Foundation wall cracks are something that can be devastating to a home. If you’re a homeowner, you’ve probably heard about foundation wall cracks before, and you may have even heard about how foundation wall cracks can be detrimental to your home’s structural stability. However, foundation wall cracks and normal foundation settlement look very similar, which means it can be easy to mistake the two.
The most important thing to remember about foundation wall cracks is that you can certainly manage them if you tackle them early on. However, the longer these cracks are neglected, you run the risk of ending up with serious foundation wall concerns that may even require re-pouring concrete. Here’s what you should know about fixing your foundation wall cracks.
Foundation Wall Cracks in a Nutshell
Knowing a bit more about foundation wall cracks can help you understand why you’re experiencing them and what you can do to avoid problems with them in the future. It’s a good idea to learn a bit more about any foundation problems that you might be experiencing, and foundation wall cracks are no different. Here’s what you need to know.
- The Problem of Foundation Wall Cracks
The main problem with foundation wall cracks is pretty self-explanatory: you’re dealing with cracks in your foundation walls. However, for the most part, this also isn’t the true problem that you’re dealing with. Rather, foundation wall cracks tend to be indicative of an underlying problem that’s causing them.
This underlying cause can be a variety of things. For example, you might have foundation wall cracks because your foundation has started to settle more on one side than the other. It might also be happening because of soil erosion underneath the foundation wall. Regardless of the actual foundation problems you’re experiencing, wall cracks can be a crucial sign.
- Telltale Signs of Current or Future Foundation Wall Cracks
When you have a foundation wall crack, it’s often fairly easy to notice. Foundation wall cracks don’t tend to be very low key. Instead, they’re almost always very obvious, because the foundation wall tends to handle such a significant amount of weight. However, here are some other things to think about when you’re trying to identify either current or future cracks in the foundation walls.
- Horizontal or vertical wall cracks
- Diagonal or stair-step cracks
- Bulging and buckling foundation walls
- The bottom of the wall pushing in
- The top of the wall sliding in
Although not all these things may indicate a current foundation wall issue, they’re all warning signs that indicate your foundation wall is having problems in general. Those problems can easily develop into cracks. Plus, you should always address foundation concerns before they cause serious issues, which is an important thing to remember when you start to notice these concerns.
Different Reasons for Foundation Wall Cracks
Before you can determine what you’ll be able to do so you can fix your foundation wall cracks, you first need to know what’s causing them. Fixing foundation wall cracks requires that you fix the underlying cause, not just the problem that you’re seeing on the surface. Here are three of the most common reasons for foundation wall cracks, including a bit of information about what might work best to fix these problems.
- Concrete Curing
Especially if you’re still in the first year after you’ve poured the concrete in your home, your concrete is still figuring out how it wants to settle in permanently. This process is called “curing,” and it describes the concrete’s journey toward permanent settlement in a stable position. It’s a completely normal process that might not indicate any problems.
As the concrete cures, it will also shrink slightly. These shrinkage cracks don’t necessarily indicate a problem. They’re just a natural part of the concrete curing process. Concrete curing requires slight amounts of shrinking, which means that a “web” of cracks may appear on the surface of the concrete slab itself.
The important thing to remember is that shrinkage cracks are very small, typically less than 1/16” wide. You need to make sure that the crack you’re experiencing is a shrinkage crack and not just a small crack that indicates a deeper problem. If you can fit a dime into the crack, it’s probably big enough that it’s not just from shrinkage.
- Foundation Settlement
A much more dangerous possibility is that of foundation settlement. If the soil underneath your home isn’t strong enough to support the home, it’s going to start to sink. This can occur because the soil never had enough structure to begin with, but it can also happen if you’re starting to experience soil erosion underneath your foundation.
When your foundation settles, it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to settle on all sides at the exact same rate. More likely, you’ll find that one side of the foundation settles more quickly than the other side. This will put a lot of pressure on the foundation walls, which often results in the foundation walls cracking from the strain.
It’s most common to see foundation settlement cracks as stair-step or diagonal cracks. Diagonal cracks may extend from the edges of doors and windows, while stair-step cracks tend to be most common in concrete block or brick walls. When you note these types of cracks, it’s a good idea
to get an expert in so they can let you know whether you’re dealing with a deeper problem.
- Expansive Soils
An expansive soil is one that expands more than other soils might when you expose them to water. Expansive soils tend to include clay in them because clay absorbs water extremely well. That makes it more common in some areas of the country where clay is more of a natural soil material than in other areas of the country.
Because of the weight of water and the pressure that expansive soils often exert, wet clay soils can exert thousands of pounds of pressure on your foundation walls. That can force your walls inward, which often causes the walls to crack. Because water is so good at finding its way inside just about anywhere, those cracks will typically allow water in as well.
If you want to get rid of the problems with these expansive soils, you need to make sure that you’re thinking about all the problems. You might also be able to add stability to the foundation walls. Either way, you have to tackle the baseline problem first.
Your Options for Repairing Foundation Wall Cracks
What can you do to repair foundation wall cracks? Remember, it’s all about fixing the underlying problem. If you only try to fix the symptoms of the problem, your fix definitely won’t work. Here are a few of the most common fixes that may be able to tackle the underlying problem of your foundation walls.
Foundation Pier Systems
A pier system is best if the problem is that your foundation doesn’t have enough support underneath it. The pier system will dig down deep into the earth, allowing your foundation to shift its weight to the bedrock that lies under it. Your options may include push piers and helical piers, two similar options that work best for different homes. An expert will be able to tell you which one will work for you.
Wall Anchor Systems
With a wall anchor system, an expert will dig out around 10 feet from your foundation walls, then bury an anchor in the ground. After drilling a hole in the wall and advancing a galvanized steel rod out to the earth anchor, the expert will attach that anchor to a metal plate inside the basement walls. Over time, they can then tighten the wall anchor system to help push the wall back to its initial position, eventually fixing the foundation wall cracks.
Other Wall Stabilization Options
There are other options that you might be able to invest in that will stabilize your wall permanently. For example, the SettleStop IntelliBrace™ Wall Repair System allows you to stabilize basement walls without requiring access to the soil beyond your foundation walls. For less severely cracking or bowing walls, carbon fiber reinforcements also can be used to hold your wall in its current position. What works best for your home and its repair needs can be discussed with your local foundation repair experts.
Temporary foundation wall fixes are something that some less-reputable companies may suggest. Essentially, they’re trying to earn your business. By promising a fix that won’t fix the problem for good, the company is able to get your money, even though you’ll end up paying more for the fix over time.
- Trying to Hide Drywall Cracks
The concept of painting over your drywall cracks may be something you’re interested in, especially if you think the cracks are only surface level. However, painting over the drywall cracks won’t actually help any of the problems you’re experiencing. At best they might hide the cracks for a short period of time, and at worst, you’re avoiding addressing the real problems.
If the crack is in a brick wall, you might consider adding more mortar on top of the crack. Brick walls tend to crack between the mortar and the brick itself, rather than cracking in the actual brick. Adding mortar to the top of the crack can seem like a great way to cover up the cracks, but it’s actually not. As with painting over the drywall cracks, it’s just going to make it seem like the crack is doing better than it is.
- Removing the Temporary Fixes
With many temporary fixes, especially when you’re adding something on top of the existing wall, you’re creating more work for the future. When you decide to fix the problem for good, you’re going to need to remove those temporary fixes. That typically means the fix will be more work, more time, and more money, which is frustrating for all parties involved.
In general, it’s a bad idea to look for temporary fixes. Sure, they may seem like they’re a better deal, especially because they’re likely going to be less expensive on the surface. However, when you factor in the money, time, and energy you’ll spend removing and replacing those temporary fixes, you’re definitely better off starting with permanent fixes.
Foundation wall cracks are definitely a severe problem that can lead to a variety of long-lasting concerns. However, you can still have issues even if you have cracks in walls that aren’t foundation walls. It’s just the case that cracks in foundation walls will tend to be more harmful than cracks in other walls. Here are some of the ways in which these cracks will differ.
- Severity of the Damage
Cracks in foundation walls tend to be more severe than cracks in other walls. This is partially because the cracks in the foundation walls will often indicate other problems. Foundation walls are supporting the entirety of your home, while other walls are often only supporting a very small section of your home, making them less severe.
It’s also important to remember that foundation wall cracks can sometimes be the reason for the other wall cracks. For example, if you’re seeing cracks along the bottom of walls that aren’t your foundation walls, it may be a problem with your home’s foundation that’s showing up in issues with other walls. Checking for foundation problems can be very helpful in this situation.
- Extent of the Damage
Foundation wall cracks are much more likely to cause expansive amounts of damage when it comes to the distance from the initial crack. Essentially, with a foundation wall crack, it’s significantly more likely that you’ll experience problems in other parts of your home; when you have a crack in a non-foundation wall, the damage is likely only visible in that wall.
Even if the crack is the main problem and it isn’t coming from an underlying cause, foundation wall cracks are much more likely to cause radiating amounts of damage than other walls. That’s because of the way in which the foundation walls work – they bear a lot of weight, which makes it more likely that even a small crack will develop into a serious problem.
Now that you know how dangerous foundation wall cracks can be, you might want to take steps to avoid the wall cracks in the first place. Avoiding foundation wall cracks can be an important element of ensuring that your foundation stays as healthy as possible for a long period of time.
- Always Invest in High-Quality Work
Never spend your money on low-quality fixes for anything in your home, especially foundation repairs. Remember, the foundation is the basis of your entire home. If anything, you want to make sure your home’s foundation has the highest quality of anything so that it can keep your home safe and secure for longer.
In this same vein, it’s a bad idea to try and DIY foundation work. If you take the DIY approach, it’s more likely that you’ll end up with significant problems regarding your foundation as a whole. DIY responses to foundation problems are never a good idea because they’re unlikely to fix the underlying problem. Instead, they’re much more likely to exacerbate the problems.
- Do Regular Inspections
Even if you’re the one doing regular inspections yourself, it’s still a good idea to do those inspections. When you do regular inspections, you can make sure that you’re paying attention to anything that might have changed from the last time you inspected the area. Plus, professional inspections are more likely to catch problems as soon as possible.
When you get inspections from an expert, you’re going to fix your problems more effectively. With an expert’s advice, you’re less likely to end up with serious foundation problems that can require incredibly invasive and difficult procedures to fix the home. Talk to an Innovative Basement Authority expert today to make sure you get the appropriate fix.
Repair Your Foundation Wall Cracks Promptly with Innovative Basement Authority
As you can see, foundation wall cracks can be a problem. However, it’s easy to fix those cracks as long as you address the issue as early as possible. With an expert like Innovative Basement Authority to help, your foundation wall cracks and their source can be repaired the right way the first time around. Whether you’re noticing extensive amounts of foundation wall cracks or you’re just seeing worrying symptoms, you deserve an expert who knows what you need. Request a free inspection and repair estimate from Innovative Basement Authority to find out what might work best for your foundation walls.