Is It Normal For An Old House To Settle?

Is It Normal For An Old House To Settle

If you own or rent an old house, you have probably heard your house make a few intriguing noises.

When you asked around, you heard that your home is just settling.

But, searching the internet, you have found that it may not be typical. You are now worried that something is seriously wrong and unsure if it is normal for your old house to settle. 

It is perfectly normal to start worrying about the condition of your house over time, especially if your home was already old when you moved in.

Construction codes have changed, and some things that passed 100 years ago are not up to code now. Also, homes are generally more occupied since we have more furniture and stuff in our houses now. 

The fact is that homes naturally will settle over the years. It is a normal part of the process and nothing to cause worry.

So if your old house has been making a bit of noise, do not fret. However, if there are other accompanying signs, it could also indicate more serious issues with the foundation.

Why Do Old Houses Settle?

Houses settle over time, and old houses have been around for a long time. The most common reason for house settling is the natural movement of the soil.

As time passes, the weight of the house compresses the earth beneath it as the house has to find a way to settle into the new position.

Soil erosion also plays a critical role in the settling of the house. As weather elements beat the soil throughout the years, the soil weathers and moves around.

Rain, wind, snow, and storms affect how the soil around and underneath your house distributes itself. This causes your home to move a bit and settle.

The natural drying process also causes houses to settle. The foundation of most houses is made from poured concrete.

This concrete contains a lot of water and dries and hardens slowly over time. This makes the concrete shrink over time, causing the house to settle. 

With wood structures, wood usually contains some moisture that evaporates over time. This moisture will evaporate slowly over time as the house ages. This can cause the house to settle, especially in those initial years.

These are all typical reasons for house settling. Wind, added weight, and weather also cause shifts in the house structure. These are minor and may be heard in the dead of night.

Further Reading: How Long Will A 100-Year-Old House Last?

How To Tell if the Settling Is Abnormal

Now that you know what causes your house to settle, you may wonder if the settling of your old house is normal or cause for worry.

There are some signs that you may need to call an expert to determine if your home has structural issues. They will help you alleviate any unnecessary worry or quickly work on urgent repairs if needed.

Here are 6 things you can look out for to know if your old house is settling or if there are deeper issues.

1. Wall and Floor Cracks.

Normal settling may cause small cracks in your walls about 2-3 years after the construction of the house.

When the ground beneath the foundation shifts, it can cause some cracks to form in the walls as the house adjusts to fit. These cracks should not be many, horizontal or massive; only about a 1/16 wide and two to six inches in length.

If you notice new cracks in your old house, it is cause for concern. Wide, horizontal cracks indicate that there is a problem with the foundation of your house. If you notice them, find an expert to inspect your home and see if you need foundation repair.

2. Difficulty Closing and Opening Doors

If you notice that your doors stick when you open or close them, they could be a problem with your foundation. A visible alignment problem usually accompanies this.

It is important to note that doors made of wood can stick because of a moisture problem that is not as serious and easier to fix.

To check if that is the case, look at the alignment of the doors when opening or closing them. If there is an alignment problem, call an expert to have a look.

3. Unaligned Windows

Windows that do not open or close properly could be a cause for concern, especially when the window sills are pulling off the wall. If you notice this, check that the molding around the window is not cracked or cracking.

These are some warning signs of a foundation problem. If you notice them, call in an expert soon to inspect the house. 

4. Counter Tops Separating From the Wall

Kitchen and bathroom counters can also be a good indicator of foundation issues. If you notice that they have started to pull away from the walls, you may have some serious foundation problems.

However, it could also signify a lack of proper support. If your counters were properly fixed to the wall and have support, call in a foundation expert to ensure there are no issues.

5. Foundation Disturbance

This occurs when a slab foundation moves a lot over time. It is common in older homes due to moisture from insufficient drainage or plumbing leaks. It can cause a complete upheaval of your foundation, affecting your house and perimeter.

Common signs of foundation disturbance include buckling hallways, cracked tiles, or moving wood floors. If you notice these signs, call an expert immediately to get advice on the next steps forward.

6. A Sinking Foundation.

A sinking foundation is usually noticeable from the outside. Step outside your home and check how your house looks.

If you notice that one side appears higher than the other or your house buckles in the middle, you have a sinking foundation. This requires major repair work, and you must consult a structural engineer. 

Further Reading: What Should I Look For When Buying An Old House?


It is very normal for your old house to settle. Small cracks and movement sounds are not reasons for worry or panic.

However, if you notice any of the above signs, you should call in a professional to inspect the structural integrity of your house. They will help you determine whether you have structural and foundation issues or just normal settling.

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