No one wants to discover cracks in their foundation; however ignoring them if you find them is not the answer. So what causes cracks in foundations and what can you do about them? Let’s look at the top five causes of cracks in foundations and three ways to address and fix them.
Whether it is heavy rains, spring thawing after deep winter snow, or even a plumbing fiasco, too much water can put you in the position of incurring flooded basement cleanup costs. Knowing that it is likely you will have to deal with excess water in your basement at some point is a good reason to invest in waterproofing your foundation.
It’s not good when a boat is sinking. When you have that foreboding or sinking feeling, something’s not good. It’s also not good when the foundation of your home is sinking!
Foundation wall failure typically happens slowly over time, and there are signs that you can see. But only if you know what to look for! Learn how to spot the signs and identify what’s going wrong with your wall before it fails completely.
How Do You Know If Your Foundation Wall is Leaning, Bowed or Bulging?
Fortunately, there are several indicators that can help you identify when your basement foundation wall is compromised. When looking for structural issues, they can present themselves differently depending on the type of inward movement your walls are experiencing.
Here are some of the most common signs of problems with your basement foundation wall:
- Cracks in your walls more than 1/8 inch wide
- Angled cracks from the corners of the wall or across the center
- Unleveled flooring
- Water seepage
- Walls sliding inward at the bottom or leaning in at the top
Distinguishing Between Types of Basement Foundation Inward Movement
Not all foundation damage is the same. If you think you’ve identified the early signs of failure, it can help to distinguish between leaning walls or bulging walls. The difference may not seem important, but it can help with locating the source of the problem and deciding on a solution.
Bulging walls often have horizontal cracks, as the pressure is closer to the center of the wall and will cause it to fold in from the center. You can measure for a bulged wall by using a plumb string attached to the ceiling and measuring the distance of the wall, bottom to top. If the wall measures longer than the plumb line, it indicates a failing wall that is likely to be bulging.
Leaning foundation walls will angle slightly. Most homeowners expect leaning walls to lean in from the top. In some cases, the inward movement comes from the bottom instead. Make sure to look for both.
What Can Cause a Foundation Wall to Fail?
Inadequate drainage is one of the most common ways that foundations suffer damage. As moisture drains into the foundation, it builds up against the side of your home and can cause soil heaving. Hydrostatic pressure is also a typical cause of water leaking into your basement.
You can prevent drainage problems from occurring. In addition to ensuring your home’s grading provides moisture with a path away from your foundation, gutters and spouts that direct water far away from your foundation is important.
If your gutters are damaged or clogged
Causes of Basement Concrete Cracks
The two primary parts of concrete are cement and water. After it’s poured, it cures to become solid. As the concrete dries, it will shrink. The degree of shrinkage is largely affected by temperature. If temperatures drop while your basement cures, that can cause cracks. Likewise, sweltering heat will rapidly dry your concrete – and curing too quickly also causes cracks. Even in perfect conditions, over time, your basement concrete will experience some degree of shrinkage.
While there are some ways to help mitigate shrinkage, such as controlled cracks in specific areas, it’s impossible to prevent them. There are certain areas that are more likely to develop these cracks than others, such as around doors or other sharp corners.
On the bright side, cracks in your basement floor due to shrinkage rarely result in any structural problems. However, they still open the doors for other problems like water or pests. That means they should be repaired and sealed whenever you identify them. While you should consider every crack a potential risk, most cracks under one-eighth of an inch wide aren’t a cause to be concerned.
Another common cause of cracks in basement floors is when the concrete slab begins to settle. Typically, settlement occurs when the
soil beneath your foundation is too unstable to support the weight of your home
Your home’s foundation is one of the most important features and should ideally last a lifetime. In most cases, foundations are built to withstand normal freezing temperatures with only a bit of flaking or cracking to show for it. But when freezing temperatures cause your pipes to leak, over even worse, burst, that’s a game changer – one which can cause permanent damage to your foundation and possibly endanger the structural integrity of your house.
Of course, not all your plumbing is at risk from freezing (unless the house loses significant heat). The pipes which are most likely to cause foundation damage are the ones exposed to the elements, including those:
- Directly exposed to outside temperatures, such as external sinks and washrooms.
- Indirectly exposed to outside temperatures, like those in unprotected crawlspaces under your home.
- Attached to exterior faucets that are not properly turned off during the wintertime.
Prevent Foundation Damage from Frozen Pipes
An ounce of prevention can save you a fortune in foundation repairs.
Fortunately, there are some easy and inexpensive steps you can take to prevent your pipes from freezing. Most of these can be done any time of year, but if you include these steps when winterizing your home, you’ll save the discomfort and panic of trying to do them when the temperatures dips below the comfort zone.
- Shut off all exposed water pipes during the wintertime when you’re not using them. Shut them off tightly, and look for any leakage in the fittings around the faucet handle. Use a wrench to make sure the fittings are snug.
- Seal any leaks around pipes that enter your home to prevent cold air from seeping in. You can find plenty of information about techniques and products from reputable sources online.
- Insulate pipes in crawl space, attics, and outer walls. You can find these products online or at your local home improvement store.
- Make sure your home’s core temperature doesn’t fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit – even when you’re not around. You can also purchase a home monitoring system that sends you an alert when the temperature drops.
Call Team EverDry
You can’t control every situation, but you can call Team EverDry!
Despite your best efforts, sometimes disaster strikes. If you’ve experienced basement flooding and need your foundation fixed, Team EverDry is just a call away. Schedule a free 20-point inspection or give us a call (419) 841-6055 to make this a leak-free, worry-free winter.
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