My Foundation Is Cracking. Do I Need Emergency Repair?
Cracks in the foundation – or anywhere in your house -- can look like a homeowner’s nightmare. But does foundation cracking automatically have to equal urgent repair?
"Not always," goes the short answer. To respond to the question more fully, it’s important to explain the different types of foundation cracking and what they mean to you.
What These 5 Cracks Mean In Terms Of Foundation Repair
- Hairline cracks are less than 1/16“ wide. Usually, small hairline cracks don’t require any action ... yet. Inspect your foundation regularly, though (once a year minimum, more often if you notice some potential problems.). It’s an excellent idea to document any cracks by photographing them.
If a wall crack widens substantially, get it taken care of. The same goes for basement floor slab settlement. And if you’re not sure how serious the foundation cracking is, contact a foundation repair pro for expert advice.
- Crack is causing a foundation leak. Obviously, any crack which is admitting water into your basement is problematic. However, as long as the cracking is not structural and has not worsened appreciably with time, you might be able to seal it up fairly easily, with the help of a polyurethane foam injection. The foam may then be cemented or painted over to make it look less conspicuous.
- Angular crack appears in a brick wall. When a brick wall was installed directly atop a concrete foundation (as was done in many older homes), it may eventually form angular cracks. The reason is very simple: the bricks are expanding in the heat of summer. This is a cosmetic issue, which does not signify a need for foundation repair.
- Vertical crack is wider at one end. If the wider end is at the bottom of the crack, you could well have foundation heave. When the wider end appears toward the top, the most likely cause is your foundation dropping. Both these patterns signal serious trouble. Call for expert inspection and repair urgently.
- Crack forms a “stair-step” shape. When this type of cracking appears in a cement block or brick foundation, it is a warning sign that you should schedule an inspection. And if these cracks are located near the corners of your foundation and/or your masonry starts to crumble, you will need emergency professional repair.
How To Protect Your Foundation Against Cracking
- Keep gutters and downspouts in shape. Clean your gutter system and repair any damage to prevent overflows or leakage. Check that your downspouts are channeling all rain and snowmelt safely away from your foundation.
- Ensure correct soil grading. Make sure that the soil around your home is graded properly so that it drains moisture away from the building’s foundation. Because soil tends to shift and compact over time (especially around a newly built home), grading should be rechecked annually.
- Install and maintain French drains if necessary. French drains (also known as “footing drains”) are an extra protective measure for more effective drainage of groundwater. These drains sometimes clog up or even collapse if not properly maintained, though, so be sure to keep them in good shape.
- Correct overly dry soil conditions around your foundation. Excess damp is not the only factor which causes foundation cracking. Excessively dry soil will be likely to shrink, which will stress the foundation’s concrete enough to develop cracks. (The problem occurs most frequently in regions with fine-particle soils, such as clay.)
In this case, you might need to water the soil to increase its moisture content and avoid major foundation repair. Use a soaker hose and do not spray water directly onto the foundation, but rather on the surrounding soil, one or two feet away.
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