So, you've found a crack in your basement wall… now what? Well, the first thing to do is to understand exactly what is happening and whether it presents a danger to your home's foundation and structural integrity.
The thing is, foundation cracks come in many varieties, and any one could be an indicator of a problem with your foundation. If you have horizontal or vertical wall cracks, “stair-step” or diagonal cracks or bulging, buckling or bowing foundation walls, your home could be in need of foundation repair.
What Causes Foundation Wall Cracks
Foundation wall cracks can occur for a variety of reasons, and each type has its own unique solution. Concrete walls can crack as they cure. This is normal and is no cause for alarm. However, foundation walls cracking due to foundation settlement issues or expansive soils may require some repair work.
This article discusses the different types of foundation wall cracks, how to identify them, and the various options for repair.
How to Identify Different Types of Foundation Wall Cracks
Foundation wall cracks vary in severity from a simple cosmetic issue to a major structural problem with your home. However, even serious foundation problems, when addressed early on, can be quickly and permanently fixed. Cracks form in foundation walls for three main reasons:
1) Shrinkage Cracks from Curing Concrete
As concrete cures, it is common for small cracks to appear in foundation walls. These cracks are very common, and they're not a sign of a major foundation problem. Commonly referred to as shrinkage cracks, these types of foundation wall cracks tend to be very small “hairline” cracks that are usually 1/16″ wide or less. They generally occur near the center of a span and maintain a consistent width for the length of the crack.
A word of caution: Don't assume that a crack in your foundation is merely a shrinkage crack. If you see cracks in your foundation walls, monitor them regularly. If the cracks widen enough that you can fit a dime in them, or one end of the crack grows wider than the other, you should call a foundation repair expert right away.
2) Wall Cracks from Foundation Settlement
When the soils underneath your foundation are no longer able to support the weight of your home, the foundation will begin to settle unevenly, and cracks will appear. As vertical cracks form and the wall or corner of the house begins to rotate, you will typically see cracks that are wider at the top or bottom.
Foundation cracks that are caused by settlement are very serious and will only get worse over time as the home continues to move. If you are concerned that your foundation may be cracking due to settlement issues, it's best to address the problem as soon as possible. The longer you wait to make repairs, the worse the damage will get – both for your foundation walls and for the rest of your home. Foundation settlement can cause sticking doors and windows, drywall cracks and uneven floors on the main and upper levels of your home.
3) Wall Cracks, Buckling and Leaning Caused by Expansive Soils
If you have clay soils around your home, they can expand and contract significantly as they become wet. Wet clay soils can expand enough to put literally thousands of pounds of pressure on a foundation wall. This can force the walls inwards, sometimes causing them to buckle and crack. Depending on the situation and the composition of the walls, they may push in at the bottom or tilt in at the top instead of cracking and bowing.
If left unrepaired, this kind of foundation damage can worsen until the wall fails completely or is beyond repair. By addressing the problem of failing walls quickly, repairs can be completed in as little as a day.
How to Repair Foundation Wall Cracks
Whether the problem is expansive soils or unstable soils beneath your foundation, there are a variety of effective solutions that can stabilize your home's foundation permanently. Foundation piering systems are an excellent way to stabilize and potentially lift a foundation that is sinking into poor soils.
Foundation piers are a permanent solution for homes that are experiencing uneven settlement, and they can be installed year-round.
Push Piers stabilize foundations by transferring the weight of heavy structures deep below the foundation, reaching to bedrock or competent soil. Helical Piers are an excellent way to stabilize foundations for lighter structures or in situations where the exact soil conditions are known, so that the installer knows exactly what pressures indicate that they have reached competent soils. Wall anchors, such as our GeoLock™ Wall Anchor System, are ideal for stabilizing and potentially straightening foundation walls that are buckling due to pressure from expansive soils.
Wall anchors use the soils beyond the foundation walls to exert counterpressure on failing foundation walls. This holds the walls in place in the short term, and it allows your contractor to attempt to straighten the walls back to their original position over time.
This solution requires access to the soils beyond your foundation walls. If exterior access is limited or not possible, we recommend installing the PowerBrace™ Wall Repair System as an effective solution.
Beyond Foundation Cracks: Other Signs of Settlement
Crawl spaces can sag when the support beams sink into the soil. They can also sink when mold and rot weaken floor joists and girders, or when too few crawl space support posts are in place to adequately support the structure bearing down from above them. Crawl spaces can also sag if the joists were placed too far apart to begin with.
As crawl spaces sag, the floor above will also sink, pulling on the partition walls attached to it, leading to interior drywall cracks. We can repair sagging crawl spaces with effective support posts.
When the soils underneath slab floors settle or are washed away, the floor itself will begin to sag. Likewise, when the soils underneath a concrete floor expand, the slab will begin to lift upwards. Either way, the movement of concrete floors can lead to cracks along drywall and the floor itself. We can help your repair concrete floors that are sinking or heaving.
Other signs of foundation settlement include:
- Sticking windows
- Sticking doors
- Gapping ceilings
- Bouncy, uneven floors
- Interior wall cracks
Need Help With Foundation Repair?
We are your local experts for all your foundation repair needs in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. We offer warrantied solutions that permanently repair foundation wall cracks. Contact us for a free, no-obligation foundation inspection today! By the time we're done, we'll know exactly what is causing your cracks, exactly what it will take to repair them permanently and exactly how much it will cost.