Brick and stone houses may seem tougher than other homes, but the truth is that they have their own set of problems to contend with. Cracked masonry or stair-step cracking in the mortar between bricks is a common sign of foundation movement and settlement in a home. After all, this is generally the weakest point of any wall, so the buildup of hydrostatic pressure, the foundation sinking, or abnormal shifts in the soil will generally take their toll here before anywhere else.
This is why it is so important that you investigate and address cracked bricks and masonry immediately; they could be the first sign of a bigger issue. Investigating and addressing cracks in your brickwork as soon as you notice them is always a good idea because foundational issues do not simply go away on their own. The one thing we can guarantee is that foundation problems left unattended will only get worse.
The Main Causes of Cracked Bricks
Assuming your brickwork has not simply been cracked as a result of accidental damage, there are a few likely causes to consider. These cracks could be caused by a combination of these common issues. This is why it always pays to have an expert to look at your property and foundation when you see a crack.
All homes are subject to hydrostatic pressure of some kind, but if the level of pressure changes suddenly or becomes too strong, this can cause cracks in your property’s foundation, floors, and walls. When cracks in your brickwork and masonry are caused by hydrostatic pressure, there will often be dampness in and around any visible cracks. If there is no dampness on exterior cracked bricks, you should check your basement to see if there is dampness in the coving or on the floor. Hydrostatic pressure buildup can be caused by poor drainage in your foundation, heavy flooding, and rainfall, or even by underground water sources.
Tree Root Incursion
Mature trees have incredibly strong roots that can cause a lot of damage to your property if left unchecked. Invading roots can disrupt your main sewage lines, burst or block pipes, and cause cracks in your foundation and walls. Furthermore, the longer you ignore the issue, the worse the damage will become, and the harder the roots will be to remove.
Most homeowners don’t realize that excessively dry soil can cause a whole plethora of issues for the home. The soil under your home will generally retain some water, even when the weather is dry and warm, but if a drought takes hold in your area, this can quickly change. When a drought drags on, the soil under your home can become increasingly dehydrated, and while this isn’t a huge issue for every home, it can be disastrous for some.
Clay-based soil, for example, is prone to shrinking and cracking when it becomes too dry. If the cracks in the soil under your home become large enough, they can destabilize your home and lead to settlement.
This occurs when the foundation of your home cracks and begins to settle into uneven soil. This not only puts a strain on the rest of your home but can lead to severe problems with dampness once the drought breaks.
Extreme Weather or Natural Disasters
Unsurprisingly, extreme weather conditions (such as gale-force winds or torrential downpours) can affect your home’s stability, as can natural phenomena like earthquakes. If you live in an area that is prone to such events, your home will have been built to be resistant to them. Nonetheless, repeated episodes will take their toll over time and cause cracks in your brickwork and foundation.
If you notice cracked bricks or masonry in your home, there are many potential causes. From shifts in the soil under your foundation to tree root invasion and excess hydrostatic pressure, your foundation and walls deal with a lot. The most likely causes of cracked bricks are:
- Hydrostatic Pressure
Hydrostatic pressure is common to all properties; no matter where you live, your home will have to deal with a certain level of hydrostatic pressure. This pressure against your basement walls, however, can cause them to lean, bow, and crack if it becomes too great. If you have brick walls, cracks are likely to start in the mortar between the bricks, but very strong pressure can cause the bricks themselves to crack, too.
Excessive hydrostatic pressure is generally caused by issues within the soil itself. Poorly compacted backfill soil, for example, is vulnerable to saturation during heavy rainfall while expansive soils like clay and peat are naturally more absorbent, causing them to swell when wet. In both cases, however, the weight of the water in the soil is the cause of the most serious pressure on a property’s walls.
- Excessive Soil Saturation or Dehydration
The soil under a property’s foundation is key to its overall health. If the earth is too wet, it can quickly lose its ability to support a structure; if it is too dry, it can shrink and leave areas of a foundation without support. In either case, this can put disproportionate pressure on particular parts of a home. As a result, walls may begin to crack and bow.
While strong hydrostatic pressure caused by soil saturation forces walls to lean and bow as a result of lateral pressure, excessively dry soil will generally shrink. This retreat leaves sections of a property’s foundation un-supported and can result in settlement, whereby sections of the foundation sink into the void left behind. This puts extra strain on your property’s structure and can lead to cracking bricks.
- Tree Root Invasion
Tree root invasion can be incredibly damaging to a property in several ways, but they are most likely to cause problems for your foundation and sewage lines (which often crack under the strain of invading tree roots). Of course, your basement walls are also in danger from spreading roots because of their subterranean positioning. If you have a particularly large tree near your home, the roots could break through the walls entirely when spreading cracks are ignored.
The signs of tree root invasion can be hard to spot if you do not know what you are looking for. That is unless the roots themselves begin to show through walls and flooring. Of course, it is far better to catch this issue before it becomes so pressing. Look for unexpected bulges in your driveway or paving slabs. These are generally the first signs of tree root incursion.
Cracked brickwork is an unsightly problem, but there are other issues to worry about. After all, it is a sign that your walls are under immense pressure from somewhere!
Any cracks in your walls will let water into your home and lead to issues with humidity and dampness within your property. This increase in the level of humidity in your home can cause many co-occurring issues, such as mold formation and rot in exposed wooden beams and joists. These issues, in turn, lead to further problems.
Rotting wooden support joists, for example, will quickly cause floors to sag as the level of support they receive slowly drops. Mold formation, too, will lead to other issues like musty smells, pest infestations, and even health problems for you and anyone else in the house. If you have respiratory problems (for example, asthma) certain kinds of mold can be very dangerous.
- Bowing or Leaning Walls
Cracks can be a sign of walls that are beginning to bow, but they can also make walls more susceptible to bowing and leaning. As such, these two issues tend to form a vicious cycle when they appear in tandem; walls that are bowing cause cracks to spread and cracks weaken the wall further, making it easier for the process of bowing to accelerate.
As walls begin to bow, lean, or otherwise deviate from their intended placement, they can have a huge impact on your property as a whole. Severely bowed walls, for example, will not offer support to surfaces above them. As a result, you may notice that floors in your home begin to sag or even break away from the walls adjacent to them.
- Uneven Floors
Whether the cracks in your brickwork are a symptom or cause of instability, they are often tied indelibly to bigger issues like uneven or sagging floors and gaps between walls, floors, and ceilings within a property. While these issues can be caused by bowing walls, as described above, they can also stem from foundational instabilities and problems.
A foundation that is being affected by subsidence or settlement, for example, can lead to cracked bricks and uneven flooring. How a floor is affected can even help in the diagnosis of foundation issues. For example, a property that is sinking overall is more likely to see an even or consistent tilt, whereas a property with settlement issues is more likely to see irregular dips in its flooring.
No, there is nothing you can safely do to fix cracked bricks without addressing the underlying causes of instability or excess pressure on the walls in question. Professional repair is required because:
- Identifying All Causes Is Tricky
Understanding all possible causes of cracked brickwork is a tricky undertaking that can require special tools. There is a high risk that you will not be able to identify all contributing factors and causes of the cracks. If you fail to find all causes, you will not be able to provide a full solution and the problems will either continue or escalate and even cause tertiary issues to form.
What’s worse, if you implement a partial fix, you run the risk of covering up the signs of progressively more serious damage from the other contributing factors. As such, you could end up with a far larger repair bill if you try to diagnose the cause of your cracked bricks alone. This is why a professional is best placed to investigate this issue.
- Repairs Require Specialist Skills
Assuming you can identify all of the contributing factors, you will still need to develop and implement an effective and complete solution. Cracked bricks can be caused by straightforward issues, but they are often severe and complex. As such, you will need to consider solutions such as wall anchors, which require special tools and knowledge to install safely.
If you try to implement these repairs alone, you will need to purchase specialist equipment. Aside from the cost of doing this, using this equipment can be tricky and dangerous. If you get it wrong, you could very well damage your home, or injure yourself quite seriously. As such, it is far better to let a professional handle such repairs for you.
- Professional Solutions Are Superior
Structural repair specialists are far better equipped to deal with the ins and outs of diagnosing and repairing the causes of – and co-occurring issues that come with – cracked brickwork. As well as having the necessary training, experience, and skills, they also have access to the best tools and products. This means that you can expect a superior result.
A professional solution will always be longer-lasting and more effective than a DIY approach. This, in the long run, makes professional repairs more cost-effective, because you do not have to pay to address the same issue more than once. Furthermore, experts will have access to solutions and products that are not available over the counter in hardware stores.
Recognizing and Repairing the Problem
Once you notice cracked bricks or walls in your home, you must take the time to understand what is causing them. There is certainly a possibility that the cracks could have been caused by a one-off event rather than an ongoing issue, but it is always better to have it checked out, just to be on the safe side.
Foundation Recovery Systems has an expert team on hand to assess your home for risks and issues. They also are trained to identify and repair extenuating issues that may have arisen following damage to your walls or foundation. It is our aim that you rest easy once we leave, knowing that our professionals have rendered your home safe and stable once more.
Not only this, but we have different solutions to permanently repair cracked bricks, uneven walls, and a sinking foundation. The most common solutions we deploy include.
Wall anchors are made up of three main parts: the plate, the earth anchor, and the connecting rod. They work by bolstering the wall against inward bowing and anchor it to competent soil outside the compromised foundation of your property.
If wall anchors are not suitable for your property, we will instead use the IntelliBrace™ wall repair system. This system uses specialized brackets to stabilize your walls and transfer load away from damaged areas.
Carbon Fiber Wall Reinforcement
We use carbon fiber wall reinforcement where neither wall anchors nor the IntelliBrace™ system is appropriate. Our carbon fiber straps are incredibly flexible upon application, but quickly harden once infused with epoxy resin. This makes them perfect for repairing walls that are cracked or bowing as a result of the pressure from an unstable or damaged foundation.
For help with identifying and fixing these issues once and for all, contact Foundation Recovery Systems today for a free foundation inspection and repair quote.
Why You Can’t Fix This Problem Alone
There are many problems that a skilled DIY enthusiast can tackle themselves, but cracked bricks, walls, or foundations are not something you should take on alone. There are a few things that you can do to repair the visible results of such instability, such as using concrete patches to repair cracks, but it is always better to let professionals inspect your home first.
You Might Fail to Find the True Cause of Your Cracked Bricks
If you do not conduct a proper inspection of your whole home, or if you lack the skills to do so, you likely won’t find out what’s causing the cracks to appear. Alternatively, you may only find one cause. In any case, unless you address all the causes of cracked bricks and walls in your home, the problems will persist.
You Could Only Fix Part of the Problem
Even if you have the skills to attempt to repair the problem, there is always a chance you might not fix every aspect of the issue. This can be more dangerous than not addressing the cause of the cracks at all because the problem may persist for much longer once you feel that you no longer need to pay attention to it.
You Might Make the Problem Worse
The worst possible outcome would be that you make the problem worse by trying to fix it. If, for example, you try to clear debris from a crack to repair it, you could weaken the wall further causing the crack to spread or the wall to collapse.