Rushmore Real Estate Group Limited
Rushmore Real Estate Group Limited

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Your home it is probably one of your largest investments, yet it is a lot more than that it is where you raise your family, make memories and welcome your friends. I was always told in life and relationships that you that you need to start with a solid foundation.  This holds true for everything including your home. The more secure stable and solid it is, the more confidence and peace you will have. 

There are many reasons why your homes foundation may begin to crack, sink or settle over time.

There are many signs and symptoms that can be observed that may indicate your home is experiencing foundation settlement issues. These signs can usually be seen both on the inside and outside of your home. Some of the most common signs are:


Stair – Step Cracking

A typical sign is very typical in brick and concrete block walls, as your home continues to settle vertical cracks may widen, indicating that the wall is potentially rotating outward.


One of the more terrifying and dramatic signs of settlement is a chimney separating away from the home. Chimneys are regularly built on a foundation that is not connected to the rest of the home, increasing the risk of settlement.


Many of the signs you can see on the outside are transferred the inside of your basement or crawlspace. Stair cracks for example may be seen in the foundation wall block work. With poured concrete basements vertical cracks are more common.

Drywall Cracks

Cracks in the Drywall throughout the house are a good indicator of settlement, some are more obvious then others

Windows and doors

Less obvious but just as troublesome are doors and windows, do any of your doors or windows stick when you try to open or close them.

Have you had to move or reset a locking mechanism, or is there evidence of this having been done before.

Now Hold on just a second the cracks in my home are small they are not too bad a little bit of settlement is ok. Remember big cracks where once little cracks.

So now you know some of the signs what causes a foundation to settle?

Well your home is sitting on many different layers of soil, each has different abilities to hold the weight of your home. Some layer have been there since the earth was created, and in some cases some layers where brought in by builders or developers. Typically soil layers get stronger with depth. Most typically you will see a shallow layer near t5he surface that is mostly organic “Top Soil” making it easy for plants sod etc, below that you might find layers of sand, clay or rock depending on your location.

Settlement is simply the movement your home experiences when the soil below ca no longer support the weight of your home. The 3 major changes that occur to the soil are.

Drying and shrinking


After many years of drought, clay soils dry out, and when clay dries out it shrinks. As the soil around your house shrinks, it creates open space for your home to settle.

Wetting and softening

Heavy Rain

As clay soils get wet it becomes soft and holds the water. Soft soil can be weak, causing a home to shift or sink down into it. I liken it to stepping into mud and your foot squishes down into it.

The same result might happen if water is allowed to sit or pond around your home, the spoil will absorb the water and weaken the soil.

Compression of poorly compacted fill soil

A common practice for developers is removing soil from hilltops and filling in valleys to create useable flat building lots. If the fill is not compacted well, it will compress under the weight of the home.

So we have identified what to look for and what some of likely causes are but how do I fix this and what is it going to cost.

Well let’s start with solutions that don’t necessarily work

Total Foundation replacement

With a total foundation replacement the soil is first excavated around your foundation walls. The house is then jacked up and the slab and the foundation walls are removed. Then a new foundation is built and the surrounding soil replaced.

Ok this seems like a logical solution my foundation has failed so let’s replace it with a new one.

The problem with this is it is very expensive and disruptive, the real problem though is it does not address the real issue, the foundation was never the problem it is the soil that is the problem. So you have now built a new foundation on the same problem soil, it is simply a matter of time before it breaks just like the old one.

Concrete Underpinning

This involves excavating soil from around the existing fitting and then pouring larger footing beneath the existing footing. The logic is that if a footing is designed to carry the house then a larger footing should be better. Wrong. Most of the time the concrete underpinning is not extended past the “Active Zone” that is beyond the troubled soil. The result is you will have the same problem, however to repair later you now have l this extra concrete to remove or be supported.

Solutions that we know do work.

Steel Push Piers

Push piers are pre made of steel and a driven deep into the soil to bedrock or stable li layer, these can be installed from the exterior or interior of your home providing an opportunity to hydraulically lift your home towards its original position.

Helical Piers

A helical pier is another steel piering system. They are added in sections so as to pier to the necessary depth. They can be installed from the exterior or interior of the home


So we have highlighted some possible solutions of why your foundation may be failing, and provided some potential solutions and methods to remedy the issue.

The question still remains “why should I fix my foundation?” that crack was there when I purchased the house or it is not going to get any bigger. Famous last words.

Well, let us consider a couple of things,

A foundation problem never gets better on its own. It only gets worse and as it gets worse the higher the cost to repair.

Resale value who wants to buy a house with a foundation problem.

Appearance, Foundation problems can cause ugly cracks, not only in the foundation but inside the home as well.

As your foundation fails and your house sinks and settles and moves, your windows and doors will stick and jam.

Foundation cracks let in water or moisture which can damage your living space, or attract mold.

Insects and rodents can get into your home through cracks in your foundation.

Ultimately you are going to end up paying for the foundation whether you fix it or not, some day you may want sell your home, and when you do the buyer will hire a home inspector.

In addition when we sell a home we are required to complete a seller disclosure explaining any defects with the house. So it is unlikely that a new buyer will not be aware of the foundation issue. This may result in the sellers simply not considering the house or negotiating a lower sale price in order to facilitate the repair. So whether you fix it or not ultimately you are going to be paying for it.

While I am not a qualified engineer or construction expert, as a Real Estate Broker I have seen many homes with various levels of foundation settlement. I have witnessed the effect that it can have on resale values. In extreme cases it may even stop a buyer from even proceeding as far as a viewing. 

I have been fortunate to see positive results in having a professional foundation inspector review and provide an estimate of the repair.

In some cases they have indicated that a repair is not necessary, just some mitigation and yard work to stop water from pooling near the house or a simple extension to your downpipes, and a review in 6 month’s time. In other instances the solutions have been to pier the house, yet depending on the level  of damage this cost can be inhibitive or not.

Either way you will have to do something at some time in the future.

My recommendation is to be aware of changes in your home, and at the first signs of any settlement, contact a professional in most cases the initial inspection and recommendation is free.

Written by

Gregg "Aussie" Stilton
Rushmore Real Estate Group Limited
Real Estate Agent
(605) 939 5649

"From dreams to reality, white picket fences are optional."

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What our clients are saying  

Best real estate experience I’ve ever had! Honest, friendly, reliable, professional, hassle free, knowledgeable, goes above and beyond what any other real estate firm would do! And always an enjoyable experience. I highly recommend Rushmore Real Estate Group for all of your real estate needs ...from buying to selling property and property management!


~ Maryalice Falconer

I do landscape work for Gregg when his clients need help with their properties, readying them for sale. The way he interacts with his clients is impressive, treats them like family and wants nothing but the best for them.


~ Scott Burcham

Aussie Greg knows what he's talking about. He takes care of his clients.


~ Anne McCloskey

Being a first time home buyer, i was nervous. He put all my worries to rest and walked me through the process one step at a time. He was very willing to work around my schedule and even meet me on the weekend. Beyond grateful for all the help. Thank you for helping me make my dreams come true!


~ Holly Wannigman

Greg went above and beyond in my house search and even after the deal was done.


~ Amber Peterson

Aussie (Gregg Stilton) is amazing. We are first time home buyers, he makes it an easy one stop shop. Straight shooter who looks out for his clients. RECOMMEND!!


~ Alea Spry

Gregg went above and beyond to help us find our perfect home! He helped us from the start by selling our old house, find a rental, and then find our house now. He offered great advice and helped us see the whole potential of our home. Gregg was very professional and made sure we were taken care of the whole time. Definitely recommend him for your home buying experience.


~ Cortney Meverden

Being a 1st time homebuyer, Gregg was reassuring and very professional throughout this whole process. Times were quite stressful for me as I really had no idea what I was doing. He was very responsive to all emails and talks you through the steps. It was a real pleasure to have done business with Gregg. If you’re looking to buy that perfect place I highly recommend this very knowledgeable man! Thank you Gregg for helping me find my forever home. I’m one very satisfied customer!!


~ Terry Oxley

Gregg is much more than a real estate agent - he's more like a one-man chamber of commerce who just happens to sell real estate! He helped us to learn about our new community, neighbors with similar interests, and even how to operate our new "toy". We feel like we made a great new friend in the process of moving to our favorite part of the country.


~ Judy Pope

Aussie is a great realtor very honest and goes above and beyond for great service


~ Maryann Leanna

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