What Do Those Cracks In My Foundation Really Mean?

Vertical Cracks? Don’t Worry, They’re Normal
An example of a vertical crack in a home's foundation.

Do non-threatening foundation cracks exist?! Yes, they sure do. If your foundation cracks are vertical, then you most likely don’t have anything to worry about. Vertical cracks that are slightly diagonal (within 30 degrees) are not cause for concern. Vertical foundation cracks are very common and can be seen in most households. They can occur due to concrete tension within the first few years of construction. They also form because of rains that create water pressure against the foundation. Fixing vertical foundation cracks is simple. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Mend the crack with an epoxy or polyurethane injection. These materials are lightweight, flexible, and waterproof – and can permanently seal cracks in your foundation.
  2. Protect your foundation from water intrusion to prevent future cracks. If your gutters are clogged, water could be pouring over directly onto your foundation. Also, short downspouts can allow water to pool up around your home. Make sure that your gutters are clear of debris and that your downspouts are extended at least 5ft away from your home. You may have to do some strategic landscaping if your house is on a hill that directs water down onto your foundation.
Diagonal Cracks in Foundations Can Be Worrisome
An example of a diagonal crack in a home's foundation.

Diagonal cracks usually cause more concern than vertical cracks because they indicate differential settlement that can lead to serious structural issues in your home. When parts of your home settle more quickly than others, or sections of your home settle while other sections remain stable, it can cause uneven (or differential) settlement.

If you have noticed diagonal cracks running about 30 to 75 degrees from vertical, it is important to get your foundation looked at. With a differential settlement, the foundation moves in two different directions, causing both vertical and horizontal tension. This creates diagonal foundation cracks. Diagonal cracks are sometimes hairline cracks. Diagonal cracks often occur in homes built on a hill, or homes with rapidly changing soil conditions due to excessive rain or drought. You repair diagonal cracks the same way that you repair vertical ones. However, it takes more material to prevent future movement. Also, with diagonal foundation cracks, it is important to determine where the exact settlement is located so that measures can be taken to prevent settlement there in the future.

Horizontal Cracks: You Don’t Want These
An example of a horizontal crack in a home's foundation.

There are several different types of horizontal foundation cracks and they all indicate dangerous structural problems. When the force of the ground is too much for a basement wall to bear, it bows inward and develops a mid-height horizontal crack. If you have a concrete or block basement foundation, your home is probably prone to this issue. If you have small horizontal cracks on a straight wall that is not bowing yet, it is important to closely monitor those cracks to see if the damage worsens. Be sure to call a foundation repair specialist to inspect your horizontal foundation cracks and implement the proper repairs.

Stair-Step Cracks: These Are Dangerous
An example of a stair-step crack in a home's foundation.

Stair-step cracks are diagonal cracks that occur in concrete block and brick foundations. The crack starts along a joint or near the end of the wall and climbs up or down. Like diagonal cracks, differential settlement causes stair-step cracks.

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