by: Angie’s List Staff

Water damage and soil erosion are the main culprits of foundation cracks, usually caused by climate changes, downspouts not extended away from the home properly, or overflowing gutters. Left unchecked, a settling foundation could lead to thousands of dollars in damage.

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Foundation issues don’t just plague older homes. In fact, many newer homes are affected, often because the builder neglected to create a positive slope for drainage to go away from the home.

We asked highly rated foundation repair companies for advice on catching foundation problems early.

When problems arise, there are two common solutions for foundation repair:

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1. A piering system is one in which steel rods are inserted under the foundation and stabilize (and in some cases lift) the foundation.
2. A more economical solution is underpinning or mudjacking, in which concrete is injected under the slab to stabilize it, however, mudjacking is often only a temporary fix and is more for garage floors or sidewalks that might sink.

Tips to avoid foundation damage

* Keep gutters clear of debris and make sure downspouts are properly extended at least 10 feet away from the home.
* Water the ground around your home during droughts.
* Inspect your home annually and look for signs of foundation damage, like cracks in walls, around windows and doors, or on your home’s exterior; soil eroding away from the home; moisture in crawlspaces, attics and basements; uneven flooring or misaligned doors and windows.
* Address any concerns immediately. The longer the problem lingers, the more it costs. The average price of steel piering is about $1,000 for every 5 feet of damage, meaning it could end up being the most expensive repair you’ll ever make to your home.
* If you have foundation damage, before you have any work done, get estimates from at least three different companies and ask for references. Foundation repair companies do not require licensing and are not regulated, so it’s important to find one established with solid references from prior customers.
* Ask for insurance and bonding information, and certification documentation from the piering manufacturer. If you’re hearing mixed advice from foundation repair contractors, bring in an independent structural engineer to assess the problem before you have it repaired.

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