Cracks in the Foundation: What You Need to Know

Cracks in foundations can be alarming but most are normal and can be fixed. Learn what causes them and when they need to be addressed.

Cracks in the Foundation: What You Need to Know

Cracks in foundations, whether concrete blocks or bricks, can be alarming. You may start to worry if they are harmless or serious. The good news is that most cracks are quite normal and can be fixed. Foundations crack for many reasons, including unstable soils, drainage and sedimentation.

Cracks can indicate serious structural problems, and others may be negligible. In the United States, approximately 60% of homes are built on soils with some clay content; of these, more than half of the homes will be damaged. Soils with a high clay content can result in a foundation having a seasonal movement of 40 to 60 mm, which is about 2 inches. This movement of the soil is just one reason why foundations crack or fail.

There are a few things that should alert you to the possibility that you are not dealing with just one simple problem. The first is a crack more than a quarter of an inch wide. If you have such a crack, contact a foundation repair contractor immediately. The other sign is the number of cracks in the base.

It's normal to have some cracks, but if you have a lot of cracks that cut along the length or width of the base, it's a bad sign. Most foundation cracks are common in new and older homes. In fact, you may start to see cracks in the foundation of a newly built home in as little as a year. The good news is that small cracks can be successfully repaired. However, you need to know the different types of cracks, what causes them and when they need to be addressed. Structural cracks are caused by foundation movement and, if not promptly repaired, can threaten the structural integrity of a building.

Of the foundation cracks you're likely to encounter, vertical cracks are generally the most common and least serious type of crack you'll encounter. Shrinkage cracks are less likely to require structural monitoring and repair in poured concrete, as they would be expected to continue after initial cure. However, if you have discovered a crack in the base, you may be wondering if all the cracks in the base are the same or if certain cracks should be more of a concern than others. Because of the risks they pose to your home and loved ones, structural cracks should be repaired by a competent foundation repair contractor as soon as possible. The wise owner or buyer should really look at the big picture to determine the severity of foundation cracks. A number of factors can lead to cracks in concrete foundations, so determining the cause is not always clear.

These include wetter concrete mixes initially, poor drainage around your home and seasonal movement of soils. Ultimately, however, any cracks you discover in the foundation of your home should be taken seriously and professionally inspected and repaired so that you can ensure the structural integrity of your home.

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