As an homeowner, getting informed and following the evolution of your building is a priority. Its maintenance should not be neglected, especially when it comes to foundations.

Foundations play a fundamental role in the stability and quality of your home. A well-designed foundation makes it possible to evenly distribute the loads of the construction into the ground. Well adapted to the nature of the soil, it resists the lateral pushes of the earth that surrounds it, water infiltration as well as heat loss between the inside and outside of the house.

Era of construction

In terms of maintenance, the construction era is useful and facilitates communication with the experts called upon to intervene on your property. Older houses rest, in general, on stone walls and are up to 36 inches thick. Around the 1910s, poured concrete made its appearance. At the time, this technology was not yet developed as it is today. Mixtures were often poorly dosed and concrete more fragile because it contained a low cement ratio. This concrete therefore tends to crumble easily by frost and the presence of water in the soil that passes easily into the walls because of the amount of large pebbles contained in the concrete.

At the beginning of the 1950s, the mixing of concrete and construction processes became more efficient. They made it possible to implement foundations that are more resistant to damage and deterioration.

When a foundation problem occurs, it can have serious consequences on the elements of the frame, the exterior and the interior finish. It therefore becomes essential to consult a recognized expert. Any serious expertise should begin with a visit to the site and the examination of the structure of the building: “The understanding of the neighborhood, the existing construction system but also the analysis of the renovation and development work that has been carried out by the owners in the past make it possible to propose an adequate solution when structural disorders are observed”,  says Derick Pelletier, technical representative at Bisson Expert en fondation.

Common problems

According to Mr. Pelletier, three major problems are frequent in the region of Montreal. First, we observe the presence of excessive humidity levels in crawl spaces : «Humidity conditions in crawl spaces make the elements of the framework rot, some supports are deposited directly on the ground, other pieces of wood are affected by water infiltration and lack of adequate ventilation often comes with odours and mushroom growth».

Otherwise, there are problems created by soil, especially clay, which can be subjected to shrinkage or swelling movements during periods of drought or heavy rains: “When we address a structural problem related to the composition of the soil, it is much more complex. A subsidence of soil under a foundation can seriously affect the components of the framework by causing a rupture or displacement of assemblies in the walls and floors. Walls can have cracks, door frames and windows can have difficulty opening and closing,” he continues.

Crack in the crack of a subsidence

As these periods of drought or heavy rain are more recurrent now, the risk of soil instability is more acute and can have an impact on the foundations.

Some buildings are also affected by poor design where the basic principles of structure have been ignored or underestimated: “Damage can be caused by load-bearing partitions that are poorly lined from one floor to another, undersized beams for loads or a span too large for the dimensions or composition of the beam “, describes Mr. Pelletier. “This leads to an uneven distribution of loads on walls, columns and therefore structural problems.”

Adapted solutions

The solutions to the problems observed can be diverse and depend on a good understanding of the causes. Bisson Expert will be able to advise you!


Channeling water from the roof and land keeps this excess moisture away from the foundation walls. When the beam and wooden joists are rotten at the junction of the foundation wall, the structure is no longer able to hold its load correctly. All affected pieces of wood must be reinforced or replaced with healthy elements.


The maintenance of the structure of a building is based on the observation and description of the problems that lead to the process allowing their treatment. However, the interventions must also respect the style of your property especially if the construction date is old. It will be necessary to raise certain questions with your municipality and consider the impact of the work on the architectural and heritage value of your home.

Soil conditions

When a floor sags unevenly under the foundation wall, one of the solutions is to stabilize the foundation with steel piles. The latter are firmly anchored to the foundation and they are driven down until they reach bedrock.

The foundation and structure are also repaired. Other interventions may be recommended. It depends on the nature of the foundations, the difficulty of intervention or the degree of instability of the soil. If the concrete is of low quality, crumbles to the point of compromising the stability of the siding and framing, or if the stone foundation walls are deformed, the foundation will need to be redone.

Written by Eve-Marie Surprenant, architect and urban planner

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