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How to Monitor Building Settlement

Sumei FitzGerald

Buildings may move and settle because of ground shifts and other geological events, but building settlement is most often due to collapsing sewers, water leaks and problems with drainage pipes, according to the Property Repair Systems website. Some buildings suddenly shift and are then fine for a number of years. The cracks in other foundations may continue to grow, endangering the stability of the building. Available are a number of do-it-yourself methods to monitor building settlement, ranging from the simple and less reliable to the more involved and precise.

You can measure how much a building is moving by measuring cracks in the foundation.
  1. Locate a crack in your foundation. Place a piece of tape over the crack and mark it with a pencil at each side of the crack. If the crack widens, the tape will slide along the wall and move away from the pencil lines. This method is simple, but it is a somewhat unreliable way of monitoring building settlement.

  2. Trim a wooden wedge, so it fits into the foundation crack.
  3. Cut a piece of dry wood into a wedge shape. Tap it into the crack somewhat firmly. If the foundation crack widens, the timber will fall out. Moisture can cause the wood wedge to shrink and expand, so it is the least reliable way of monitoring building settlement. You can increase certainty by combining this method with the tape procedure.

  4. Drill holes in the foundation to affix a glass rectangle across the crack.
  5. Purchase a piece of glass 9 inches by 4 inches that is about 1/6 of an inch thick. Ask a glazing merchant to drill a quarter-inch hole in each corner. Use plastic plugs or resin and rubber washers to affix the glass across the foundation crack. Take care not to turn the screws too tightly or the glass will break. If the building moves anymore, the glass will break, the Property Repair Systems website reports.

  6. Purchase a professional kit to monitor building settlement if you're still unsure about how serious the degree of movement is. Crack monitoring gauges measure both the horizontal and vertical movement along a foundation crack with a high degree of accuracy.

  7. Contact a building surveyor or structural engineer to confirm your suspicions and seek solutions.