Imagine your dream home: a beautiful cottage with a screened-in porch to enjoy summer sunsets, warm fires in the winter, and a gorgeous lakefront view to create a serene setting no matter the season. Upon closer inspection, however, you see the back chimney is tilting. It’s not quite as straight as before. The porch also looks like it’s separating from the house. And there are cracks in the driveway.
Wait, what?!? That’s not part of a dream home!
Unfortunately, these are common issues with lakefront properties. They are not typically what homeowners plan for, but they are something to be aware of if you want that dream home to last. Porches, chimneys, garages, and driveways tend to show symptoms of underlying foundation issues that need to be taken seriously. It’s all part of the majestic, yet changing, variables that come with lakefront properties.
But don’t fret and give up on the dream. Instead, here are a few reasons for common foundation issues near water, signs that you may have a foundation problem, and solutions to help stabilize your home and protect it for years to come.
Expanding Soil & Eroding Sand Dunes At Lake Michigan & Beyond
Lake Michigan is home to several types of sand dunes, some unique from the rest of the world. Along the lake shoreline lies over 275,000 acres of sand dune formations. When gusty winds and waves combine, sand is moved to create dunes that naturally protect the habitat. Plants, animals, and climate create a spectacular natural feature that many people flock to for enjoyment.
These sand dunes, though, are quite fragile and have been eroding for years. Washed out dunes, blustery winds, and destruction of plants contribute to changing the soil on which home foundations rest. For almost 30 years now, state legislators have enacted protective measures to stop sand dune erosion. As such, there are identified areas of high erosion risk from Berrien County through Muskegon County and all the way up to Leelanau County.
The water also creates an ever-changing habitat for plants, animals, and soil. Winds and water combine with unstable soil matter, compromising its ability to withstand established homes. When your home was first built, the soil was likely able to withstand construction. Over time, however, soil materials change, erode, and wash away.
Click Here To Read More About Foundation Repair And Shifting Soils
Settling Foundation Red Flags
Lakefront homeowners may encounter issues due to foundation problems because of shifting soil, water levels, and changing climate. It is vital to check for signs of foundation problems on a regular basis. Here are some common red flags to look for:
Garages Separating from the Home and/or Cracks in the Driveway
When a new home is built, foundations are poured to keep the home stable. Homeowners are not always aware that foundation depths may differ in certain locations. The foundation under a garage usually is not as deep as other living spaces of the home. The shallower depth can create problems down the road. You may notice the entire garage separating from the house, large cracks in the exterior walls, and/or cracks in the driveway. Another sign of unstable driveways and garages is sand or soil deposits when you hose down the garage or driveway. Look for sand oozing out from underneath the driveway or on the sides of garage.
Sunrooms Detach from the House
Take a walk along the perimeter of your house. Notice the screened porch. Are there cracks where the porch meets the house? Have you noticed the porch floor slanting or bowing in spots, especially near the exterior walls? These could be signs of underlying foundation problems, causing the porch to detach from the home.
Chimneys Leaning Away from the House
Again, why are parts of the home detaching from the house? That isn’t supposed to happen! Chimneys are yet another red flag to look for when assessing the health of your foundation. Look closely at your chimney. Does it look straight? Or is your chimney leaning? Are cracks forming where it meets the rest of the house? If so, the foundation underneath may need some support to keep doing its job.
Viable Solutions for Lakefront Properties
Now before succumbing to shattered dreams of a lakefront home, don’t panic! There are viable solutions and pre-emptive measures you can take!
If you are dreaming and planning a new home along a lake, you are in a prime position for foundation stability. New construction has an advantage over established homes for solid foundations. Helical piers may be installed under the new foundation to help stabilize the home for years. This steel shaft with auger-type plates threads through the Earth until it reaches firm strata below. When installed during new construction, the piers may be fitted in key locations throughout the interior and perimeter of the foundation. The entire home is then supported. Experts can determine the depth, location of piers, and angle that will best support the foundation through changing winds, weather, soil, and climate. After the helical piers are installed, engineers cut them to the correct elevation and they are cast into the concrete foundation. A great example of using these piers in new construction is the pedestrian boardwalk job Kent Company did for the Spring Lake community.
For established homes, viable solutions are also possible. Helical piers may be installed along the perimeter of the foundation to help stabilize the home. These include an appropriate bracket that supports the load of the installed pier. Kent Home Services engineers will assess the needs of the foundation, locate optimal places for the piers, and determine how deep and at what angle the piers should be installed.
Homes located close to sand dunes may also be experiencing a gradual slide! In these cases, the helical piers are threaded into the Earth at a downward angle. This method creates a tieback force that holds the home in place, stopping the downhill slide.
So don’t give up on that dream home with a gorgeous lake view. Whether you’re living the dream, or about to build it, there are solutions a professional foundation contractor can assist with so your lakefront home endures for years to come.