Why Do Foundations Crack?
Have you noticed cracks in your foundation? This is not an uncommon occurrence. Is it serious? That’s hard to know. Some foundation cracks are not a big deal, while others indicate very serious issues for your home’s structure. Understanding why foundations crack is a good first step in understanding what’s going on with yours.
- Stress can cause a crack in a basement wall. If you must install sewer, electric, or gas lines in the wall, the concrete will be weakened and may crack. Often, the corners of basement windows are also places where cracks form.
- Soil that’s too wet or too dry can lead to foundation cracks. If your soil is saturated with water, it can cause the footings of your foundation to settle, which leads to cracks. This kind of saturation can also cause the dirt around your foundation to expand and put too much pressure on your basement walls, which can also cause cracks. Oversaturation can be caused by improper drainage, plumbing leaks and gutters that aren’t working correctly. On the other end of the spectrum, ground that is too dry can shrink and cause the foundation walls to shift and settle, leading to cracks. This often happens when trees and other plants pull too much water out of the soil.
- The soil around your foundation can crack the foundation. Especially if the soil has a high clay content, it can expand, heave, or lift, causing cracks in the foundation.
- The pouring of the foundation itself can cause cracks. If the foundation isn’t poured all at once, it can end up in two pieces, which can cause it to shift and crack. If the soil isn’t properly compacted before the foundation is laid, that can also cause cracks. The foundation may dry improperly, perhaps due to high humidity or improper choice of aggregate or concrete mixing. Sometimes, the foundation is not properly engineered for the type of soil around it or the load it’s carrying. The weight placed on the foundation is also a concern if you add on to the house.
- Sometimes, foundations just settle. As they age, they can settle, resulting in cracks. If the foundation rotates slightly or is shifted by freezing and thawing, it can develop cracks.
So, when should a crack worry you? Hairline cracks and cracks that seem to have stabilized aren’t usually a big deal. It’s smart to keep an eye on them, though, by taking photos and measuring them every six to twelve months. That way, you can see if they’re subtly changing, growing, and becoming more problematic. Vertical cracks aren’t usually a major problem, either. They’re caused by normal settlement and can be seen even in new houses after a few years. Horizontal cracks are more of a concern because they can cause the foundation walls to bow inward. Horizontal cracks are often the result of poor drainage around the house. Without repair, they can result in serious structural damage to the house. You might also see diagonal or stair step cracks, especially if your house is built on a hill. These are typically the result of uneven settling.
Sometimes the cracks aren’t the first thing you notice. It could be that your roof is sagging or wavy, or your chimney is leaning away from the house. Your doors and windows might not open and close properly, or your floors may be sloped or not level. You might also see cracks in places other than the foundation, like in your brick siding or stucco, on your floor tiles, or in the concrete slab or garage floor. If you notice any cracks that are large enough for you to fit the edge of a dime into them, start monitoring those cracks. If rainwater is seeping into your basement or crawlspace, cracks need to be fixed. Then, too, if the cracks appear to be growing, call in a professional Walls bowing inward, bricks or blocks pushed in or out from the wall are also causes of concern that should prompt you to have professional foundation repair completed.
If you’ve noticed cracks in your foundation, Budget Waterproofing can help. In addition to waterproofing, mold remediation, mold cleaning, and crawl space encapsulation, we provide foundation repair, going beyond patching cracks to find the source of the problem. At Budget Waterproofing, we’ve got more than 55 years of experience servicing both commercial and residential customers throughout Maryland. We’re proud of our craftsmanship and confident in our skills, and all our technicians are fully licensed and insured. Whether you need foundation repair, basement waterproofing, a drainage system, crawl space waterproofing, or egress window installation, we’ve got you covered, with the experience and skills necessary to improve your basement and protect your family. For more information, contact us today.