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Homesthetics

Everything You Need To Know About Foundation Damage

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Discovering cracks in your home’s foundation is disconcerting and can hint at extensive damage across and within the structure.

However, diagnosing the type of damage is essential as you’d want to take accurate measures to repair and prevent further occurrences of the same. If you notice carefully, not all cracks look the same.

In fact, some ruptures along the foundation can cause more harm than minor chinks on the surface. Also, the damage itself leaves telltale signs about its cause and contributing factors. Therefore, foundation damage is not only about the apparent imperfections, but also the cause and the physical manifestation of it.

That’s why we have created this dedicated guide to share everything you need to know about foundation damage.

Without further ado, let’s get cracking!

All You Need To Know About Foundation Damage

Different Types Of Foundation Cracks

  1. Horizontal Cracks

Horizontal cracks along the base of your house could imply serious damage. They usually happen due to uneven soil, in combination with hydrostatic water pressure pushing against the foundation wall. Eventually, the foundation starts bending inwards, resulting in water leakage in the basement.

That said, both poured and block foundations can suffer from horizontal cracks. Apart from that, some houses develop horizontal cracks below grade, primarily because of freezing and thawing cycles.

Our Tip. Get in touch with a professional and discuss your repair options, stat. If dealt the right way, horizontal cracks can be permanently fixed, and you can resell your property without losing out on value.

  1. Hairline Cracks

A hairline crack is easily one of the most commonly occurring damages in the foundations of new constructions. Usually, these form within a year, owing to the settling and drying of the freshly installed foundation. Nevertheless, hairline cracks are surface deep and can be repaired cheaply.

Our Tip. If you’ve just moved into your newly purchased home and found hairline cracks on the foundation, call your builder right away. The chances are that your warranty may cover the repairs. Also, make sure to take photos of the crack and keep an eye out for progression.

  1. Stair Step Cracks

Stair-step cracks are usually found in block foundations. In this case, the fissures course along the mortar joints and can severely impact the structural integrity of the basement foundation.

Stair-step cracks are usually caused by two contributing factors:

  • Foundation sinking or settlement in a particular location
  • External moisture-related issues

Our Tip. This may seem like a primitive technique, but if you can insert more than a quarter into the crack, contact a builder for thorough inspection and repairs. Mortar-based hairline cracks may not pose a significant threat, but anything more extensive needs to be looked into ASAP. 

  1. Vertical Cracks

The good news is that vertical cracks do not pose a threat to the foundation’s structural soundness, unlike horizontal rifts. They mostly appear in poured foundations, running across the length of the wall. More often than not, they occur in the basements, and it’s either the natural concrete curing process or the foundation settling that gives way to such imperfections.

Usually, you can sort out these cracks with a specially designed polyurethane or epoxy injection. You can find an affordable kit or purchase a professional one, depending on the wall situation.

Our Tip. If you do not find any moisture and the crack cannot fit a quarter, you can rest easy. So, there’s no immediate threat, and you can monitor the situation and act accordingly.

  1. Shrinkage Crack

Similar to hairline cracks, shrinkage cracks usually affect poured concrete foundations. Simply put, these form when the structure starts to dry out and eventually loses all moisture. More often than not, newly built establishments start developing shrinkage cracks within a year.

However, you need not worry too much, as these fissures do not cause heavy structural damage. That said, shrinkage cracks are real hazards in any area with high amounts of radon gas accidentally leaking into your basement.

Our Tip. If you have found shrinkage cracks in your new home, claim warranty coverage for the repairs. However, if that’s not feasible, you can use an epoxy crack injection to fix the issue.

  1. Diagonal Cracks

Diagonal cracks, like the vertical ones, are, for the most part, harmless. As such, they do not compromise the durability of your foundation. If you notice carefully, these fissures run 30° off vertical.

Furthermore, diagonal cracks are caused by the same factors that contribute to forming the vertical type – foundation wall settlement or natural curing of concrete. The best way to repair them is epoxy crack injections, and you can easily find one within your budget.

Our Tip. If you find a diagonal crack, we suggest taking a photo of the wall. In case it’s a minor hairline slit, you need not worry. However, inspect the situation after 6 months, and call a specialist if the crack has spread or widened.

  1. Foundation Slab Cracks

By now, you already know that poured concrete foundations are prone to forming cracks eventually. However, it’s important to figure out why these slab cracks occurred in the first place. The following are the most common reasons:

  • Concrete Curing

This is undoubtedly the primary cause behind these cracks. Natural drying, curing and settling of the concrete slab lead to surface damage, but more or less, that’s the extent of it.

  • Slab Settlement

If a newly placed foundation slab suffers from settlement issues, it is quite alarming. Generally, poor soil conditions or insufficient soil compaction can lead to sinking. Getting professional help is your best bet in this case.

  • Frost Heave

Crawl space foundations that are laid at or above grade are susceptible to frost heave. During freezing temperatures, water underneath the slab freezes, causing the concrete to warp.

Our Tip. If the cracks seem wider than a hairline, hire an expert to find the best repair options.

  1. Structural Foundation Crack

As evident from the name, these cracks are extremely destructive and can interfere with the structural integrity of an establishment. The most obvious sign of such damage is over 1/4the inch wide horizontal cracks.

Structural cracks typically occur due to movement, and as such, it can be anything causing it, including temperature fluctuations, soil shrinkage, or soil pressure.

Nevertheless, epoxy is a time-tested solution to perfectly repair the crack. Since it was primarily stress induced by movements that resulted in these cracks, epoxy alone may not be enough to deal with the situation.

You need further reinforcement to make things more fool-proof. So, we recommend using carbon fiber countersunk straps or staples to ensure that the crack does not deepen or expand.

Our Tip. If you notice water or moisture seeping through the crack, you must act instantly to curb further damage. In some regions, rapidly changing weather can inflict more water damage, enabling the cracks to grow.

  1. Non-Structural Foundation Crack

Any non-structural crack on the foundation is superficial, meaning it does not weaken the overall construction. However, they may lead to leaks during heavy rainfall or when the snow melts. While it may not interfere with the structure’s durability, water entering your basement is not something you can ignore.

Long story short, water leakage and accumulation can damage walls, floors, and belongings, in addition to promoting the growth of mold and mildew. If the cracks are not looked into, they get worse over time. Basically, if you patch it up or leave it unattended for very long, soon enough, you’ll find more water seeping into your home.

Our Tip. Minor cosmetic cracks on concrete basement walls are quite common, mainly because of the natural curing process. If the rift is about 1 to 2 mm, running vertically or diagonally, the chances are it’s not structural.

  1. Wet Non-Structural Foundation Crack

These fissures form on the foundation when the water evaporates from the concrete. Usually, you can spot these within the first month since the concrete mix is poured. The general rule of thumb here is – the more water content in the concrete, the higher the amount of foundation shrinkage.

Thus, higher shrinkage leads to an increased likelihood of cracks. However, that’s not the only cause, since natural curing can also have the same effect.

For wet foundation cracks that are actively leaking, urethane is the most reliable sealant that can do the trick. For one, it’s flexible and easily injectable. Also, it expands to fill in the gap when it comes in contact with water.

Our Tip. We suggest using a sealant when you find water or moisture seeping inside your home. Call an expert if you don’t feel too sure about using the sealant yourself.

Can Foundation Damage Get Beyond Repair?

In the case of all the above mentioned foundation issues, corrective measures can reinforce the structure and prevent further damage.

Unfortunately, there are some situations where the harm is beyond fixable. Moreover, a foundation is usually considered not worth repairing when the patch-up job cannot do much. Even though it’s pretty uncommon, sometimes when the foundation has buckled over or collapsed, the damage is generally irreversible.

The following are signs that your foundation is suffering from serious issues and may collapse if left unattended.

  • Cracks that start from a point and then change direction
  • Bulging, heavy walls due to excess water pressure
  • Vertical cracks getting wider at the top than the bottom
  • Weak and sloping floors above the foundation
  • Inserting a quarter through a crack

If you have one or more signs of such damage in your property, get professional help right away. In case the walls appear to bulge after a heavy spell or flooding, your foundation may be on the verge of collapse. If it seems that way, it’s best to relocate while experts carry out all possible repairs. In fact, timely intervention can make all the difference.

Final Words

That’s all from us.

We hope we could provide you with all the relevant information on foundation damage. However, we want to stress that sometimes, cosmetic repairs are not enough to solve structural problems.

There could be other underlying issues that can cause the cracks to resurface. Therefore, it’s best to hire an expert who can thoroughly examine the problem and offer a viable, long-lasting solution. After all, you’d want your house to be strong and stable with a long-lasting and crack-free foundation.

On that note, we’d like to take your leave. Till next time, keep the foundation strong!

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