By Shawn Kyles
Approximately one-third of all U.S. houses were built over 55 years ago. These older homes encompass a wide variety of architectural styles ranging from contemporary to historic, including A-frames, American foursquare, colonials, bungalows, arts and crafts, Tudors, Cape Cod, Italianate, Queen Anne, Georgian, Victorian and Greek revival. Small or large, simple or complex, older houses are admired by fans nationwide for their beauty, character, design details and sturdiness.
An older home that has been properly built will usually have considerable longevity. This includes many of the home’s critical components such as its foundation. However, when an older home’s foundation has been incorrectly laid, it can result in problems that get worse over time and eventually compromise the building’s structural integrity. Many homes built prior to 1940 often have foundation problems due to the lack of building regulations and standards, as well as the use of improper equipment and low-quality materials.
Older homes can also experience foundation issues if the foundation was laid on clay soil, which expands during wet weather and contracts when it is dry. “Expansive soil” will lift the building when there is a lot of water in the ground, and cause a home to settle when there is moisture loss. The movement of a home due to poor soil conditions can create cracks in concrete slab foundations and walls, in addition to uneven floors, bowed walls, and windows and doors that aren’t properly aligned. An older house’s foundation can also become damaged from settlement if the soil underneath and around the house was not compacted prior to construction.
Poor drainage is another cause of foundation problems in older homes. There are many different factors that can cause drainage difficulties, including the architectural design of the building, grading, a lack of rain gutters, downspouts not draining water away from the house, and water leaks from plumbing, appliances and sprinklers. When water seeps into an older house, it can cause foundation cracks and other types of damage.
Once a foundation has weakened, it increases the risk of structural failure, particularly during an earthquake. If you live in an older home, regular inspection of your property by a qualified professional is critical. A foundation expert will be able to spot signs of foundation damage, determine the source of the problem, and recommend effective methods of addressing the issue. It’s the best way to ensure your older home continues to stand the test of time.