The foundation is one of the most important parts of any home, if not the single most important structural system. After all, the foundation is the base of the house, in every sense of the word. It’s what everything else is built on or built around — and it’s an important part of keeping you and your loved ones safe, comfortable, and secure.

But while it’s one of the most critical components of any building, the foundation is also quite mysterious, misunderstood, or simply overlooked by many homeowners. It’s easy to take the foundation of your home for granted — until it’s too late. When left unattended, foundation issues can quickly lead to some scary situations and costly repairs. 

Let’s explore just what makes the foundation of a home so important, and how a home inspector can help you understand and protect this crucial structural element in your Chicago home:

What Is a Foundation, and Why Is It So Important?

According to data from This Old House, the average house weighs about 50 tons, and the average foundation weighs nearly 7.5 tons in its own right. As you might expect from those hefty numbers, your home’s foundation is a pretty big deal.

At the most basic level, the foundation of a home is intended to elevate and support the structure that sits above it. It’s what anchors a home to the earth and provides structural integrity. In doing so, the foundation performs a number of unbelievably important functions, including: 

  • Bearing the load of the building. This includes providing support to what architects call “dead loads” (that is, static and predictable structural loads such as the weight of the house and its component parts), as well as more unpredictable “live loads” (such as the weight of people, furniture, or even mounds of snow piled up on the roof). 
  • Providing an essential anchor against ground movement. Believe it or not, the ground that our homes are built on is shifting and rearranging all the time. Sometimes, this movement takes a dramatic form, such as an earthquake or mudslide. Here in flat, stable Illinois, our homes are still exposed to risks such as flooding, heavy winds, and frost heaves. The foundation helps secure a home to the ground, helping the structure to withstand the movement of the earth and the effects of severe weather.
  • Providing protection against the cold and heat. In our home base of Chicago, Illinois, it gets coldreally cold. A home’s foundation helps act as a bulwark against the elements and their potentially damaging effects, such as causing ground expansion or even warping common building materials such as wood and metal. 
  • Offering protection against moisture. While the dirt you can feel with your fingertips may feel dry, the ground is full of moisture. The foundation of a home is an important line of defense against damp conditions, which can quickly cause damage through the entire home. 

Foundations are designed to last for years and years — if not decades and decades. However, they can still be damaged or weakened, just like any other part of a home. A damaged or deteriorating foundation may put an entire home at risk of collapse or sinking, which can be calamitous to experience. Even without a “worst case scenario” occurring, a weakened or ineffective foundation can lead to plenty of other annoying and costly problems — from water intrusion and flooding; to issues with closing windows and doors; to cracks in around the home’s walls, floors, and columns; to sagging walls and leaning chimneys. These issues can be incredibly inconvenient and expensive to address — not to mention dangerous to you, your family, and your houseguests.

How a Home Inspector Can Help You Protect and Maintain Your Home’s Foundation

A professional home inspection is one of the best ways to learn more about a property, whether you’re looking to buy a home, sell a home, or maintain a home you already own.

During a standard home inspection, your experienced and knowledgeable inspector will examine hundreds of elements around the property, looking for structural and mechanical concerns and potential safety hazards. An inspector will also try to determine the age of major systems around the property, including its roof, heating and air conditioning systems, and water heaters.

This evaluation helps provide a solid basis of knowledge about a home, as well as its most important components and systems — including the foundation. In addition to reporting any deficiencies or potential failures, we know the importance of educating people about their homes, and our home inspectors will include maintenance tips and other information that can help you protect your investment for years to come. 

During a home inspection, your inspector will help bolster your knowledge base and provide more information about your home’s foundation by looking at a number of elements. For instance, your inspector will look to see if there are any landscaping elements affecting the foundation, such as overgrown trees and shrubberies, ineffective retaining walls, or inadequate drainage. 

They will also help you to determine how your foundation is built (for example, whether it is made of concrete blocks, poured concrete, brick, fieldstone, or another material), and look for cracks, moisture seepage, or signs of movement. If the inspector cannot examine foundation walls because they are covered, they may encourage you to take additional steps, such as having the walls evaluated by a structural engineer or specialized basement repair company. Moving forward, the inspector may also give you preventive maintenance tips and offer a list of other things to look out for, such as signs of termite damage. 

For a more complete look at what to expect from your inspection, be sure to check out some of our sample reports!

Get Help from Chicago’s Home Inspection Experts

Whatever challenges or opportunities come your way, you can rest easy knowing that Windy City Home Inspection, Inc. will always be here for you. With Windy City Home Inspection, you can expect a competent, thorough inspection covering all the bases and never cutting corners.

Whether you’re buying a property, selling a property, or just want to know how to maintain your property, Windy City Home Inspection has an inspection for you.

When searching for the right home inspector, it’s important to find someone you can trust. The inspectors at Windy City Home Inspection, Inc. are licensed by the State of Illinois, certified, and insured. Each home inspection is backed by our Warranty and Protection Plan. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on our superior customer service. If you ever have questions, even years after your home inspection, we will be here to answer them — even if it means returning to your home.

At Windy City Home Inspection, Inc., we perform inspections to the highest standards – yours. Backed by a consulting team with more than 60 years of experience, Windy City Home Inspection is committed to excellence. Have a question? Let us help.