Homeowners who neglect their house’s foundation problems risk facing severe and costly damages to their home.
Several factors can cause foundation problems including earthquakes, bad drainage, poor construction, loose soil, frequent temperature changes, and overly wet or dry soil.
Failing to address any of these issues early-on may lead to costly repairs down the road. For this important reason, you must contact your local foundation repair company as soon as you notice these issues.
Understanding Foundation Cracks
There are several reasons why your home’s foundation may crack. Common reasons include settling, poor drainage, and unstable soils.
The size and type of cracks often indicate the severity of your home’s structural problems. In the U.S., about 60 percent of houses are constructed on clay soil. Out of these, about 60 percent experience foundation issues.
Heavy clay content in soils may cause your home’s foundation to experience seasonal movements. This movement is what often causes foundations to crack.
When to Worry About Cracks in Foundation
There are many things to consider when determining whether a foundation crack is serious or not. For example, you must consider the number, size, and location of the cracks, as well as whether your home has other signs of structural damage.
Generally, older homes have more structural issues, and consequently, need frequent foundation inspections.
Cracks in foundations can cause a myriad of issues. For instance, leaks in the walls of the basement, problems with windows and doors, roof issues, and framing issues. Sometimes, foundation cracks signal that your home has other deeper structural problems.
If you notice any unusual cracks in your home’s foundation, contact a qualified foundation repair company.
Why Foundations Crack or Fail
Foundations crack & fail for many reasons, such as:
- Geotechnical issues
Foundation often develops cracks when exposed to landslide pressures, a sinkhole or an earthquake.
- Frost heaving or uplift
Structural damage can occur in your foundation as the soil beneath your foundation alternates between freezing and thawing.
Lack or insufficient steel reinforcement in the foundation may cause your home’s foundation structure to fail.
- Second story added
Cracks may appear if your home has a second story added and the original footings were not strengthened or designed for a two-story building.
Foundation that is not properly engineered or sized for the type of soils and the loads that it is carrying will experience cracking.
- Poor soil compaction
The foundation may sink and crack if the soil was not properly compacted before digging the footings.
- Foundation rotation
The foundation rotates (that is, leans slightly inwardly or outwardly).
- Plumbing leaks
Foundation failure may happen when leaks in plumbing occur. The moisture, either from sewer lines or water lines, migrates through the foundation causing cracking.
- Drainage issues
One of the more common causes of foundation cracks and damage is poor drainage near a home’s foundation.
- Expansive soils
Heaving or lifting pressures of the soils may crack the foundation found in soils with a clay content, especially a high clay content.
If a foundation settles, cracking may occur, especially if there is a differential settlement.
- Tree roots
Tree roots themselves aren’t the direct cause of foundation damage. The changes in soil conditions, instead, are what cause most of the damage to a home foundation.
Warning Signs of a Foundation Problems
As a homeowner, there are numerous indicators of foundation problems that you may want to familiarize yourself with. Inspecting your home is the best way to look for these signs.
Unsurprisingly, visible cracks in your house’s foundation are obvious signs of foundation issues. However, not all cracks are created equal. Some cracks may be serious while others may just be normal foundation cracks.
When inspecting your home for foundation issues, be on the lookout for the following signs:
- Chimney leaning away from the house
- Bowing or leaning foundation walls
- Cracks in walls and ceilings
- Creaking floors
- Sloped or un-level floors
- Cracks in the concrete slab or garage floor
- Cracked or loose floor tiles
- Sticking or rubbing doors and windows
- Opening or self-closing doors
- Gaps at doors and windows, racked or distorted
- Cracks at door and window corners
- Stucco cracks
- Cracks in brick siding
- Sagging or wavy roof
Inspecting and Evaluating Foundation Cracks
There are many types of foundation cracks that may occur, and it usually signals some type of damage. However, the repair work varies based on the crack’s location, shape, and size, as well as the type of foundation material.
There are three types of foundation cracks. They are as follows:
1. Floor Shrinkage and Settlement Cracks
Installing poured concrete floors can be done in three different ways and each has distinct features and reasons for cracking:
- Slab on grade
When a monolithic slab and the building footers are poured at the same time, this method is preferred. Cracks in slab foundation may be a structural concern and may indicate footing settlement.
- Supported slab
Here, improper reinforcement or significant settling at pour can cause foundation cracks and failure.
In this case, there is a risk of cracking and settlement if the soil is not compacted properly.
Repairs of Floor Shrinkage and Settlement Cracks
This type of crack shouldn’t cause you sleepless nights. You should, however, consider slowing down the rate of cracking. The following are remedial methods available:
- Non-structural cracks that are allowing water infiltration can be sealed with polyurethane foam injection.
- Adding control joints, if not included in the original construction, can reduce the stress of shrinkage.
2. Foundation Wall Settling Cracks
There are three types cracks found in foundation walls:
- Vertical wall cracks
Vertical wall cracks in the foundation often occur shortly after construction. These extend down the entire wall length.
- Diagonal wall cracks
Diagonal wall cracks are a good indication of settlement. These extend nearly the height of the wall.
- Horizontal wall cracks.
Horizontal foundation cracks often show up in concrete block construction. These can be the most serious of cracks.
Repairs of Wall Foundation Settlement Cracks
The type of repairs needed is dictated by ground conditions and material. The foundation will need to be stabilized first. To do this, steel pins are required. The use of pins to stabilize the foundation permits precise leveling control.
Usually, one pin will cost you an anywhere between $1,000 and $1,400.
Where there’s no other support, friction piers or shorter helical screw piers can be used to prevent further settlement.
3. Wall Shrinkage Foundation Cracks
Generally, these types of cracks take the shape of a “V.” Just like a “V,” these are wider at the top and smaller at the bottom. They are common in areas like above doors, under basement windows, and in the center of a long wall where there was no use of control joints.
Shrinkage takes place as concrete cures. Curing of concrete is a chemical reaction and is affected by things like temperature, sun exposure, groundwater, Portland concrete, humidity, and aggregate type.
Depending on the construction type, several factors can cause these cracks to occur at original construction. In block foundation walls, cracks resulting from wall shrinkage are usually identical in width, form at the center of the wall and are caused by variations in temperature and curing.
In poured concrete foundation walls, shrinkage cracks can be caused by omitted or improper steel reinforcement, rapid curing or poor mix.
Repairs of Wall Shrinkage Cracks
In poured or block walls, these types of cracks typically don’t require any structural monitoring or remediation works. In brick walls, cracks may indicate structural or support problems. If there is breakage of the bond courses, caution should be used as there is a high risk of the wall collapsing.
Epoxy, polyurethane foam or other sealants can be used to seal shrinkage cracks.
Maintenance and Prevention
Maintaining your home’s foundation is the key to having a structurally-sound house that’s safe and comfortable.
The following are some of the effective ways of maintaining your home’s foundation.
- Check for leaks inside and around your home
Leaking water can cause adjacent areas of the soil to have inconsistent moisture levels, which will impact your foundation. Check your sewer line, potable water lines, and the plumbing system.
- Maintain a steady temperature inside your home
That means that you shouldn’t let too long a time pass when you don’t heat or cool your home. This will help prevent, or at least reduce, the tendency of the concrete slab to expand and contract.
- Keep the ground elevations of the flower beds around your home 3 to 4 inches below the slab
Doing this keeps the moisture from seeping inside the home or into the wall system.
- Make sure that the trees around your home aren’t causing problems for your foundation
If the trees are too big, check with a specialist.
- Provide drainage away from the foundation perimeter
Ensure that there is no standing water near the foundation wall.
- Maintain a constant level of moisture for the soil surrounding your home
In dry seasons, the soil will shrink. In wet seasons, the soil will swell. This constant expansion and contraction can put immense stress on your home’s foundation. To solve this issue, keep the moisture level steady by watering the soil surrounding your home.
While some foundation cracks aren’t serious, some may indicate deeper structural issues. Contact a competent foundation repair company to get a professional assessment and evaluation.