If you're like many long-time residents of California, Nevada, and other states in which a pan-rattling earthquake is no longer enough to wake you from a sound sleep, you may begin to wonder how these minor quakes are impacting your home's foundation over time. Even for homes built with earthquakes in mind, repeated shocks and jolts to a reinforced foundation can lead to internal weaknesses that may not be detected even with a detailed home inspection. Read on to learn more about some of the non-invasive testing that can be performed on your foundation and some of the repair options you may be able to pursue if problems are discovered.
How can you determine whether your home's foundation has sustained damage?
In many cases, foundation damage is immediately obvious -- your basement may begin taking on water after a heavy storm, you may start noticing cracks in your home's drywall or ceiling (indicating the foundation has shifted slightly), or your floorboards could become very creaky even under light pressure. However, much earthquake damage happens from the inside out, and small cracks may not be easily detected until they've made their way to the inner or outer wall and turned into much larger problems (literally).
Fortunately, testing your foundation with an infrared sensor should be able to help you detect any hidden weaknesses that won't show up even under a rigorous surface inspection. This testing utilizes infrared technology that can detect even the most minute differences in internal temperature for a concrete wall – these temperature differences often indicate interior holes, cracks, or other degradation. Once you've had your foundation scanned with an infrared sensor, you'll have much more information on existing or potential structural issues that may require repair.
What are your repair options if infrared testing detects cracks or weaknesses in your foundation?
The right long-term repair option largely depends on the extent of damage and any visible side effects you're already dealing with. For example, if interior cracks have made their way to your outer walls and cause your basement to take on water each time your sprinklers turn on, you'll need to eliminate any existing water, drill small test holes in a few spots to determine whether this water leakage has damaged any of the wooden foundation boards or floor boards in your home, and patch from the outside in. By applying a cement patch to any cracks or holes and allowing it to dry fully before it's exposed to groundwater, you'll have an impermeable seal.
On the other hand, relatively minor interior cracks that aren't close to other cracks with which they can join may be best suited for a "watchful waiting" approach. Monitoring these cracks with infrared testing every few years (unless changes in your home's interior indicate to you that any cracks may be widening) is often both better and cheaper than drilling holes into the foundation to apply sealant to a crack. On the other hand, cracks that are larger than the repair hole is projected to be or that span the entire length of your foundation may need to be repaired sooner rather than later.
Regardless of whether you choose proactive repair or watchful waiting, generally speaking, it can be a good idea to have your home tested with an infrared sensor after each moderate earthquake your area experiences. Staying on top of any structural changes in your foundation can help you avoid expensive problems that may not be covered by your homeowner's insurance (particularly if they're discovered well after the precipitating earthquake takes place), and in some cases, you may even be able to have your earthquake insurance policy cover the cost of any preventive testing. Contact a company like Center Line Electric for more information.