When you first move into your newly-built custom home, it may appear to be everything you’ve dreamed of. Everything seems perfect as you prepare to move in and begin a new life in the home you have planned for so long and so well. Then, as weeks and months go by, you begin to notice that something is amiss. Cracks are appearing in the foundation, windows and doors that worked fine in the beginning are malfunctioning, and your new flooring is also showing cracks. You fear for the future of your home, its safety, and the value of your substantial investment. What is happening?
Soil Settlement and Shifting Causes Foundation Cracks
All foundations built on top of soil can be expected to move somewhat as the soil settles under the weight of the house. A foundation may also shrink and swell as fluctuations in soil moisture occur, or it may heave under freezing conditions. To prevent serious settlement cracks in a foundation, proper soil analysis and site preparation are important.
The most common reason that foundation settlement serious enough to cause structural impairment occurs is poor soil preparation before building has begun. If a builder has not prepared the soil before pouring the concrete, but has graded it without compacting it properly to its natural density, it will be is loose and porous. When the slab is poured over the non-compacted soil, it may be level at first, but with the passage of time, the weight of the structure causes it to settle into the ground and begin to compact the soil, which can cause cracks in the foundation, as well as in cladding, sheetrock, and tiles, both inside and outside of the home.
Additionally, failing to remove water and high-moisture soil from the trenches before pouring the concrete slab is a shortcut that can have serious repercussions, leading to foundation cracks and associated interior damage.
A Builder’s Responsibility and How Serious Foundation Cracks Can Be Prevented
A builder has the responsibility of performing due diligence and applying reasonable skill to deliver a quality product to the new homeowner. If cracks occur, there is a good chance it is because of some error, omission, or shortcut in the building process.
What steps should a reasonable builder take to avoid structural problems in a new home due to foundation cracks?
First, a reputable builder will involve the architect and a structural engineer in the building process.The architect will ensure that the building site allows for proper water drainage, while the structural engineer will review the builder’s soil compaction tests before any concrete is poured. Additionally, he or she will perform an inspection to ensure that the builder has understood and complied with the architect’s plans, that the trenches have been cleared of standing water or wet soil, and that the soil has been properly compacted.
Most foundations are designed to tolerate up to one inch of soil movement. In certain areas where the soil is especially expansive, however, a foundation can be designed to allow for as much four inches of soil movement without causing significant cracking that affects the structural integrity of the home.
How to Determine if a Crack is a Threat to the Home’s Structural Integrity
Minor hairline cracks are to be expected as slight unpreventable soil shifts occur. The following guidelines set forth by the Forensic Geotechnical and Foundation Engineering are used to evaluate the severity of a crack:
- A crack up to 1/8 of an inch wide is considered negligible to slight;
- Between 3/16 and 9/16 of an inch is considered moderate;
- Cracks of between 9/16 of an inch and one inch are considered severe;
- A crack over one inch wide is very severe.
Furthermore, the problem is considered severe if cracking is accompanied by other signs of structural problems, such as doors and windows that don’t function properly, floors that have begun to slope, cracks occurring in ceramic or vinyl flooring applied over the concrete, bowing of walls, or vertical displacement along the crack.
An Expensive Proposition
Making repairs to a severely cracked foundation is an expensive proposition, requiring an inspection and drafting of an appropriate engineering solution by a structural engineer. Recommendations may include supporting the foundation with steel braces or concrete piers, or the problem may be serious enough to require a whole new foundation. In a newly constructed house, the liability should fall on the designer or builder of the home who failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the problem. Notify your builder of the problem, and if you do not get a satisfactory response, hire an experienced construction defect lawyer.
Legal Help in Houston for Foundation Settlement and Other Construction Defects
To protect your family’s safety and the value of your home investment, if you have not been able to obtain satisfaction from the builder, call the law firm of Houston construction defect attorney Ernest Freeman. Our attorneys have decades of experience in resolving issues between Texas homeowners and builders with an approximately 98% rate of success.We know what your home means to you—as the center of your personal life and as an investment. We are prepared to work tirelessly to achieve the results you need: a safe, secure home that will hold its value for many years to come, and compensation for any damages to your finances or your quality of life that has resulted from faulty construction that was not your doing. We provide the client-focused and personalized service that is only available with a smaller firm, yet with the experience and resources you expect from a large one. Our firm maintains ongoing relationships with highly respected architects and structural engineers who will assist in analyzing the situation and provide expert testimony to support your case.
Call the Freeman Law Firm Today!
Settlement cracks in your home’s foundation only get worse and can create an unsafe living condition while diminishing the value of your home. Don’t wait to fix the problem. Our attorneys are master negotiators who can often work out a solution without your having to go to court. If the builder is resisting doing the right thing, we can represent you with a thoroughly prepared case in mediation or arbitration, or when necessary, at trial. Call the Freeman Law Firm today.