Poor building process
It’s possible for the mason to be in a haste, or build a wall when conditions are not proper. He might not prepare adequately for the conditions he’s working in. During construction, he may throw a lot of junk in the trench by the walls, causing issues later on. When he back fills the wall too soon after building the wall, the concrete is still curing, and he could put the wrong sill plate on the wall.
You may build footers (the things your foundation sits on) on loose material. It might expand or contract over time because of the weight on it, or you may be in an area with soils that move. In any case, settling results from the shifting. What you’ll see is cracks that develop from that settling.
Like walls and roof, the foundation of a house should be maintained periodically. The coatings put on the walls can break down over time, allowing water to come in contact with the concrete. Once that happens, that water begins to affect the strength of the concrete. At that point you might begin to see discolorations, water, cracks, or even bowing of the walls.
Time breaks down just about everything. The fact is, basement structures probably only last a hundred years or so, and then they need replaced – and that’s if no other outside factors are involved. Add settling, shifting, expansive soils and outside pressures, and you can cut that number down considerably.