The sight of cracks on a foundation floor or wall is one of the most unnerving experiences. It immediately sends you into overdrive, questioning why it happened and whether your home is at risk of collapsing. Why do cracks form? And are all cracks harmful? When should you be worried? Read on to find out the answers to these questions and others.
Why Do Foundation Cracks Form?
Every crack in the foundation has a cause. Before you undertake any repairs, it’s important you know what caused the crack in your foundation. If not, you may apply the wrong solution to your foundation problems. Here are the four major causes of cracks:
- Initial settlement – Typical of every newly built home, initial settlement happens gradually and stops after the soil compacts and the foundation reaches a particular depth. Cracks may develop before the house settles on stable soil. The severity of cracks will determine whether cosmetic repairs or structural repairs should be performed.
- Concrete shrinkage – Receding water in the concrete slab forms a membrane between cement particles and aggregate. This causes a tensile force on the surface layers. Cracks resulting from shrinkage tend to meander along the concrete foundation, then taper before stopping. You will likely see cracks overlapping or running parallel.
- Slab leaks – Leaking pipes buried in old concrete foundation slabs can cause soil to contract and expand. Over time, this causes the foundation to bulge and crack.
- Hydrostatic pressure – When the subsurface of a home blocks the natural flow of water after a heavy runoff, the soil gets saturated. The sheer force of the water-laden soil surrounding the basement exerts inward pressure, causing the foundation to crack. The deeper the foundation and the wetter the soil, the higher the risk of structural damage
Cracks in the foundation usually run from the bottom to the top. They will also run through the foundation wall, meaning you should be able to see the crack from the outside and determine their location. Once the contractor knows the exact spot of the crack, they will know where to remove the drywall and fix the crack.
When Should I Worry About Cracks?
Finding a crack in the foundation of your Missouri home shouldn’t stress you out. Cracks are a normal phenomenon. Just about every home has one. The other thing you should know is that not every crack you see is also harmful.
Good examples are basement floor hairline cracks, which affect the looks of the home. Cracks of these type are cosmetic in nature and superficial. As a result, they won’t cause structural problems. These usually start at 90 degrees offset corners and spread across the room.
The only time you should worry is if a crack is wider than four inches. It could be a sign of significant damage to the subfloor, which can result in costly foundation repairs. A quick inspection can tell you about the extent or nature of the damage and what may have caused the crack.
Why Fix Foundation Cracks?
Left unattended, cracks in the foundation can cause a number of problems. The first is water damage, which can ruin your furniture and belongings. Leaks also increase humidity levels, creating the perfect conditions for mold to grow. Exposure to mold spores can trigger respiratory problems and allergies. Cracks also create an opening for pests and insects to enter your home. When they do, they can gnaw or chew your clothing and apparel. Pests can also transmit diseases to your loved ones.
What Are the Options to Fix Foundation Cracks?
When it comes to foundation repairs, there are many paths you can take. The solution your contractor will apply will depend on the extent of the cracks that need to be filled or repaired.
Cosmetic cracks are easier to fix. In most cases, epoxy injection is enough to seal this type of crack. This welds the crack back together and prevents water from seeping through it. Once the epoxy dries, the area can be painted to resemble the rest of your basement.
If the crack is a result of a structural issue, other repair techniques will be used to fix the problem and stabilize your home. Your contractor may use one or more of the following solutions to protect your home:
- IntelliBrace™ System
- Helical Piers
- Push Piers
- Slab Pier systems
- Carbon Fiber Wall Reinforcement System
- Wall Anchors
Fixing cracks in the foundation on time can mean the difference between a simple repair and a costly foundation replacement. If you notice zig-zag shaped cracks in your foundation or the exterior of your home, call your local contractor and schedule a free foundation cracks inspection today.