If you see a few cracks running along your basement floor and walls, it may cause you alarm. The thought of foundation problems is worrisome because repairs can be costly. However, before you panic, you should have your home inspected by a structural engineer. Houses naturally settle as they age, and cracks are not always a sign of a serious problem.

Here are some signs you should call in an engineer to examine your situation:

Foundation Damage

Tiny cracks in the mortar between concrete blocks are usually not a sign of a serious problem. However, if the cracks are large and form a stair-step pattern, that could be a sign your home has a shifting foundation. Horizontal cracks are also a concern because they indicate excess pressure being exerted on the wall.

You may even see one of your basement walls bow in or out. These are all signs of foundation damage. You should hire a structural engineer to figure out what is going on and recommend how you can fix it.

Uneven Doors And Windows

If your front door is suddenly out of alignment, that's a sign your home has shifted on its foundation and the door no longer level in the frame. The door may stick or not close. It may close and then not want to open. The lock may be totally out of alignment. Just don't get this behavior confused with a sticky door due to excess humidity during a rainy season.

Your door will naturally shrink and swell along with the amount of humidity in the air. This could affect how easily the door opens and closes. The same is true for your windows. If your foundation is to blame, your windows and doors won't close because they are not level rather than due to swelling.

Wavy Floors

Uneven or wavy floors could also indicate your home has foundation damage. However, if your house is old, the floors could be slightly uneven as a result of natural aging. You can tell if you have uneven floors if they have a slightly wavy appearance, or if your furniture seems uneven. If your floors have shifted, your ceiling may have shifted too. If so, you may see cracks along the ceiling.

While wavy floors caused by natural aging may be annoying, they are not dangerous. The only way to tell if unusual signs around your home indicate a serious problem with the foundation of your house is to hire a structural engineer to do an assessment. He or she can determine how well the load of your home is distributed and if pressure is being exerted in places where it shouldn't be causing problems.

You may have to pay out a few hundred dollars to have an inspection, but it could potentially save you several thousands of dollars down the road if a shifting foundation causes damage to your home.