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The Complete Guide to Foundation Cracks (And How To Fix Them)

Do foundation cracks make you nervous?

Cracks in your foundation – whether it be brick, concrete, or masonry – can be daunting.  You might immediately jump to thoughts of expensive repairs, structural damage, and a decrease in the value of your property.

Before you worry, remember that not all foundation cracks are bad.

In fact, most foundation cracks are completely natural and can be easily fixed.

That being said, it is important to know the different types of foundation cracks so that you can properly diagnose your foundation and make the best decision for your home.

Different Types of Settlement

The first step in understanding foundation problems is to know the different types of settlement. Certain types of settlement are more dangerous than others. Foundation settlement can essentially be categorized into two different types:

house-615563_1920Uniform Settlement – this type of settlement happens when each point of the structure sinks into the ground at the same time and with the same capacity. Uniform settlement can occur when all parts of a building rest on the same type of soil. No damage will be done to the structure if the foundation settles uniformly as a whole, but damage can still occur to surrounding drainage systems, attached buildings, and underground utility lines.

Differential Settlement – The opposite of uniform settlement, differential settlement occurs when different points of the structure settle while others remain stable. This is the main cause of dangerous foundation cracks and other structural problems.

If every part of a building is resting on the same type of soil, and if it is uniformly designed in terms of structure and load, differential settlement may not be an issue. However, in most cases, soil types, loads, and structural systems differ throughout a structure. When a building like this settles differentially, it can cause framework issues such as sloping floors, bowing walls, leaning chimneys, and doors and windows that don’t shut all the way.

One of the main issues that occur when a foundation has settled differentially is foundation cracks. Understanding the different types of foundation cracks and what they mean is incredibly important for every homeowner in Virginia Beach & Hampton Roads. Homes in this area are prone to differential settlement cracks, especially properties located near the water.

Vertical Cracks: Don’t Worry, They’re Normal

Non threatening foundation cracks exist?! Yes, they sure do.

If your foundation cracks are vertical, then you most likely don’t have anything to be worry about. Even vertical foundation cracks that are slightly diagonal (within 30 degrees) but still in a straight line should be no 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, but can also form because of heavy rains that create water pressure against the foundation wall.

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: A Little Bit More Worrisome

crack-695010_1920

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 differential settlement, the foundation is moving in two different directions, causing both vertical and horizontal tension. This creates diagonal foundation cracks. Diagonal cracks can sometimes be hairline cracks, or widen at one end and become smaller at the other. Diagonal cracks often occur in some homes that are built on a hill, or homes with rapidly changing soil conditions due to excessive rain or drought.

You can repair diagonal cracks the same way that you would repair vertical ones, but it takes more material to prevent future movement from occurring. 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

There are several different types of horizontal foundation cracks, but unfortunately, they all indicate dangerous structural problems.

wall-1179614_1920When the force of the ground is too much for a basement wall to bear, it will bow inward and develop a mid-height horizontal crack. If you have a concrete or block basement foundation, your home might be prone to this issue.

Other causes of horizontal foundation cracks include: damage from heavy equipment near the wall, frost heave, or excessive backfilling.

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 Can Be Dangerous

cracked-brickworkStair step cracks are essentially diagonal cracks that occur in concrete block and brick foundations. The crack will start along a joint or near the end of the wall and climb up or down the bricks or blocks. Like diagonal cracks, stair step cracks are caused by differential settlement and should be looked at by a professional.

Get A Free Estimate And Inspection

If you are concerned about your foundation cracks, call Atlas Master Companies today. We can come inspect your property and evaluate the needs of your foundation. Our experts have had years of experience dealing with foundation cracks, and will know the exact repairs that need to be done.

We value honesty and integrity in all that we do, and will give you only the repairs that you need for the right price. Give us a call today to get started.

  • AMC911 Foundation & Waterproofing Systems, Foundation Repair & House Leveling, Norfolk, VA

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