Although concrete foundations have a lot of pros, one of the primary cons is that they are prone to cracks. This can cause many headaches and make you fear for your home and your family. But all you need is knowledge.
Learning how to prevent cracks, and how to take care of them, can really help your mind rest. Today, we’re going to go over the different types of foundation cracks and how to can take care of each one.
If you are looking for how to repair drywall, then check out this drywall repair guide instead. But if you want to know how to repair concrete and when you need to get help, then continue on for a concrete foundation crack guide.
What Are Foundation Cracks?
Foundation cracks can be found in any concrete foundation, even if it was properly installed in the first place. These types of cracks can be caused by a faulty foundation, but they can also be caused by moisture or shifting.
The cause doesn’t matter if it has already happened, though learning the cause can help prevent the same problem in the future. The important part is taking care of the cracks that you are dealing with today.
Finding out the type of crack you have may not seem important, but you need to know whether to repair them yourself or ask for help. It could be the difference in your home being here ten years from now or not.
Types Of Foundation Cracks
There are many different types of foundation cracks that can be found in basements, crawlspaces, or in your concrete floors. Let’s go over the three primary directions that the cracks face and how they are moving.
The horizontal crack can be serious no matter how large or small it may be. That’s because horizontal cracks are usually caused by a problem with the foundation. As in, the foundation was not installed properly.
Things like earthquakes can also cause these foundation cracks. If you see a horizontal crack in your concrete wall then call a professional immediately because it will need to be looked at for your safety.
If the crack is vertical, there generally isn’t a problem. Vertical cracks are common and won’t put the structural integrity of the home at risk. There are exceptions but if you have a foundation crack, you want it to be vertical.
Vertical cracks can be caused by settling. This doesn’t always happen but it is quite common. Depending on the size of the crack, you can repair it with a concrete repair kit or by adding new mortar.
Diagonal cracks are tricky. It depends on the angle of course, but anything less than say, forty degrees, favoring the vertical side, is usually not dangerous. If they are almost horizontal then treat them like a horizontal crack.
If not, you can repair them just like you would a vertical crack. Repairing small cracks isn’t difficult but if the crack is wider than a credit card, then calling a professional is still your best and safest option.
Specific Types Of Foundation Cracks
Now that we’ve gone over the direction that the foundation crack is going, it’s time to talk about what the crack really looks like. These different cracks require different solutions and some are more serious than others.
Here are the most common types of foundations that are defined by the width and shape rather than the direction they are going. Pay attention to the type of foundation crack you are dealing with.
Hairline cracks, especially if vertical, are usually not a cause for concern. They are easy to repair and are a normal sign of settling. If a very experienced professional pours the concrete, it doesn’t usually happen, however.
But don’t worry if you see them. More often than not, they are safe and won’t cause any problems in the future. You can repair them with concrete repair kits on your own and they may never appear again.
Stairstep cracks are primarily found in CMU walls. So if your basement has CMU walls, then stairstep cracks may develop. They look like stairsteps and appear crawling up the wall following the CMU joints.
Most of the time, you can use joint mortar to repair them. CMU walls are great about this because they don’t usually end up with dangerous cracks. They fall back on themselves, supporting the home even if cracked.
These cracks are called shrinkage cracks because it happens when the initial moisture leaves the concrete. It is caused by too much water in the concrete mix. Because too much water evaporates too quickly afterward.
They are usually very then and look like a spiderweb. They are usually safe and won’t cause problems but it’s a good idea to contact a professional if you notice them. The professional can let you know when they need to be repaired.
Large gaps are usually a sign of an unstable foundation and should be checked immediately. They can’t be repaired on your own without the possibility of the crack widening quickly and, to put it lightly, swallowing your home.
Don’t try to repair gaps alone. You don’t want to use a hairline crack repair technique on a large gap because that’s like putting a bandaid over a broken bone and expecting it to heal. A large crack will not heal on its own.
A sinking crack is not a good sign. Of part of the crack is higher than the other part of the crack or if it appears as an indention, it could be a sign of a serious problem. This could even be a sinkhole growing under your home.
If it is a sinkhole then the problem is more serious than you can imagine. Ensure that your insurance covers sinkholes and contact someone as soon as possible to help you find the right direction to take.
How To Prevent Cracks
Not all cracks are preventable, but there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to make sure you are doing everything you can. Sure, a professional can take care of most cracks, but isn’t preventing them better?
There are ways you can prevent cracks in your foundation every step of the way. From start to finish, here are a few tips that can help you prevent foundations cracks altogether.
Start Things Off Right
Things like too much water in the concrete mix or uneven ground can cause cracks quickly. Improper use of control joints or not enough can also cause problems. That’s why it’s so important that a professional pour your concrete.
Repair At Hairline
It’s always a good idea to get that crack repaired before it is wider than a credit card. If you can fit a credit card in there, it may be too late as it won’t be considered a hairline crack anymore. So repair it as soon as possible.
Try to limit the amount of moisture that is let into your home, especially near concrete. Moisture can cause problems with any type of foundation. This is especially true if the water settles for an extended period of time.
Let Air In
Air can combat moisture and prevent bacteria from growing. So it’s a good idea to let areas ventilate well. Add windows to your basement and make sure crawlspaces aren’t completely closed off outside.
Don’t Add Too Much Pressure
You don’t want to drive a truck into a garage if the concrete poured in there is only made for foot traffic. Use the appropriate concrete for the job and if that ship has sailed, then use the appropriate traffic for the concrete.
Get Everyone On Board
Get everyone in the house on board. It’s important that you have help from friends and family to prevent catastrophes. Let them know the rules and help make new ones in all areas of housekeeping.
Contact An Expert
If you can afford it, contact an expert as soon as you see a problem. This means if there is a hairline crack, call and ask them what to do about it. Because it can save you a lot of money if you take care of things early on.
Making The Decision
Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. So make sure that if you are in doubt as to what kind of crack you are dealing with then call a professional. It’s important to protect your family and your home first and foremost.
You get home warranties and insurance. You buy good security systems. So why wouldn’t you make sure that your foundation is as safe as can be? After all, a stable foundation is the most important part of any home.
Without it, the entire home could collapse. The same can’t be said for a wall or a roof. They are usually separate due to load-bearing walls. But when it comes to the foundation, the entire thing is load-bearing!