The health of your home begins at the foundation. Your house- and everything in it- literally depends on the stability of your foundation. If you’re alarmed when you find a foundation issue like this, you have a good reason to be!
Your foundation should have regular check-ups just like you do. Even if you do not have any symptoms, it’s smart to do a little preventative maintenance. Seasonal changes can significantly impact you, and catching a problem early is always best for you and your wallet.
In this article, we’ll review the most common types of cracks and how to gauge the seriousness of the issues they represent.
A Word Of Caution
Please do not try to make foundation repairs yourself. We understand your desire to be self-sufficient and save yourself some money. But your home’s foundation is not a good place for DIY experimentation. Repairing a crack in your foundation isn’t like caulking the edge of a bathtub. These cracks take different materials and methods, and most of these are not widely available to consumers.
When done poorly, crack repairs lead to more cracks forming. And if the wrong diagnosis is made and the wrong method is used? You could turn a basic structural crack into a serious structural problem.
So please, don’t DIY foundation repairs; leave that to a qualified foundation repair Kalamazoo MI like https://staydrywaterproofing.com/.
Hairline Cracks In Your Foundation
One of the most common cracks you will find is a hairline crack. This type of crack is usually only visible from the inside of your foundation.
How Do Hairline Cracks Develop?
Seasonal temperature changes create these cracks through the expansion and contraction of your foundation walls. Concrete isn’t flexible, so it cracks when it shifts between the wet and dry seasons. These cracks are approximately the width of a single hair, leading to their quirky name. Hairline cracks may (or may not) allow water to seep into your basement or crawl space.
Hairline cracks will be super thin, consistent in width, and may let in water. If you’re unsure if the crack in your foundation wall is thin enough, you can do the penny test. While holding a copper penny between your finger and thumb, press its edge against the crack. If the crack is thinner than the penny, it qualifies.
These cracks should be repaired before they begin to widen and allow water to seep into your basement or crawl space (if they don’t already!).
Multiple Or Wider Cracks In Your Foundation
Have you seen cracks on the outside of your foundation? Have you also seen cracks in your home’s ceilings or around door frames? These can be indicators of foundation movement.
Additional signs to look for if you think the foundation is settling:
Inside the house: check for cracks in the drywall. Settling cracks can appear in the walls or ceiling. They are most commonly found around door frames and windows. If you find any, test the nearest door or window.
- Does it open and close easily?
- Will it stay open without you holding it?
- Does it stay closed without being locked?
If any of those answers are “no,” this is more evidence of foundation settlement.
Outside the house: watch for visible cracks in the foundation.
- Block foundations may have gaps or uneven spacing between the blocks. This is also true of brick foundations or block foundations with a brick facade; the cracks follow the mortar joints.
- Stair-step or zig-zag cracks on the outside of your foundation are also possible.
Settling is of significant concern. This is often caused by erosion or poorly compacted soil under your home. Foundation settling will only worsen over time as the soil movement continues. Stabilizing your foundation will be more difficult and expensive to repair the longer you ignore it.
Certain Types Of Cracks Indicate Foundation Damage
One of the things homeowners should be mindful of is structural foundation cracks.
Horizontal Cracks or Stair-Step Cracks
While you’re under your house in a basement or crawlspace, you’re looking for any cracks or signs of damage. You are in dangerous territory if you find a long horizontal crack with any leaning or bowing walls. If your foundation walls are made of concrete blocks, the cracks may be in a stair-step pattern.
Horizontal cracks can appear in any foundation type. Stair-step cracks are specific to block and brick because they follow the mortar joints.
Both types of foundation cracks show that your foundation wall is losing its battle with hydrostatic pressure. When the soil outside your home is saturated with water, it applies pressure to the wall (known as hydrostatic pressure). This is a serious threat to your home’s stability, and at this point, you should be alarmed.
Depending on how significantly the wall has moved, there are several repair options for a cracked or bowing wall. Carbon fiber straps are an excellent repair method if the wall is only badly cracked or bowing less than 2 inches inward.
Wall anchors or helical tiebacks are a more secure solution if the wall is leaning inward more than that. Please keep in mind that the best answer to hydrostatic pressure is to install water drainage. This will alleviate the additional pressure and protect your foundation from the stresses of heavy rain.
Why Should You Fix Foundation Cracks?
This is a no brainer. Cracks can grow and worsen over time, compounding your problems and making them costly to fix. Left unattended, cracks will also let in moisture to your basement. Moisture creates the perfect conditions for mold. Plus they welcome pests that can contaminate your food and water and spread diseases. Water damage is another possibility especially if your cracks are more than 1/16 inch wide. Dirty flood water can soil your clothing and carpets and set the stage for mold in your home as well. Clean-up and remediation costs could run into thousands of dollars, money that would have otherwise been spent on improving your home if you had fixed the crack on time.
Do You Have Foundation Cracks That Need Repair?
You need to find an experienced contractor or company specializing in foundation issues. We have nothing against general contractors; they are often highly knowledgeable about a wide range of repair methods. But you need to work with an expert in this field, especially if you suspect a more severe foundation problem.
Before you sign a contract for any service, you should always verify the company is reputable, insured, and accredited by the Better Business Bureau.