What’s the Difference Between Foundation Heaving and Settlement?

When many hear the terms “foundation heaving” and “foundation settlement”, it’s easy for most to think that they’re two different kinds of foundation problems. But the truth is they are very closely related. In many instances, foundation heaving is a part of foundation settlement. It’s more describing how certain parts of your foundation may be left looking different in elevation compared to other more settled portions. But then, what exactly is foundation heaving? Why is it even referred to?

Let’s explore what makes foundation heaving different from foundation settlement…

What is Foundation Heaving?

Foundation heaving is when it’s observed that a part of your foundation has been pushed upward from the rest. This typically occurs when a home is built on expansive soils such as clay soil.

The Soil Expands

Whenever it rains, these expansive soils absorb a great amount of water. As these soils expand, they’ll push against the foundation, generating an immense amount of pressure.

Upward Pressure on the Foundation

Eventually, this kind of upward pressure can cause cracks in the foundation and push a portion of the foundation up until it seems to be jutting above the floor.

Settlement Follows

But just as the expansive soils expand when saturated, eventually it dries and contracts. Ultimately, this leads to foundation settlement. Some parts of the affected foundation may settle more than others, making heaved portions even more visible.

What is Foundation Settlement?

As the soil gets saturated by rain and dries over and over, it can lead to soil erosion, contracting of soil, and soil displacement. This creates a weakness in the soil that can lead to uneven settlement of the foundation. The stress caused by this uneven settlement is what leads to foundation cracks and an uneven appearance in the foundation floor.

Signs of Foundation Heaving and Settlement

While foundation heaving and foundation settlement have very similar symptoms, there are some slight differences that you may notice.

A door is misaligned with its frame because of uneven foundation settlement.
This door has become misaligned with its frame and jams because of uneven foundation settlement.


For similar signs, a foundation that’s heaving or settling may experience…

  • Cracks in the foundation wall interior or exterior (this can happen whether your foundation is concrete, brick, or made of concrete blocks)
  • Cracks in the foundation floor
  • Jamming doors or windows


There are some differences that separate heaving and settlement…

  • Foundation settlement can lead to sinking and cracked foundation walls
  • Foundation settlement can cause gaps to appear where your walls meet your floor
  • Heaving occurs because of expansive soils. Without expansive soils, heaving doesn’t occur, but foundation settlement can still happen all the same.

Frost Heave

There is one another case where “heaving” could be referring to. “Frost heaving” is referring to the water in the soil when it freezes. When water freezes, it causes the water to expand as it turns to ice.

Should the soil beneath your foundation be highly saturated when temperatures drop to freezing, all that ice can press against your foundation as it expands. This can cause foundation heaving if the pressure becomes too great.

How Can I Prevent Foundation Heaving and Settlement?

Whether it’s foundation heaving or settlement, they share one common thing that makes either happen: the presence of water. But that means if there isn’t enough water to affect the soil, then there’s less chance of foundation heaving or settlement happening.

There are several ways that you can help protect your foundation from uneven settlement and/or heaving…

  • Clean your gutters and downspouts to prevent water from falling next to your foundation when it rains.
  • Check your landscaping. Make sure the land around your foundation is sloping away so that water doesn’t run towards your foundation.
  • Is your home waterproofed? Consider getting your basement or crawl space waterproofed with an interior waterproofing system.
A completed '58 waterproofing system with sump pump, sump lid, vapor barrier, and drainage channels
A ’58 waterproofing system will keep your basement dry, all while keeping up with a neat and tidy appearance. Goodbye water and mold, hello safe and dry basement!

Waterproofing Protects Your Foundation

Since we know that water is a main culprit behind soil expansion and erosion, moving as much of that water away as possible should be a priority. Waterproofing your basement or crawl space with an interior waterproofing system can protect your foundation by doing just that! Here’s how it works…

  • Drainage channels are installed along the perimeter of your foundation, either above or beside the foundation.
  • These drainage channels capture and guide groundwater to a sump pit.
  • In the sump pit, a sump pump will activate and push the water through a discharge pipe.
  • The water gets deposited safely away from your foundation.

Not only will you reduce the chances of soil erosion or expansion under your foundation, but waterproofing your lower level will also reduce what’s called hydrostatic pressure. This is a kind of water pressure that’s created by water sitting against your foundation. Hydrostatic pressure is a common cause behind intrusive groundwater and moisture in a basement or crawl space, leading to moisture problems like mold, water damage, and wood rot.

As you can see, an interior basement waterproofing system can provide comprehensive protection for your foundation and home!

Keep Your Foundation Safe When You Lean on ‘58!

Since 1958, ‘58 Foundations & Waterproofing has been helping homeowners like you in repairing and reinforcing their home foundations. With effective and long-lasting products like our ‘58 Strong Helical Piers, we can help stabilize your foundation and prevent further settlement from occurring. We also have products to reinforce your foundation walls, such as our ‘58 Strong I-Beams, our Carbon ‘58 Wall Straps, and our helical tiebacks.

For your basement and crawl space encapsulation needs, we offer our customizable ‘58 waterproofing system that utilizes our specially-engineered Channel ‘58 drainage channels and our high-power Workhorse sump pump to move more water faster out and away from your home.

‘58 Foundations & Waterproofing has local offices all throughout the Eastern Seaboard. Whether you need basement waterproofing near Knoxville, TN, crawl space encapsulation near Chattanooga, TN, or foundation repair near Atlanta, GA, you can always depend on ‘58 to be there when you need us!

Contact us today to schedule for a free inspection and to receive a detailed estimate! Be sure to ask us about our lifetime warranty and money-back guarantee!