There are a variety of factors that will affect your foundation, from simple house settling to droughts and earthquakes. It’s necessary to understand how your home’s foundation will affect your homeowners insurance and what may or may not be covered.
It’s vitally important that you review your homeowners policy and speak with an insurance agent regarding what will be covered in terms of foundation damage. Many homeowners assume that their policy covers all foundation damage. That is simply not the case, often leaving homeowners with expensive repair bills. Policies often exclude the most likely causes of foundation damage: soil expansion and contraction, poor construction, as well as damages from natural disasters such as flood and earthquake (you may need a separate policy for insurance from natural disasters). Soil misuse and tree roots are also known to cause issues with a home’s foundation.
Consider the region that the home is in. Is it an area prone to earthquakes, floods, etcetera? Is the region prone to sinkholes? Sinkholes occur when rocks dissolve and spaces and caverns develop underground. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the states that the most damage from sinkholes tends to occur in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. The bottom line is you’ll want to have a firm understanding of how a region and its weather might affect a foundation. You may need supplemental insurance to address these issues.
If you’re buying a new home or if you already own a home, we recommend examining the foundation. Knowing what you’re dealing with will inform what proactive steps you can take to mitigate future costs and headaches. When home shopping, Trulia recommends keeping an eye out for the following warning signs of potential foundation damage.
Misaligned doors and windows (could indicate a shift in the foundation)
Doors that stick or won't latch shut
Windows that are difficult to open or have cracks in the glass
Sloping floors or staircases (indicates a probable pitch in the foundation)
Gaps between the wall seams or between the wall and ceiling
Large cracks in the exterior concrete
Water in the basement, crawl spaces, or perimeter of the house
Trulia recommends hiring a structural engineer in addition to a home inspector as the inspector often won’t know the full aspect of foundation damages. A structural engineer typically costs between $500 to $1,000, but if you suspect the home needs foundation repair, it’s important to know exactly what needs to be done.
When inspecting foundation cracks, Popular Mechanics warns that a crack more than 1/16 of an inch may be a problem, “especially if it admits water or increases in width or length, or if it faces grind against each other with changes in temperature and humidity. All of these indicate foundation movement and that’s not good.”
Popular Mechanic adds that in most cases, only large cracks indicate structural trouble. Consider a structural engineer or foundation repair company if a crack “wraps around a corner, reaches from the basement floor to the top of the foundation wall, or runs horizontally and the wall leans into the basement. All of these problems indicate the soil supporting the foundation is moving (horizontally or vertically) and taking the foundation with it.”
When thinking about a home’s foundation and how it relates to your homeowners insurance and your budget, the more information you can gather the better. Comparing quotes is a good start, as coverages tend to vary by provider and region. A typical homeowners insurance policy covers against specific perils, so you’ll want to confirm precisely what is being covered and what is not. Many conditions that contribute to foundation damage are “avoidable with regular home maintenance and controlling conditions that could lead to flooding or inadequate damage.” The key is to be proactive in your approach, as it could save you both time and money.