Foundation - New Construction - Effect on Windows and Doors
Numerous homeowners have experienced instances that happened in the middle of the night. The stories are all very similar. They are awakened by a loud "crack" or "pop". Yes, part of their house cracked like a dry piece of kindling wood. However, often the part that cracked is the foundation!
Other stories speak to doors and windows that work perfectly one day and stick the next day. Sometimes the sticking is seasonal. That is, the doors and windows work fine for three to four months and then trouble begins. Magically, the doors and windows work fine four to six months later.
In all these cases, the common denominator is some form of major structural movement. The movement can be within the house (lumber swelling and shrinkage) or it can involve the entire house (settlement or some other force which is stressing the entire structure.)
All too often, however, the term 'settlement' is used to describe any movement. This can be misleading, as settlement is really just one form of movement which can affect the way the inside and outside of your house looks. Cracks can develop in your house from other forces such as landslides, heaving (frost or soil swell), soil shrinkage, erosion of soil from beneath your foundation, earthquakes, construction blasting, soil creep, etc. You see, lots of things can be happening! Sometimes, two or more at once.
It is not uncommon for a house to be built on fill dirt or on a hillside. Have you seen huge earth moving machines working on a new subdivision? They scrape dirt from the high spots and deposit it on the low areas. The dirt that is used for fill is supposed to be compacted. However, it may not always be. Gravity and water entering the soil over time compacts the loose fill. If the compaction is not the same under the entire foundation, your foundation may fracture.
Hillside construction is a simple matter of high school physics. Gravity is constantly pulling the soil down the hill. I learned this in my first geology class. This soil creep, as it is called, takes place at a faster rate the closer one is to the surface of the ground. So, houses dug into a hillside basically have their backsides exposed! The part of the foundation that is shallow and is near the surface is subject to movement, while the remainder of the foundation is quite stable where it is dug deeply into the hillside. Perhaps you have seen foundation failures like this.
Hillsides also pose another problem. The soil creeping down the hillside can exert huge forces on the uphill part of the foundation. These walls can crack or tilt inward from the force of this pressure.
Water, or the movement of water in soils, can cause foundations or slabs to crack as well. For instance, imagine if a sewer line or water line that runs beneath your house develops a leak. It erodes soil from beneath your house and floor. Eventually the foundation footer, wall, and/or floor cracks in response to the absence of the support. Remember, your foundation was designed to work with adequate support beneath it. Remove this support and.......CRACK!
Certain parts of the nation have clay soils. Some of these clay soils shrink and swell (like an inexpensive sponge) in response to the amount of water they contain. This movement can be dramatic. As the soil beneath your foundation dries out, your foundation drops. In wet weather the clay swells and lifts your foundation. This is no problem if the movement is the same at every point along your foundation. In more cases than not the movement is not equal. Stress builds and your foundation cracks.
If your foundation develops a crack or a fracture, it usually can be stabilized. If the crack is vertical or diagonal, it may require a support from beneath that cradles the footer or foundation. If your foundation develops a horizontal crack, it can be stabilized in several ways as well.
In all instances, it would be wise to consult with a licensed structural engineer who specializes in residential problems. If you try to solve the problem yourself, or merely trust the workmen, you may have a problem occur at a later time. Some of the solutions can actually transmit the stress of the problem to another portion of your foundation. These cracks may happen months later. The contractor will generally say that those are not his fault, when, in fact, they may be! Have a structural engineer develop the solution. Then hire a contractor to perform the work.
Adapted: Tim Carter-Ask the Builder
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Summary: Replacing or repairing a door can be easy. Here are a few common problems and their do-it-yourself solutions to fix your broken door.
When you consider the workouts that doors get each day, it's not hard to realize that they receive a lot of wear and tear.
As a result, doors do occasionally go out of alignment, eerily swinging into a different position or not closing at all. Doors can also break, requiring replacement.
Repairing a door is not as hard as the average do-it-yourselfer might think. In fact, with a bit of planning and the right tools, most door problems can be corrected within a few hours.
When a door needs repair, it's often because it becomes misaligned, not closing properly or at all.
Doors fall out of kilter because a house shifts - as houses tend to do - or because of high humidity. Particularly so in wet west coast climates
House shifting causes the door to dislocate in the doorframe, or can cause a door to swing open instead of staying in place. Humidity causes the door to expand and warp, again preventing the door from fitting in the door frame.
House movement can take place year round.
If you suspect humidity is the culprit, give the door a chance to dry out before you make any changes. Wait for a cooler, drier weather and see if the door goes back in place.
If you suspect that house shifting is the culprit, there are several steps you can take. For example, when you open a door, if it tends to swing instead of staying on place, you can tighten the hinges to keep it steady. A trick of the trade is to remove the hinge pin, lay it on a flat surface, and hit it slightly with a hammer to make it a bit crooked. Then put the pin back in the hinge and it will hold the door in position. If a hinge pin refuses to budge out of hinge, saturate it with a little penetrating oil and try removing it a few minutes later. You can also use a centerpunch or a large nail to try to free the pins. Before removing the pins, prop up the door with wedges or shims and always remove the bottom hinge pin first.
If a door does not fit properly into the frame, there are several adjustments you can make. If there is too much of a gap on the hinge side of the door, mortise the hinges into the frame a bit deeper. That will force the door away from the latch side so that it can close. If the door is too tight on the hinge side, it will bind, again not allowing it to close properly. What you can do there is take out the hinge screws, put a shim behind the screw plate and replace the screws. You can also plane an edge of the door to give it a better fit into the frame The top of a door can obviously be planed without removing the hinges. You'll need to remove the door out of the frame to plane the hinge side and bottom. If the door fits into frame but the latch won't turn, it may be hitting the strike plate on the door jamb. Move the strike plate to better accommodate the latch. If the latch is hitting the crossbar on the strike plate, you can remove that crossbar with a scroll saw. The latch opening can also be enlarged with a file.
To keep a working door functioning properly takes only a few quick steps. For example, occasionally oil the hinges to keep them moving freely. Keep hinge and door hardware screws tight.
Also, make sure strike plates remain tight as the screws often loosen when a door gets a lot of use. The bolt can then catch on the loose strike plate and bang it back and forth, damaging the woodwork around it. Any mirrors or decorations hung on a door should be placed centrally so the weight is distributed evenly. Finally, avoid hanging laundry straps or other similar devices across the top of a door as they can press weight down on the door and knock them out of alignment.
© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. April 5, 2005.
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