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What’s Behind the Ugly Cracks on Your Foundation?

Cracks on the foundation could be due to frost heave, excessive backfilling, settling soil, or other factors.

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Whether vertical or horizontal, cracks in the foundation are unsettling issues. And here is the dilemma: Most homeowners in Indianapolis, IN, can’t tell whether the cracks are structural or cosmetic. Of course, one type has devastating effects while the other is harmless. Repairing a damaged foundation isn’t cheap. You can run up repair bills upwards of several thousand dollars, so you can’t afford to tiptoe around foundation cracks hoping nothing bad will happen. 

But that’s not the point of this article. Our focus is on one thing, and that’s the cause of foundation cracks you’re seeing in your home. 

cracks in your foundation

Causes of Foundation Cracks 

Anyone with an untrained eye can’t tell with certainty what’s causing the cracks in their foundation. Some of the issues are so severe that they can cause the foundation to pull apart or shift. Most of these have to do with poor underlying soil due to excessive moisture content or uneven settlement. 

Hydrostatic pressure. Technically, it’s the water pressure on the soil surrounding the foundation. Concrete foundations are porous, meaning they have tiny holes and passages in their structures that allow water to go through. The foundation concrete is a porous material. Water pressure pushes slowly and steadily into the pores, leading to seepage. As well as causing leaks, the pressure can cause foundation walls to bow or crack. 

Tree roots. Large trees near your home can also damage your home. During dry weather, their roots spread out looking for water. And they can penetrate the soil below your perimeter, sucking moisture and leaving the soil to crumble. 

Poor soil preparation. When footers are tamped poorly or loose-fill dirt is used to level out the foundation, one side will sink under the load above. This is because the builder may not have done enough ground preparation if cracks appear. 

Foundation settlement. When the soil under your home loses water, it’s going to shrink and create gaps. The load above will cause the soil to crumble and your foundation will settle into the gaps underneath. 

Summer heat. Soils give up their moisture in hot summer weather. When they do so, their volumes decrease, and gaps form under the foundation. These gaps cause the concrete to sink, resulting in cracks. 

Frost heave. Extreme cold causes groundwater to freeze and form ice lenses. When the ground starts freezing, it heaves and pushes the foundation up. Conversely, the soil shrinks and forms gaps when the ice lenses thaw. In most cases, the foundation won’t go back to its original position. 

When Are Foundation Cracks Serious? 

Not every crack that appears on your foundation spells doom to your home. However, some are due to serious issues. Typical signs of problematic cracks include: 

  • Exterior or interior walls that are bowed 
  • Stair-step cracks on brick or concrete foundation walls 
  • Outer walls start pulling away from door and window frames 
  • Cracks that go from the top to the bottom of the foundation wall 
  • Cracks that go around a corner 
  • Sagging, uneven floors above the crawl space 
  • Chimney leans away from the structure 

Inspect Cracks Regularly 

It’s easy to fix foundation cracks when you discover them early, which is why you should perform regular checks for cracks and other structural issues. If you come across small cracks, keep an eye on them so they won’t widen and cause problems. Write down the date, location, and a description of the crack. Better still, take a picture and measure the crack’s length and width. Use these as references and note any major changes. 

Simple cracks may just need to be filled with water-resistant epoxy while complex ones will require serious intervention. Where settlement has occurred, the foundation has to be restored first before cracks can be filled. Contractors have various options such as helical piers and push piers, amongst others. 

Foundation cracks will widen and grow worse with time compounding your moisture woes and compromising your home’s structural integrity. The experts at Indiana Foundation Service can help you diagnose cracks and fix them properly. Be sure to schedule a free foundation inspection and repair quote today.