Are Your Foundation Cracks Serious? | 6 Signs You Need Help!

January 18, 2022

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Are you a homeowner asking, are foundation cracks serious? If so, you’re not alone! Foundation cracks are not uncommon as concrete settles and then cracks as it cures over the years.

Minor hairline foundation cracks are typically not serious. However, stairstep cracks or those deep enough to insert a fingernail typically need repairs. Spalling, chipped concrete, mold, and signs of foundation damage also need immediate attention.

Since foundation crack repair gets more extensive and costly to address the longer it’s ignored, you don’t want to put off needed fixes! To ensure your home is in good condition from top to bottom, note some added information about foundation cracks. You can then discuss this information with a repair contractor near you as needed to receive a foundation inspection today.

When Should I Be Concerned About Foundation Cracks? 6 Signs It’s Time for Repairs!

Regular foundation inspections are an excellent investment, as an inspection can note if a crack needs repairs. Inspections can also discern if your home is showing signs of secondary damage, such as structural wood rot or mold. However, a homeowner might note 6 indications that a foundation crack is serious and should be repaired quickly:

  1. Cracks measuring more than 1/8” wide
  2. Cracks that are obviously growing or getting more extensive over time
  3. Stairstep-shaped cracks along a home’s exterior brick walls or chimney stack
  4. More than one vertical crack and especially if these are located close to each other
  5. Interior ceiling cracks that also extend down one wall
  6. Cracks with bowing walls or sagging ceilings

If any of these cracks are damp, this also signals foundation leaks, which also need immediate repairs! Those leaks let in moisture that speeds up foundation damage and also risks wood rot, mold, and mildew under carpeting.

Is It Normal for Foundations to Crack?

While foundation cracks can make any homeowner nervous about needed repairs, not all foundation cracks are serious! Understanding some reasons why foundation concrete might crack can help you better understand when repairs are needed. Let's learn more about whether or not it's normal for foundations to crack. You might also note how to avoid this issue altogether:

  • Concrete continues to cure long after it’s poured, settling and then cracking. These cracks that form during the curing process are typically very minor and nearly invisible!
  • Concrete also expands as it absorbs moisture and shrinks as it dries. Sections then push against each other so that cracks might form.
  • Surrounding soil also expands as it absorbs moisture, putting pressure on the concrete, risking cracks.
  • Excessive backfilling refers to having too much soil piled up against a foundation. This backfilling doesn’t allow water to drain away as it should. Excessive backfilling it not uncommon when homeowners manage their own landscaping projects! You might not realize you’re adding too much soil to the space around a home’s foundation.
  • Frost heave and freeze-thaw cycles in the soil also put added pressure on a foundation, risking cracks and other damage.
  • While overly moist soil puts pressure on a foundation or holds moisture against it, dry soil can also risk damage! A foundation needs strong soil around it for proper support. Overly dry soil allows a foundation to settle, risking cracks.
  • Foundations are built according to the weight of the structure they support. If you’ve added weight to your home without strengthening the foundation, this can risk cracking. Stone floors or counters, a sunroom, and other such features risk excessive weight and foundation damage.

While all these issues can risk foundation cracks, these cracks don’t necessarily indicate a weak foundation needing expensive repairs! A foundation repair contractor can inspect the cracks and your property’s soil conditions. He or she will then note your best option for ensuring the foundation stays strong over the years.

measuring foundation cracks during an inspection

What Kind of Foundation Cracks Are Bad?

All foundation cracks should be patched, to keep them from getting larger and deeper over time. Foundation patching also adds strength to the concrete so that it resists weakening. Note some added information about various foundation crack repair and which need immediate attention:

Vertical cracks

Vertical foundation cracks are not uncommon. These often result from rain putting pressure on the foundation or from new concrete settling as it cures. Inject a polyurethane patch meant for concrete repair into these cracks and then apply waterproof coatings as needed.

If you should notice several vertical cracks in a home’s foundation and if they’re close together, call a repair contractor. This can signal foundation weakening, water damage, or too much weight on the concrete. A repair contractor might suggest carbon fiber straps over the cracks, to keep the walls in place and provide added strength.

Horizontal cracks

While vertical cracks aren’t typically serious, horizontal foundation cracks need immediate attention! These often indicate structural damage and weakening, and should be repaired quickly. If left untreated, foundation walls can bow inward and eventually crumble.

It’s also vital that a homeowner address any issues that caused those vertical cracks to appear. This can include excessive backfilling, poor drainage, or too much weight on the structure. Your foundation repair contractor can offer suggestions for addressing these issues.

Diagonal cracks

Diagonal cracks are not necessarily serious but they should be addressed quickly. These cracks appear when one part of a home settles faster than another, which puts pressure on solid surfaces. If left in disrepair, these cracks can result in structural issues on your property.

Diagonal cracks are often patched with the same compounds used for vertical cracks. However, depending on the amount of settling, a repair contractor might also recommend underpinning. Pins or piers will help support the sunken area of your home, keeping damage from getting worse.

Stairstep cracks

Stairstep cracks might be the most serious of all foundation cracks! These cracks appear for the same reason as diagonal cracks. When one part of a house settles faster than another, mortar between bricks will separate. You’ll then notice cracks, bricks moving out of place, and other such damage.

One reason that stairstep cracks are so serious is that bricks rely on each other for support. Once one brick shifts or the grout between bricks crack, more bricks are likely to shift. To avoid severe structural damage, have a contractor address stairstep cracks at the first sign of damage.

Concrete floor cracks

Most concrete floor cracks are not serious and don’t indicate structural damage! A homeowner should still fill them with concrete patching material, to keep moisture out of the home. However, if those cracks should spread and widen over time, have a foundation contractor inspect them for needed repairs.

Can You Live In a House With a Cracked Foundation?

Rarely does a house with a cracked foundation collapse. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s advisable or even safe to overlook foundation damage and needed repairs! One reason to schedule timely repairs is that a sinking foundation can risk structural damage. If a load-bearing wall or column should crack, this can risk collapsed ceilings or walls, risking injury to anyone in the vicinity.

Bowing basement walls can also eventually crumble. This not only risks injury to those nearby but it also exposes interior spaces to the outdoors! Dirt, mud, and even unwanted pests can then make their way into your home.

Foundation cracks also allow in moisture that encourages unhealthy and damaging mold behind walls, and mildew under carpeting. That moisture also attracts insects and other pests, who use those cracks to get into your home! Those pests can get into your food supplies or burrow into linens and other areas, for a very unhealthy environment.

Homeowners should also remember that foundation damage, including secondary damage such as wall cracks, gets worse over time. Your eventual repairs will then be more expensive the longer you ignore them! Foundation damage can also affect property values and any equity you might have built up over the years.

How Can You Tell If a Crack is Structural?

The best way to tell if a foundation crack repair is structural is by calling a repair contractor for a foundation inspection! He or she can inspect the crack and surrounding concrete and check for signs of a sinking structure that’s out of level.

You might also note that many horizontal wall cracks and stairstep cracks are the most dangerous, and signal structural damage. These cracks tend to appear when a foundation can no longer hold up the weight of a home.

Homeowners should also be mindful of cracks with surrounding dampness, as this indicates foundation leaks. Concrete will absorb that moisture and, in turn, suffer more cracks, chips, spalling, and eventual weakening. That dampness also seeps into a home’s interior, risking mold and wood rot.

Columbia Foundation Repair & Waterproofing is happy to bring this information to you, and we hope it helped answer the question, are foundation cracks serious? If you’re in the market for expert foundation fixes or waterproofing, turn to our experienced, highly trained Columbia foundation repair contractors. We provide durable, reliable repairs you can trust, and we guarantee our work in writing. To find out more or to get started with the foundation and waterproofing services you need to have done, call us today!


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