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How to Inspect Your Cabin for Foundation Problems

Look for these six early warning signs of structural weakness
By Kurt Anderson
Published: February 3, 2014
foundation warning signs crack
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Before you buy a cabin or consider renovating one, look at the bones. Start with the foundation. A bad foundation is serious business, and can be expensive to fix. But, if you catch a failing foundation early, you can reduce or even eliminate costly fixes. While you should consult a qualified foundation expert before committing to serious repairs, here are six signs that something might be going wrong underfoot.

1. Cracks around windows/above doorways
Interior cracks in drywall are fairly normal the first 1-2 years after construction as concrete and lumber dry out and settle. However, large cracks above doorways or around windows after the “construction honeymoon” might be a sign of serious foundation issues.
foundation warning signs crack
WAIT JUST A MINUTE! – Before you redo your kitchen for the chef of the family or gut your bathroom to create a dream spa for your sweetie, first take a look at the not-so-sexy parts of your cabin – its bones. Start by looking for warning signs that your cabin foundation may be failing.
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2. Hard-opening windows & doors
Windows and doors that become difficult to open or close might mean there is stress on the foundation. Don’t confuse this with the opening and closing problems associated with excess seasonal humidity, which causes the wood framing to swell from moisture.

3. Large, jagged cracks in foundation floor

Hairline cracks in the slab, commonly called shrinkage or drying cracks, are normal and usually don’t mean there are issues with the integrity of the concrete. However, large jagged cracks, especially those that create a vertical difference in the surface of the floor, can be indicative of voiding under the foundation. If you can trip over the crack, you might have foundation issues.
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4. Cracks along blocks/bricks
Cracks along bricks or concrete blocking can be common, and aren’t always a sign of a failing foundation – unless they’re widening. Monitor any cracks for expansion, and seal any cracks below grade with waterproof caulk or hydraulic cement. This not only prevents moisture from making your foundation problems worse, but it is also a good way to monitor the width of the cracks. If the crack pulls away from the caulking/cement patch over time, you know the problem is getting worse.

5. Edge gaps in foundation
Check the edge of your foundation for gaps. Extreme dry and wet cycles can cause clay soils to contract and expand, with serious impacts to the foundation.
foundation warning signs cracking
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Remember that the foundation is only as good as the soil it’s on; if the soil is moving, your foundation likely is as well.

6. Cabin bones out of level

Eyeball the cabin roof peak, chimney, and walls to make sure they’re level and uniform. Monitor your foundation using a 4- or 6-foot level; check support piers and walls, and record changes over time.
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