What Causes Foundations to Settle in Alabama


Your home is resting on several different layers of soil each with its own thickness, density, and load bearing characteristics. Some of these soils have been in place for thousands of years or more placed there by wind, water, or glaciers. Others were put in place by contractors as your home was built to create a level surface for your foundation to rest on.

House movement from foundation settlement occurs when the soils under your foundation cannot support the weight of the home. This happens in three dfferent ways:

Identifying Foundation Settlement Issues & Solutions

Foundation settlement damages usually stem from changes over time, rather than issues with the structure's design, or lack there of. Foundation soil surrounds and supports your structure, but when changes in the foundation happen, damage can result. Some of the most common issues that result in foundation settlement include the following.

Drought: During prolonged dry periods, the soil around your home may begin to dry out. As clay soils dry out, they will shrink considerably. When this happens under foundation, it’s the same as the soil settling. Your foundation will settle downwards as it does so, possibly leading to structural damage.

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Maturing Trees: A mature tree’s root system can be up to twice the size of its visible part. If the trees extend over your home, that’s a good sign that they’re probably under your house as well. As the root systems continue to expand, they draw up moisture from the soil beneath the foundation that can accumulate hundreds of gallons of water each day, causing clay-rich soils to lose moisture and shrink significantly - leading to settlement of the overlying structures. 

Poor Drainage: If water is allowed to “pond” next to the home due to poor soil grading, clogged gutters, or some other factor, the soil will absorb the water. If the soils around the home are clay, then they will soften, and the home may sink.

Plumbing Leaks and Broken Water Lines: Plumbing leaks under or around a home can also saturate the soils around a home, and potentially weaken their load-bearing capacity.

Poorly Compacted Fill Soil: To make a level surface where your foundation can be built, builders will sometimes bring in loose soil from another location, using it to fill in hollow or depressed areas. This recently excavated “fill” soil is fluffed, and will be much looser and lighter than the dense, hard-packed virgin soils already present. If the soil isn't properly compacted, it can compress underneath the foundation and cause your structure to settle.

To compensate, the builder will need to compact the fill soil thoroughly before placing a foundation on top. If this compaction is not done, or is improperly done, then the weight of your home may cause the soil to compress, leading to foundation settlement issues.

Weak Bearing Soil: When soil is incapable of carrying the pressure or weight of a building’s foundation, the footings may begin to sink into the soft soil. Fortunately, footings can be redesigned to balance the load over weak soil, which will reduce the likelihood of foundation settlement. Because footings are designed to meet general guidelines rather than a specific type of soil, most settlement issues stem from weak bearing soil in residential buildings.

Moisture Content Changes: Moisture content in foundation soil can change and damage settlement. If too much moisture soaks through foundation soil and causes the softening or weakening of clay silt, reducing the soils ability to support the load and typically results in foundation settlement.

Soil with high clay content can shrink with loss of moisture. When clay soil dries out, they shrink or contract, reducing the general soil volume and resulting in settlement damage. Settlement damage can also occur when a structure is supported by dried-out soil. When foundation soil dries out, it is usually due to conditions from lack of rain or extensive drought, maturing trees, vegetation or leaking subfloor HVAC systems.

Soil Consolidation: When a structure's weight or newly-placed fill soil compress lower, weakened clay soils; soil consolidation occurs. The load then forces the water out of the clay soil, densely spacing out individual soil particles.

Consolidation causes settlement of overlying structures and downward movement of the foundation - often at an uneven level, creating structural damage or cracks.

Get a Free Quote From Ox Foundation Solutions!

Foundation repair specialists are best-equipped to repair foundation settlement damage. If you encounter any of the symptoms listed above, it’s smart to get in touch with a foundation repair specialist at Ox Foundation Solutions. Unlike general contractors who are likely to suggest demolishing and then reconstructing damaged masonry, a foundation repair contractor has the ability to raise settled foundations and stop settlement house movement and close settlement cracks without demolishing walls and slabs. Nondestructive repairs are faster, less disruptive and less expensive than destructive repairs.

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