How Long Does A House Foundation Last?

When looking into purchasing an older house or building your own home, it's natural to wonder how long a foundation is expected to last. The foundation is essentially the most important facet of a structure, and when a foundation fails, the integrity of the entire building fails. Fortunately, we've done the research for you to find out how long a foundation is expected to last.

Expect a well-built foundation to last as long as 400 to 500 years, while a less sound foundation could last as short as 25 years. 

So now you know how long you could expect a foundation to last, depending on its quality. But how do you know if a foundation is durable or not? Keep reading to learn more.

The foundation of a new home is under construction, How Long Does A House Foundation Last?

Qualities Of A Lasting Foundation

A home's foundation serves four main purposes:

  • To provide stability for the building.
  • To provide drainage for the building.
  • To provide waterproofing for the building.
  • To provide insulation for the building.

onstruction site with foundation for new house to be built, How Long Do House Foundations Need To Settle?

When a home's foundation is built with all these purposes accounted for, there is no reason to believe that the building will not be long-standing, even up to 500 years! However, the foundation must be built properly to support the home and these needs.

Proper Stability

A home is a heavy object. Homes can weigh 200-350 pounds per square foot, and a foundation must be built to distribute the weight evenly.

All homes settle over time, but if a foundation is not built with both the home's weight and the soil's strength beneath it in mind, this normal settling could become dangerous. A foundation must be built with proper reinforcement. This means with proper materials and proper sizing.

Proper Drainage

All livable climates have rainfall. Another essential need for a home is to be sure that the water that will inevitably make contact with the structure will also have a way of leaving the structure.

Foundations provide this with grading and a layer of washed rock in a slab foundation. Washed rock is essentially cleaned crushed stone. It can become wet, but it will not trap or retain moisture. It will allow the water to escape, and the stone will dry, much like a creek bed.

Proper Waterproofing

Waterproofing is also needed to ensure that the foundation of the house will not disintegrate from moisture. There are several ways of sealing a foundation. These include rubber membranes, bentonite, concrete, asphalt, and tar.

Although all of these are acceptable, rubber membranes are the highest quality of sealant for foundations, as they are not rigid and will bend and move as the structure does. This type of sealant may also be used in conjunction with others, such as concrete.

Proper Insulation

This may not be thought of as significant for a foundation, but insulation is crucially important for the financial well-being of those living on the property. A well-insulated home means that electricity and gas bills will be significantly lower, as the home will better retain its temperature.

In addition, this will provide a more comfortable living space. Those living on the ground floor or in the basement will not be in a constant battle with frigid air in the wintertime or heat and humidity in the summertime.

Do Concrete Foundations Last Forever?

Concrete foundation for a new house

Unfortunately, even the finest of foundations will not last forever, and this includes those constructed with concrete. Though concrete is an extremely durable substance, it is not incapable of suffering damage, especially as time passes.

A concrete foundation can be damaged from:

  • Water
  • The earth's shifting
  • Pressure overload if the foundation's footing is not correctly planned

Qualities Of A Poor Foundation

There are certain tell-tale signs of a poorly built or maintained foundation. While this can be a scary issue to encounter, it's suggested that a homeowner pay close attention and have any of these issues quickly looked into by a professional.

These include internal and external cracking, sloping floors, and walls that pull away from the original structure. Sloping floors may be subtle or very obvious.

You might just notice that a piece of furniture appears as if it is slanting toward one side of the room, or it may be so severe that a person can feel the slope beneath their feet when in the room. Either way, this is serious and should be looked into immediately.

Another very concerning trait in a home would be walls that pull outward or inward. A sloping wall means that there is most likely movement and significant damage to the house's foundation.

Whether internal or external, cracking is characteristic in many homes, and this one can be a bit more tricky to determine its seriousness than the others.

How To Know If A Crack Is Structural And When To Worry

Virtually all homes older than five years have cracks of some sort, and these are not always a cause for concern. A homeowner can determine whether a crack is in need of review by a professional by paying attention to the direction in which the crack appears and how wide the crack is.

Vertical cracks are the least concerning. These are typically caused by the foundation contracting, which is normal. This is not a problem with the foundation, but if it is causing water leaks, that may cause a homeowner to hire a professional to repair or seal the crack.

Horizontal or zig-zag cracks might indicate a foundation issue, but without a professional inspection, you cannot decide this. This could indeed be brought on by more disagreeable causes such as inadequate stability in the structure's foundation. But it could also be caused by the foundation's contraction, which is not a real concern at all.

You must also pay attention to how wide a crack is. If it is 1/4-inch wide or bigger, this could indicate a problem, while narrower cracks generally pose no risk.

Fixing A Foundation

How much does it cost to fix the foundation on a house?

Fixing a foundation can cost as low as $500 for the smallest repairs such as cracks and as high as $10,000 to repair more severe damage, such as piers and beams.

Most homeowners, though, spend between $2,000 and $7,500 when rectifying issues with their foundation, a hefty sum!

Will insurance cover foundation issues?

This depends on the cause of the foundation damage and whether this cause is covered in your home insurance policy. Most home insurance plans cover damage to the structure caused by storms and fire, but not many include damage caused by flooding and earthquakes.

If you have flood or earthquake insurance, this will cover any damage done to the foundation caused by significant flooding or quakes.

However, you must be able to prove to the insurance company that this damage happened from a specific event at a specific time. For damage that has happened gradually, or from an unknown event, this will not be covered by an insurance policy.

What happens if you don't fix foundation problems?

We get it. Repairing a foundation is a big and expensive undertaking, but it's imperative that it be done as quickly as possible. If not, one will definitely experience some discomforts.

In the short term, a home with an unmaintained foundation will become unsightly in some areas. Inhabitants may notice new cracks in the walls and uneven floors. Of course, this is not attractive, but there are worse issues to come.

Other problems that could be experienced are unwanted pests entering the home through newly opened spaces in the foundation, such as mice and termites.

There is also the threat of plumbing issues. As the foundation shifts, there can be breaks in pipes or plumbing that become misplaced.

In the long term, the house will eventually become structurally unsafe and uninhabitable. Walls could cave in, and joists could be dissolved by wood rot and pests.

In Closing

Inspectors or blue collar workers examine building wall, foundation, How To Take Care Of Your House Foundation [A Complete Guide]

A well-built foundation is imperative, and the best of these foundations could last as long as five centuries! A foundation of lesser quality could last as short as 25 years. For those who want to build a quality home that could be a potential heirloom, we recommend putting great thought and time into building the best foundation possible for their house.

Want to learn more about building a long-lasting home? Visit these related posts:

Does A Porch Need A Foundation?

How Thick Does A Concrete Floor Need To Be?

How Far Apart Should The Floor Joists Be?

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