Earthquakes and Foundation Problems in California
Many people that do not reside in California may view living in this state as a sort of dream come true – the close proximity to the beach and mountains, the rich culture, and the relatively mild temperatures year-round are a big appeal for out-of-state dwellers. What these people may not think about is that there are also many downsides to living in California. Unfortunately, California’s location on the San Andreas fault line means that one of these downsides that residents frequently have to deal with is earthquakes, both mild and severe.
It is common sense that a severe earthquake will cause major structural problems for your home or business. If the structure does not totally collapse, it will at least suffer major damage in the form of foundation shifting, cracks, and settlement. These damages may render the building unsalvageable.
However, more common than major earthquakes are mild earthquakes, from a magnitude of 1-4 on the Richter scale. So do these mild earthquakes also affect your foundation?
The short answer is yes, mild earthquakes can have an affect on your foundation and the structural integrity of your home. Any time that the ground beneath your home shifts, there is a chance that your foundation can become unstable. This is why it is important to check your home for signs of damage regularly. It is especially important for residents of California, such as those in the Bay Area, to check their homes for signs of failure that could have been caused by small earthquakes. This map can help determine where recent earthquakes have occurred in California: http://scedc.caltech.edu/recent/Maps/122-38.html
Foundation Problems Caused by Mild Earthquakes and How to Fix Them
If there has been a mild earthquake in your area, check your home for cracks and other signs of foundation issues. Some of the signs that a small earthquake has damaged your foundation include:
- Exterior Foundation Cracks: While small cracks in your foundation are probably not due to a structural issue, larger cracks may have been caused by an earthquake and can be a concern. Cracks that are larger than 1/4 inch and are horizontal or stair-step shaped are often caused by foundation movement. Use a flashlight to look into the crack. If you see that foundation has cracked clean through or that the steel reinforcing is exposed in the crack, contact an expert like those at Bay Area Underpinning right away.
- Interior Cracks: Cracks inside the home might also be a sign of a foundation problem caused by an earthquake. Once again, small cracks are likely just a result of age or normal settlement. Large cracks, however, especially horizontal cracks or cracks near windows and doors, can indicate foundation movement. Check for any windows or doors that have become hard to open or close in addition to cracks, as these can be signs of foundation shifting.
- Broken Blocks or Bricks: If you have a block or brick foundation, look for damage to the blocks or bricks. Any bricks or blocks that are broken, cracked, or crumbling may indicate foundation damage and are likely the result of foundation shifting.
- Foundation Leaning or Shifting: If you can see the foundation is leaning or looks like it has shifted, this is a sign of foundation failure that could have been caused by a small earthquake or other kinds of soil movement. If your home has a basement, look for leaning or bowing foundation walls. If you have a slab foundation, look for any gaps or spaces between the foundation and the home itself.
If you do find signs of a foundation problem in your home after a mild earthquake, contact Bay Area Underpinning. We are experts at all kinds of pier installation using ECP (Earth Contact Products) devices to lift and support your foundation and reverse problems while preventing future issues. We handle both residential and commercial jobs. Call today to get a free quote and learn more about how we can repair earthquake-related problems in your home.