Whether wide or narrow, foundation cracks are a nightmare for any homeowner or builder. The problem isn’t just limited to newly built homes in Indianapolis, IN. Even existing homes with a concrete foundation and brick walls aren’t immune from cracks.
Common Types of Foundation Cracks
Generally, there are four types of cracks that can assail your foundation. Some cracks are normal, while others are a cause for worry. Identifying the kind of crack on your walls or foundation can help you determine your next course of action.
Vertical Cracks in the Foundation
Vertical cracks are common and can go straight up or down or slightly diagonal at an angle of 30 degrees. They are usually caused by tension resulting from drying concrete. You shouldn’t have to worry about vertical cracks unless they widen enough to allow a dime through. Repairs are simple and inexpensive. Done right, repairs can hold up for up to 50 years.
Diagonal Cracks in the Foundation
They can manifest as narrow hairline cracks or wider cracks with a tapering end. Diagonal cracks run around from around 30-75 degrees against the vertical of the wall. They’re often caused by differential settlement of the house, which usually occurs when the ground conditions below the foundation changes. It’s a problem that affects both new and old homes. You may notice that one side settles lower than the other, causing the cracks to occur. Since the foundation is moving in two different directions, the cracks will have a characteristic widening of one of the sides. Just like vertical cracks, the solution is usually simple. Injecting epoxy or urethane helps seal the crack and prevent it from worsening in the future. However, foundation piers may be needed to stabilize the walls depending on how much settlement has occurred.
Horizontal Cracks in the Foundation
As the name suggests, horizontal cracks are basically foundation cracks that run sideways. They are very common in poured concrete foundations and block or brick-walled foundations and occur when foundation walls bow. Often, the culprit is external pressure that’s exerted on the walls by the backfilling of either gravel or dirt.
Horizontal cracks are usually the worst. When they occur, they can cause serious structural failure that could result in the collapse of the home, so they should be a real cause for worry. Structural foundation cracks are costly and complex to repair, and as such, they should be left to licensed foundation repair professionals.
What About Step Cracks?
Step cracks are quite similar to diagonal cracks. They are mostly found on the brick or block wall above the foundation. Just like diagonal cracks, step cracks are as a result of settlement. Small cracks in the mortar are normal. They shouldn’t worry you. You can easily repair them by pointing the walls again, a process that involves reinforcing the walls. On the other hand, if the blocks are pushed on the other side, you should call a structural engineer or home inspector to inspect the foundation and basement walls.
What Causes Foundations to Crack?
While the foundation may seem solid, it’s not impregnable. Building codes always factor things that can cause the foundation to shift. Even so, excess force or pressure will eventually cause the concrete to split or crack.
Unless you inspect your foundation, you can't tell with pinpoint accuracy what's caused the cracks in your foundation. However, there are common root problems that are adverse enough to cause your foundation to shift diagonally or horizontally and pull apart. Most of them have to do with soil moisture and quality below the foundation.
- Front yard and backyard flooding
- Soil moisture around the foundation
- Settling soil because of loose-fill dirt and poorly tamped footers
- Short downspouts that are close to the foundation walls.
- Poor soil grading that directs water to the home
- Soil movement or erosion because of heavy rains
Cracks tend to occur in homes built with poured concrete and homes in areas with higher water tables. If you notice cracks in the foundation but aren’t sure whether they're cosmetic or structural, get in touch with a licensed foundation repair company in Indianapolis, IN, before it’s too late. The cost of repair will depend on the nature and severity of the cracks.
Concrete foundations are bound to crack at some point. The sight of cracks could point to serious underlying problems or just be a cosmetic issue that needs some touch-up. Not knowing what caused the cracks can heighten your anxiety. Uneven floors, sticking windows, sagging doors, bowing basement walls and hairline cracks are all telltale signs of foundation problems.
At the first sign of cracks, contact your local contractor and schedule a free foundation crack inspection.