We were recently featured on the acclaimed radio show House Talk.

Understanding Differential Settlement

Understanding Differential Settlement
Understanding Differential Settlement

Tell us if this sounds familiar. You’re going to buy a new home, and someone who knows a fair amount about houses and foundations tells you to “watch for differential settlement.” Most people’s reaction would be something along the lines of “differential what?” While it sounds more complicated than it is, we’re going to help you with understanding differential settlement. Read on to learn more.

What Is Differential Settlement? 

While the term differential settlement is a structural engineering term, we’re not going to use engineering language for the sake of clarity. Essentially, the term differential settlement is another way of saying the levelness of a building’s foundation. More specifically, differential settlement is what occurs when a building’s foundation settles unevenly. Why is that a big deal? Because your foundation is meant to be flat so it can support the building’s structural integrity. In other words, an uneven foundation makes your home susceptible to structural damage.

Types of foundation settlement graphic

What Causes It? 

The most common causes of differential settlement are:

Expansive soil contains a lot of clay and because of this it swells when it soaks up moisture and then shrinks as it dries out

  • Expansive soil – Expansive soil contains a lot of clay and because of this it swells when it soaks up moisture and then shrinks as it dries out. This back and forth swelling and shrinking creates movement under the foundation and can, over time, lead to differential settlement.
  • Erosion-prone soil – Some types of soil are prone to erosion. Soil erosion under a foundation can cause voids to form. If the foundation sinks into the voids, it will cause differential settlement.
  • Weak soil – Some types of soil simply can’t support something heavy like a foundation.
  • Soil that wasn’t adequately compacted before construction began – Soil needs to be tamped down before anything is built on top of it. If this isn’t done properly, the structure will settle unevenly into the ground after it’s built.
  • Changes in soil moisture – An example of this would be building on top of expansive soil during the dry season. When the wet season returns, the soil will soak up moisture and swell, causing movement under the foundation that could lead to differential settlement.
  • Large trees near the foundation – Large trees planted too close to a foundation can ‘’drink’’ water from the soil leaving voids behind.

Read more about – How To Prevent Rainwater Damage?

Is There Anything I Can Do About It? 

Yes! Now, in really serious scenarios, you might need a structural engineer. A lot of homeowners can get by with concrete underpinning, jet grouting, filling cracks, and reducing moisture. In other words, you need to reduce any possibility of your foundation shifting with cosmetic repairs. Moreover, if moisture is finding its way into your basement, there’s a good chance that the soil is moving too.

After it's first built, your home will slightly settle into the soil beneath it in a process called uniform settlement.

Every homeowner should hire a waterproofing basement service because it’ll extend the life of your foundation and provide an all-around better home. A professional service will help you keep pests out of your home, fill cracks, and slow the risks of differential settlement.

If you’re looking for a professional basement waterproofing service in the Chicagoland area, look no further than The Real Seal. Our team has extensive experience, takes pride in their work, and always arrives on time. If you’d like to schedule an appointment or have any questions, contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you.


Austin Werner

Austin Werner is the Owner of The Real Seal LLC, a basement waterproofing and foundation repair company. Austin believes that having a highly trained and happy team is the key to success. This is reflected through hundreds of 5 star customer reviews his company has received online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *