Foundation damage to any building can occur in a number of ways, from weak soil to water damage. A concrete foundation can be a difficult structure to repair, so it’s best to look after your foundations and maintain them regularly. Keep an eye out for any signs of damage and fix them as soon as possible.
It is possible to repair foundation damage without having to demolish the building, but the process can be time-consuming and sometimes expensive. Foundations are the main support structure of a building. As such, they are an integral part of a building, acting like the skeleton upon which the rest of the structure is built.
Causes of foundation damage
Concrete foundations are strong and durable. However, other problems can occur that affect the strength of these structures. Most of the time, the type of soil and moisture in the ground are the cause of foundation damage. If the soil is saturated with water, it can move beneath the foundations or cause moisture damage to the concrete.
A building can be at risk of foundation damage if:
- It is built on clay or sandy soil.
- If the soil around the foundations has inadequate drainage.
- The region experiences extreme seasonal changes.
- There is a major plumbing or water leak underneath the building.
- Tree roots are growing too close to the foundations.
- A flood, drought or earthquake affects the soil around the structure.
These problems cause the soil around the foundations to move. This movement is then directly transferred to the foundations themselves, which can cause cracks to form. This can cause the building to weaken and will affect its resale value. The longer foundation damage is left, the worse the resulting problems will become.
Signs of foundation damage
How can you tell if a building has foundation damage, especially if the foundations are below ground? These are the most common signs of stress and damage:
- Walls leaning, rotating or cracking.
- Separation of concrete around doors, windows and corners of walls.
- Extended cracks up the side of the building.
- Displaced mouldings.
- Cracking and chipping of concrete where the building meets the ground.
- Cracks along the floor of the building.
- Uneven floors and misaligned internal features (like doors that won’t close).
The most common sign of foundation damage is the appearance of cracks on the interior or exterior of the building. Horizontal cracks or jagged cracks along brickwork are the most serious indication of foundation damage and should be addressed immediately.
Methods to repair concrete foundations
The most ideal repair methods are those that don’t require occupants to vacate the building or move their belongings. Luckily, with modern building techniques and technology, there are a few ways in which foundations can be fixed without causing disruption to home life or business.
The two most common solutions are slabjacking and hydraulic jacking. In a slabjacking repair, grout is pumped beneath the foundations to produce a lifting force that restores the foundations to their original elevation. In a hydraulic jacking repair, steel posts are driven into the unstable ground and hydraulic jacks are used to stabilise the concrete foundations.
These methods of repair are used to fix different types of foundation damage. Before deciding on a repair method, you will need to determine what is causing the foundation stress. Get a contractor to look at the cracks and correctly determine the best repair method to use. Slabjacking is suitable for smaller repair jobs whereas hydraulic jacking may be required for bigger problems, where the soil is fundamentally compromised.
Remember to inspect your foundations regularly to catch any issues early on. Regular maintenance will also avoid further problems caused by shifting soil, excess water in the ground and tree roots moving concrete foundations. Always fix any cracks as they appear and contact a professional contractor if you believe that your foundations are compromised.
LafargeHolcim is a leading building materials and solutions company that has been operating in international markets for decades. We produce cement and aggregates for construction projects, ranging from small affordable housing developments to large-scale infrastructure projects such as high-rise buildings, dams and bridges.
LafargeHolcim Tanzania has been supplying the country and neighbouring countries with our world-class Tembo cement brand for over 30 years. Our head office and fully-integrated plant are located in Mbeya, Southwest Tanzania.
At LafargeHolcim Tanzania, we believe customers come first. We listen to your specific requirements to supply and develop the best solutions for your needs. As the new leader in building materials, you can also rely on our cutting-edge research and development capabilities that have resulted in the finest materials for your construction projects, whether large or small.