House may be settling - advice?

I was hoping I could get some general advice, my wife and I purchased a 2004-built home in the PacNW a year ago. There are various signs that settling is happening. One of our neighbors confirmed that settling is an ongoing issue in the neighborhood we’re in. We’re concerned but have taken every precaution we can think of and we’re not really sure what to do now.

Signs present at time of purchase:

    • Cracks in grout in kitchen and bathrooms (fairly thin, some are hairline)
    • Several (5 or 6) vertical cracks in the foundation, thin/hairline, in various places. Home inspector pointed these out during purchase but he didn’t seem concerned. They don’t appear to have changed or widened in the last year
    • Two small (1ft circular) areas in soil against foundation where the ground has sunken, there’s a noticeable ‘dip’ of about 1-2in. These are in separate places, one is on the side away from any pipes / hose faucets.
    • An area of the hallway floor (about 2x2 ft) which has sunk away from the wall trim by about 1/3 in. We didn’t notice this during our inspection and it wasn’t pointed out
    • Various thin or hairline cracks in plaster or drywall in wall corners or around windows
    • One door which doesn’t latch all the way and is slightly crooked in frame. Shuts without sticking though and I rehung it and it now latches
    • Subtly uneven areas of flooring in places without carpet (living room and kitchen), very subtle and hard to notice unless you’re really paying attention

Recent signs which happened in past year:

    • About 4-5 new squeaky spots in the flooring, didn’t squeak before, all started happening together around the same time (just recently as winter arrived)
    • A new hairline grout crack in corner of shower, not sure when this occurred

Steps we’ve taken:

    • Inspected crawlspace several times: can’t see any signs of moisture or water intrusion, can’t see any signs of damaged/rotting lumber (we’ve actually had several people remark how healthy/dry our crawlspace was)
    • Taken photos and measurements of everything so we can monitor the various cracks to see if they get any bigger/wider
    • Fixed a drainage issue with two downspouts emptying into an underground pipe which was clogged (did this a month ago, the pipe has likely been completely clogged for years)
    • Tried to find a local structural engineer to ask advice, had a tough time finding anyone who did inspections in this area. Found one company that did but inspector seemed really uninterested and unmotivated in helping us and his advice was pretty unhelpful, we decided not to have him out to inspect
    • Had general contractor who is friend of family come and take a look at the house, foundation, and crawlspace (he didn’t seem concerned actually and told us we shouldn’t worry)
    • Even spoke with attorney about whether this was something that the previous inspector or home owners should have prepared us for since the seller’s disclosure didn’t warn of foundation issues (nor did home inspection report), but in general he said it would be very difficult and probably not worthwhile to pursue

It seems clear we have at least some settling, but our question is ‘what now?’. Are there any other steps we should be taking? Any advice is appreciated.

Thank you in advance and sorry for the long post.


The majority of houses settle in the first few years (5 to 8). After that additional settlement is rare. If additional foundation movement occurs it’s usually associated some changes in drainage. Mother nature can throw you a curve ball with landslides, sink holes, earthquakes, etc. What type of foundation do you have? Is your house built on a steep hillside? Have you modified the the drainage? Have you received an abnormal amount of rain? What makes your neighbor think the whole neighborhood has issues?

It is not that uncommon where land has been developed into subdivisions that may be former landfill sites, or simply backfilled to raise the grade to a suitable height. I know through experience some local properties where new housing was built, and only to find foundation cracking and settling occurring after inspecting a number of units in the subdivision. If land is simply backfilled, and not suitably compacted to reduce settlement, one should expect that this condition could happen.

Thanks to Randy’s comments, I also agree - but I would also add in my experience settlement due to lack of rain, where over a long term dry spell, houses can settle, particularly in certain soil types that can shrink such as clay.

Thanks Randy and Claude for the replies.

It’s a cement brick foundation, dirt bottom covered by plastic for a moisture barrier. It’s very shallow/narrow and probably the minimum allowable height, tough or impossible to get to some areas due to the duct work, though I’ve been able to put eyes on most of the walls while looking down there. There are thin boards holding up insulation which are woven in and out of the larger supporting beams, in a few places the thin boards have broken in places and the insulation is falling a bit, though most of those are in areas which are basically impossible to get to easily to repair.

Not a steep hillside though we are on an incline, our north neighbor is about 2-3ft higher than us, and our southern neighbor is that much lower.

Only modifications to drainage are that all of our northern downspouts were emptying into a previously clogged drainpipe. We fixed the clog so now the drainage should be improved. We receive a lot of rain here but the past year there was even more than usual.

Apparently more than one house in the neighborhood has had to get jacked up due to uneven settling. Those houses are older than ours, though we seem to be seeing signs of settling also, just not sure if it’s still happening or how quickly.

For us the things that are worrisome are the changes which seem to happen rapidly, like the appearance of the squeaky floors (in 4-5 different places, all at the same time, we didn’t have them last winter).

Thanks again for any advice.

You could take the advice of the professionals that were at your house and noted that the cracks are common settlement crack and are no concerns instead of looking to start a frivolous lawsuit.

How about tacking some outside photos of your house from a distance to get a feel for the topography.