Many old houses and historic houses in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest have what is called a “field stone foundation.” Just as the name implies, the foundation is constructed entirely of stone and rock pulled from farm fields and stacked on top of each other to create a foundation for the house on top of it. The openings between the field stone are often packed with cement or mud and clay–whatever was available to the builder at the time they built the house. Unfortunately, these field stone foundations cannot hold up for an eternity, and they eventually begin to fail. Here is what you can expect from your field stone foundation when it begins to fall apart.

First, the Foundation Issues

As the field stone foundation begins to falter, it will crack and flake. Stones and rocks will come loose and fall inside the house, either in your basement or in a crawl space. The stones and rocks generally do not fall outside the perimeter of the house because the weight of the house’s walls on top of them holds the rocks and stones in place. Still, the toppling and sinking rock and stone inside the house lead to other problems, like cracking and sinking house walls.

Then, the Walls in Your House

Next, you will see the walls that rest on these crumbling foundations split. Cracks in the house walls will travel upwards, usually up the center from where the foundation is crumbling below. If you do not seek out professional foundation repair by this point, the cracks will continue to travel up to the ceilings.

Now the Ceilings Will Be Affected

Once the cracks in the walls hit the ceilings, the cracks will diverge and travel along the edges where the ceilings cap the damaged walls. As the foundation continues to buckle and crumble down below, this causes the walls and the ceilings to be pulled downward with the foundation. The structural damage is a nightmare to fix.

Finally, Complete Structural Failure

When enough of the field stone, cement, and rock collapse under the weight of the house and falls out into your basement, the entire side of the house that is supposed to be supported by that foundation wall will fail too. Most people do not allow their homes to reach this point, but on rare occasions it can happen quite suddenly. Regardless of whether you encounter this problem over time or you have an emergency occurrence, the cost of fixing the foundation and repairing all of the structural damage is astronomical. It is best to catch the early warning signs and then have the foundation repair completed before the old field stone and rock get the least bit loose.