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Can A Mild Earthquake Affect Your Foundation?

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Earthquakes and Foundation Problems in California

Wondering if a mild earthquake can affect your foundation? If so, you’re not alone, especially if you live in California.

Many people who don’t live in California love the idea of being close to the beach and mountains. The diverse California culture and relatively mild temperatures year-round are also a big appeal for out-of-state dwellers. However, there are also some downsides to living in California. For example, California’s location on the San Andreas fault means frequently having to deal with earthquakes, both mild and severe.

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Severe earthquakes will cause major structural problems for your home or business. If the structure doesn’t totally collapse, it will at least suffer major damage in the form of foundation shifting, cracks, and settlement. These damages may render the building unsalvageable. However, mild earthquakes – from 1-4 on the Richter scale – are much more common than major earthquakes.

So, Can A Mild Earthquake Affect A Foundation?

Yes, mild earthquakes can negatively affect your foundation and the structural integrity of your home. Whenever the ground beneath your home shifts, there’s a chance of foundation destabilization. This is why it’s important to regularly check your home for signs of damage that could have been caused by a small earthquake. This is especially important if you live in the Bay Area or other parts of California. Check out this map for recent earthquakes in California.

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Foundation Problems Caused by Mild Earthquakes and How to Fix Them

If there has been a mild earthquake in your area, check your home for cracks and other signs of foundation issues. Some of the signs that a small earthquake has damaged your foundation include:

Exterior Foundation Cracks – While small cracks in your foundation are probably not due to structural problems, larger cracks may have been caused by an earthquake. Cracks wider than 1/4 inch and horizontal or stair-step shaped cracks are often caused by foundation movement.

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  • Use a flashlight to look into the crack – If you see that the foundation has cracked clean through or that the steel reinforcing is exposed in the crack, contact an experienced foundation professional right away for an inspection.
  • Interior Cracks – Cracks inside the home might also be a sign of a foundation problem caused by an earthquake. Once again, small cracks are likely just a result of age or normal settlement. Large cracks, however, especially horizontal cracks or cracks near windows and doors, can indicate foundation movement. Check for any windows or doors that have become hard to open or close in addition to cracks, as these can be signs of foundation shifting.
  • Broken Blocks or Bricks – If you have a block or brick foundation, look for damage to the blocks or bricks. Any bricks or blocks that are broken, cracked, or crumbling may indicate foundation damage and are likely the result of foundation shifting.
  • Foundation Leaning or Shifting – If you can see the foundation is leaning or looks like it has shifted, this is a sign of foundation failure that could have been caused by a small earthquake or other kinds of soil movement. If your home has a basement, look for leaning or bowing foundation walls. If you have a slab foundation, look for any gaps or spaces between the foundation and the home itself.

If you find signs of a foundation problem in your home after a mild earthquake and you’re in our service area in Northern California, contact us today. We are experts at all kinds of pier installation to lift and support your foundation and reverse problems while preventing future issues. We handle both residential and commercial jobs. Call today to get a free quote and learn more about how we can repair earthquake-related problems in your home.

Steve Egloff

Steve Egloff

Steve is the CEO at Bay Area Underpinning, a foundation repair contractor serving the San Fransisco Bay Area, California. Bay Area Underpinning was founded in 2005 with the goal of providing a cost-effective, engineered solution to foundation settlement problems with an emphasis on educating customers to make them feel comfortable with the various methods of foundation repair.

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