When a house starts settling you will hear floorboards creak, as will joints in woodwork. Most homes will settle over time, but if the process is very gradual, it may not even be noticeable to its residents. The severity of any house settling is related to how it was constructed and the attention paid to the ground on which the foundations of the house rest.
Foundations are best laid over soil that has been compressed over the centuries, which gives it stability and strength. A very common reason for houses to settle is laying of foundations on soil that has not been properly backfilled. At times, during excavation of a foundation, certain areas may get over excavated and reach depth that have to be made up, so that foundations are at one level. Builders seek to achieve this by backfilling the soil. When this is done, it is very necessary to see that the soil is properly compacted, till it reaches at least 98 percent of its original density. It is possible for engineers to conduct tests to ensure this, but unfortunately, when it is not given the right compaction treatment, the soil will settle over time.
Settling can also take place, in places where soil is properly compacted. When the backfilling of over excavated soil is done with material that has a propensity to degrade, it will lose its structural stability. When these materials, like drywall pieces, disintegrate they create pockets in the soil, which will collapse over tine and cause settlement. If there are any tree stumps or toots in the soil, they can also decompose and make the soil lose its stability.
You can be sure that your house is settling if you notice small cracks in the foundation or walls. Cracks in walls can act as ways to let in water or pests, which can further aggravate the problem. Doors that get jammed or windows that will not close, do point to their frames being out of alignment. This is caused by settlement of foundations, which then must be looked at by foundation experts.
Related: Foundation settling a common problem