How Much Foundation Movement is Acceptable & When to Worry

July 10, 2023

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The integrity of your home largely depends on the foundation on which it rests. This silent supporter carries the load of your entire house, providing stability and ensuring the overall safety of the structure. However, due to various factors, foundations can move or settle over time. 

The question that naturally arises is: how much foundation movement is acceptable, and when should you start to worry? For some, it is when a new crack manifests on the corner of the foundation, or it could be noticeable sinking. 

This blog will dive into more possible causes and how to remedy the problem.

foundation movement toledo

Understanding Foundation Movement

Before we dive in, it's important to understand what 'foundation movement' means. Foundation movement, or settlement, refers to the shifting or sinking of a building's foundational base. This shifting can be caused by external factors, including soil conditions, extreme weather conditions, improper water drainage, or the age of the building.

This movement is not always an issue or concern as buildings tend to shift the first few years after construction. However, when there is too much movement, it can lead to significant structural issues in the long term.

Acceptable Foundation Movement

So, what exactly is an acceptable foundation movement? The answer, quite frustratingly, is not straightforward. The fair amount of foundation movement varies depending on several factors, including the soil type, the building's design, and local building codes.

For example, clay soils can expand and contract significantly with changes in moisture content, leading to more substantial foundation movement than in sandy or rocky soil areas. Similarly, a single-story house can typically tolerate more foundation movement than a multi-story building before experiencing structural problems.

The generally accepted guideline, however, is that a vertical foundation movement of 1/2 inch to 1 inch over a 20-foot span can be considered acceptable. Lateral movement (side to side) should ideally not exceed 1/4 inch. However, it's important to note that these are just guidelines, and the acceptable movement can vary greatly based on the abovementioned factors.

Signs of Excessive Foundation Movement

You are armed with knowledge when you know the signs of a moving foundation. That knowledge helps you determine when to call a contractor. Here are some symptoms that you do not want to overlook:

  • Windows and doors that are not functioning properly
  • Sudden cracks appearing on interior and exterior walls
  • Floors and tiles developing cracks
  • Leaning or tilting of the building
  • Gaps forming between the wall and the floor or ceiling
  • Strange creaking and cracking sounds
  • A leaning chimney

It might seem like small cracks in your foundation walls and concrete are innocent enough you may want to think again. The cracks can quickly escalate when ignored, resulting in pricey future repairs.

house with a tilting chimney that needs repair

When to Worry

If your home exhibits any signs of excessive foundation movement, it's time to worry. Even if the movement is within acceptable limits, persistent or worsening symptoms can indicate a problem.

When cracks and doors are expanding, it's not good. You're watching in real-time as your home or commercial property's foundation shifts. Contact a professional structural engineer that specializes in house leveling.

Taking Action

When you notice excessive foundation movement, the first step is to contact a professional foundation repair contractor or a structural engineer. After a meticulous inspection, a detailed repair report will be drafted. You'll know the root cause of the foundation's shifting and how it needs to be fixed.

Remedies can range from simple solutions like improving drainage around your home to more complex procedures like underpinning, where the foundation is strengthened and stabilized. Remember, the longer you wait to address the problem, the more extensive and expensive the repair may become.

house leveling toledo


Some degree of foundation movement is expected. Living in a climate that experiences extreme temperature swings is usually the reason. Understanding the appropriate time to take action can prevent minor issues from developing into massive structural problems. If you notice any warning signs mentioned above, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Are you looking to ensure the safety and comfort of your home? You can take timely action when foundation movement is suspected.

About Toledo Foundation Repair Specialists

Toledo Foundation Repair Specialists has been a leading name in the foundation repair and structural integrity industry for years. We'd love to inspect your foundation completely free of charge. Please call us at (567) 318-7828 to schedule an appointment.

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