. That’s why before building it is vital to have a house settling analysis done, which can help predict how much a foundation will settle based on the soil type.

If there happens to be improper soil preparation or extreme weather conditions, a house may be at risk of sinking, even if it is brand new! This commonly happens to structures that are built during extreme weather conditions, such as a drought or heavy rainfall. These conditions can have a direct effect on soil, causing it to expand and contract which can result in the house settling or sinking a few inches in a matter of weeks or months. Again, every home will experience settlement over time. A few inches of settlement is nothing to worry about, as long as it is evenly distributed across the structure. It is important to understand that settlement often takes place in two stages: the initial settlement and the ongoing settlement. The initial stages of settlement generally occur within the first few years while the ongoing settlement comes later and is caused by other factors, such as weather or corrosion. The ongoing settlement stage is actually easier to handle and control as it can be monitored.

Foundational Problems

Foundational problems are caused due to extreme or chronic foundation settling. These problems compromise the integrity and stability of a home’s foundation. Two of the most common types of foundational problems are foundation expansion and foundation shrinkage. Let’s take a brief look at the two.

Foundation Expansion

Foundation expansion is most common for foundations that use brick. This is due to the brick’s natural tendency to slowly expand over time. What’s more, brick walls exposed above grade are susceptible to expanding more rapidly. Similarly, those beneath the ground will grow more due to moisture.

Foundation Shrinkage

As part of the curation process, concrete will naturally shrink over time. You can see this reaction as it will often result in gaps between the edges of the slab and the wall of the foundation.

When these problems occur, it puts the foundation and the structure of a building at a risk and can lead to issues such as:


  • Visible Cracks In The Foundation: Cracks that are visible indication an issue in the foundation that requires repair.
  • Horizontal Cracks In Foundation: When there are horizontal cracks in a foundation it may be due to s build up of hydrostatic pressure.
  • Wall Cracks: Cracks along the wall are a sign of a foundation problem. These cracks generally appear near doors and windows or underneath the mantles. When cracks jagged and at an angle, it could mean the structural integrity of the building is compromised.
  • Gaps And Cracks In The Roof: When a foundation is compromised, even the highest point of a structure will be affected. Issues with the roof, such as cracks, gaps, and other damage is a common sign of
  • Sticking Windows and Doors: If the windows and doors are sticking for no apparent reason, it could mean there are numerous foundation problems. When doors or windows are more difficult to open or close, there is a chance that the foundation has shifted, affecting their frames.
  • Water In The Basement: If there is water pooling in the basement after a rainstorm,  it could mean the foundation has been damaged. Even though water can sometimes leak into a basement with a solid foundation, leaking is more common if the foundation has been damaged.


Issues like these are a sign that a foundation is experiencing something more than just standard settlement. It is important for homeowners to keep an eye on signs and symptoms that indicate a foundation problem, and get the proper repairs when necessary.

The Difference Between Foundational Settling and Problems

It can be difficult to determine the difference between natural foundational settling and serious problems that should raise concern, especially when foundations are something most homeowners don’t think about too often. That said, standard settling is nothing to worry about and often won’t have too much of an impact on the foundation and structure of a building. With soil expansion and contraction, it is normal for a part of a  building to move a few inches. A foundation problem, on the other hand, is a more serious matter and should be monitored with extreme caution. When these problems occur, foundational repair may be necessary.

Choose Magnum Products For Foundational Repair

When it comes to deep foundations and foundational repair many contractors choose products from Magnum Piering. As an industry leader in manufacturing steel piling products, Magnum products are strong enough to withstand the test of time! From helical piers, helix foundations, anchors, tie backs, resistance piers, and push piers our foundation repair products will not disappoint. To learn more about Magnum Piering products and service, visit our website today!