What’s it mean when a house is settling? Can it settle too much?

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What’s it mean when a house is settling? Can it settle too much?

In: Engineering
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Houses (all buildings) support a massive amount of weight. As time goes on, this weight starts to distribute better across the soft bits of the structure. Wood posts compress a little and the foundation sinks into the ground a bit.

Settling is expected and planned for in the design. Interestingly, settling is so extreme in skyscrapers that it can misalign elevator shafts if not planned for.

But, yes, too much settling is not good. It can cause the foundation to crack and all sorts of nasty stuff. If you look at the corners of older houses, you can find cracks in the plaster and drywall. This is caused by one wall settling lower than the others.

Now, most places will settle, maybe shift a bit, and that is that. You might have to do some minor repair, or maybe raise the foundation (you’ll see this around garages a lot). In bad cases, though, you get the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the structure may become unstable and collapse.

no matter how well they pack the dirt underneath or how thick they make the concrete foundation a house is very heavy.

and on the grand scale of things stuff like wood and sheetrock may seem stiff and solid but trying to hold all that weight and pressure together over time things begin to flex and shift as the weight of the house finds its final resting position. this is called settling and is what causes cracks in the concrete and warps in door frames for example.

Okay… so no scientist here.. heh heh. Living in the Houston, Texas, area for almost my entire 52 years of life, I just want to add that rain, especially flood rains, have a tremendous impact on how a house or any structure settles. My parents home and those in their neighborhood all needed foundation repair numerous times because of flooding. The different areas around Houston that are known for flooding due to Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, or heck, even a heavy downpour, all had the same issue.

This affects the streets, sidewalks, driveways and curbs, as well. Would infrastructures settling be in the same class?? Do the engineers plan this into their designs when building overpasses and such??? I would imagine they would have to factor that into the calculations. Much like the famous bridge builders that forgot to factor in the winds on that ill fated bridge that collapsed shortly after construction was finished. I apologize that I cannot remember where that was located. It was somewhere in the US, maybe in the 40s??