Do you always feel like your house is moving from side to side? Swaying is common in most homes, especially in the Tornado alley of the U.S. a slight swaying is normal and should not be a cause for concern because houses are designed to withstand lateral stress.
Your house could be swaying due to strong winds, earthquakes, heavy vehicles passing, or vigorous movement in the house. It could also indicate that the foundation isn’t rock-solid; if you suspect this is the case, consult a building engineer to assess it.
House swaying shouldn’t be a source of concern unless it is severe. If you are worried about your house swaying, there may be a problem with the structure and construction of the house. Always consult an engineer or architect if the swaying is too pronounced. This article takes you through possible reasons why your house is swaying, how to stop swaying and what to do when in a swaying house. Read on.
What causes my house to sway?
Your house could be swaying for different reasons; below are some common reasons why houses sway.
a. Strong wind
The most prevalent cause of house swaying is strong winds. If you live in an area that experiences strong winds, such as Alaska and Wyoming, you might feel your house swaying from time to time. These states experience the most winds with speeds of up to 21.9 mph. That is why most houses in Alaska are built on slits to allow room for swaying in the wind.
House swaying in strong winds is normal and not a source of concern unless the swaying is severe. Most buildings, including skyscrapers, are designed to withstand strong winds and extreme weather conditions—architects and building engineers design these houses to make them sway in strong winds and minimize wind pressure. The swaying is minimal but plays a huge role in minimizing the risk of the building collapsing.
An earthquake is a sudden and severe earth shaking caused by seismic waves. You will mostly feel your house vibrating and swaying when an earthquake occurs. The swaying will be more pronounced if you live on the upper floors, but you might not experience vibrations. An earthquake’s severity depends on its duration, magnitude and severity.
Small earthquakes have no risk of damage or emergencies and only last a few seconds. On the other hand, large earthquakes last several minutes and make the ground move more violently. If your house is swaying, but all the furnishings are still in place, you are most likely experiencing a small earthquake.
California has been reported to experience the most earthquakes that cause property damage. The South California area experiences about 10,000 earthquakes yearly, although most are too small to be felt.
If you live in Carolina, Nevada, Washington and other earthquake-prone states, you will likely feel your house swaying from time to time. Most buildings in these regions are built with base isolators and shake absorbers to reduce the swaying and risk of damage significantly
c. Heavy vehicles passing by
Houses near a railway or busy roads used by heavy trucks are most likely to experience house swaying when these trucks pass. The truck’s vibrations mainly cause this type of swaying and subside when there aren’t any vehicles on the road. You don’t need to worry because your house can withstand such vibrations without harming the occupants or destroying property.
A 2017 study by Matec Web of conferences has shown that vibrations from heavy vehicles and traffic have an impact on the structure of the building. Architects and engineers need to give special attention to buildings near roads to ensure minimal swaying.
d. Vigorous movements in the building
If you live in a storied building, you might feel your house swaying when someone on the upper floor moves vigorously. Moving heavy objects around may create a vibration that makes it feel like your house is swaying. People living in buildings with a gym or fitness center on the upper floors are more likely to experience this type of swaying. You can reduce this swaying by installing insulated floors to prevent vibrations from vigorous movement from being transmitted.
How can you prevent the house from swaying?
Homes and tall buildings should be built to withstand considerable swaying. There’s no sure way of preventing swaying in an already existing building. If your house sways too much in a way you are concerned, we recommend consulting an engineer in your area to find the problem and remodel your house where possible.
During the building or remodeling stage, you can take these steps to reduce the house swaying
- Work with professionals from the design stage to ensure your house is anchored on a solid foundation built to withstand strong winds, earthquakes, and other forces that cause swaying. Civil engineers and architects help assess what you need to have a solid foundation and design your house with a firm foundation.
- If your home area is prone to earthquakes and strong winds, follow the state-recommended guidelines for securing your home. You can install features that make your house resistant to strong winds and earthquakes.
- If your house experiences swaying due to vibrations caused by moving heavy objects or banging on floors, consider insulating the floors using rubber flooring. Rubber is an excellent shock absorber that also makes the floor last longer.
How do engineers keep skyscrapers from swaying?
Skyscrapers and other tall buildings are prone to swaying in high winds. This movement may make some people uneasy, although you can barely feel it. Building engineers and developers are now using mass dampers to reduce the motion of skyscrapers and keep residents comfortable.
Mass dampers are counterweights placed at the top of a tall building to slow its motion. The damper is connected to the walls of the building using spring mounts and pistons. It takes the force when high winds blow, making the building maintain equilibrium. A simple way to define the damper is that it is a shock absorber to take in the force in the event of strong winds.
What to do if your house starts swaying
Being in a house that suddenly starts swaying will make you doubt your safety and that of your belongings. Let’s look at some practical steps to take if you notice that your house is swaying.
a. Stay calm and don’t panic
Panicking will hinder you from making sober decisions in case of danger. Try your best to stay calm as you wait for help to arrive. When calm, you will be better positioned to wait out the swaying and record how long it lasts.
b. Get a home inspector to confirm the status of the house.
If your house has never been inspected, you might have to get a building inspector to check for structural shortcomings. A house inspection will help you determine if the problem is fatal or if it can be fixed.
c. If the swaying is vigorous, exit the building immediately following the emergency plan.
Sometimes, your house may sway more vigorously than you expect, and you may risk your life by staying. If you feel unsafe, vacate the premises and seek help when you are already in a safe space. If you cannot leave, hide under any solid furniture such as a table and hold on to it so that you will be covered from falling objects.
Should I be concerned if my house is swaying?
House swaying is mainly caused by natural causes such as strong winds or earthquakes and should not be a cause of concern. However, if the swaying is severe, it could be a sign of structural weakness, and you will need to consult an architect or building engineer to assess the issue. Always trust your instincts; if you feel that something is amiss, consult a professional.
Why is my house shaking when a heavy truck drives by?
If you live near a road, you must have experienced your house shaking when a heavy vehicle passes by. This shaking is caused by the pressure exerted on the road by the vehicle’s weight. The pressure travels through the ground in the form of vibrations, and you feel it shaking when they get to the foundation of your house.
How much do buildings sway in the wind?
Skyscrapers and tall buildings are designed to withstand strong winds with a swaying allowance. It is usual for these buildings to sway in strong winds because they have an allowance for movement. Skyscrapers can withstand winds of up to 100 miles per hour without much movement inside the buildings. During strong winds, skyscrapers can sway for up to 1.2 meters.
Key insights and takeaway
It may be shocking to feel your house sway, but most times, it is not a cause of concern. Strong winds or small earthquakes mainly cause house swaying, and almost all houses are designed to withstand this. If you feel that your house is swaying severely, it is advisable to consult a building and construction professional and have your home inspected. Have them assess the house for any structural defects and repair them before the situation becomes fatal.
If you feel unsafe in your house, get out and seek help when you are sure of your safety. Avoid panicking to handle the situation appropriately.