What Causes a Crack in a Foundation Wall?
Have you gone into your crawl space or basement recently and realized you have a cracked foundation? This experience happens to homeowners all the time, and it can be very worrying. You may be wondering how to fix cracks in the foundation, or looking up how to repair foundation wall cracks yourself.
These problems often go much deeper than the surface, and it’s extremely important that you don’t just brush it off as a surface-level issue. You should always treat a cracked foundation as a symptom of a deeper problem.
Fixing cracks in foundation walls starts with learning more about why you’re experiencing those cracks in the first place. After you understand that, you can get in contact with a JES expert, who can professionally repair cracks in the foundation.
Reasons for Foundation Wall Crack Issues
The first thing you should know is that there are nearly endless reasons you may experience a cracked foundation. Determining how to fix a crack in the foundation requires that you understand the actual reason for it, which can be one of many things.
Although there are outlier cases where you can get foundation cracks for seemingly unrelated reasons, these are the most common reasons you’re going to be experiencing foundation wall cracks.
This is a very common reason for cracks. Quite simply, one side of your home may be settling more quickly than the other side, putting more pressure on one end of the wall than the other. The uneven pressure leads the wall to crack.
A settling foundation has many problems past just aesthetic cracks in the wall. Your foundation forms the basis for your home, and it’s very important to maintain your safety when you’re trying to deal with these foundation problems. Only an expert can really help you unravel these problems.
- Hydrostatic Pressure
Don’t be confused by the big words; this just refers to the pressure that water exerts when it’s at rest. If your foundation has a lot of water around it, whether due to flooding, poor drainage or even just naturally wet soil, it’s going to feel the effects of hydrostatic pressure.
When caused by hydrostatic pressure, a crack in the foundation can very easily lead to crawl space and basement moisture, which can seriously damage the inside of your home and even cause health concerns for the people living inside. You have to fix the hydrostatic pressure before you can decide how to repair cracks in foundation walls.
- Clogged Footing Drains
The intention of a footing drain is to keep your basement dry. The drain helps water collect inside a basement and runoff, making it easier to avoid wet basement complaints. However, these drains are notorious for clogging, which of course makes it completely useless.
If you have a clogged footing drain, you may not even know that’s the problem you’re dealing with. However, you will start to see the water building up in your foundation. This can lead to another type of hydrostatic pressure, which can cause the foundation to crack.
- Expansive Soils
“Expansive” soil naturally expands more in rain. All soils expand and contract from rain to a certain extent. However, some types of soils expand much more drastically, which can put significant pressure on your foundation.
It’s important to note that this type of crack simply won’t go away if you try to patch it up. The soil pressure will continue to press on your foundation, causing serious damage over time. The only way to fix it is to contact a JES expert and get advice on how to avoid excessive expansion.
- Poor Drainage
The drainage system around your home needs to work properly. You won’t just deal with muddy waters around your home if it’s not working correctly. You can also deal with serious foundation issues, including a build-up of water.
Essentially, poor drainage creates an unnecessary flooding situation around your home. If drainage doesn’t work or the pipes don’t direct water away from the foundation, you can experience a buildup of hydrostatic pressure that you may be able to stop just by setting up a more efficient drainage scenario.
- Poor Soil Preparation
When the construction team was crafting your home, one of the first steps was soil preparation. The team needs to make sure it’s building on a suitable type of soil and that the soil is packed down around and under the home. That makes sure the soil doesn’t rise during or after the construction process.
What if the construction team didn’t do these things correctly? Unfortunately, you can end up with serious foundation problems. If the soil around your home is starting to expand unnecessarily, it can exert serious pressure on the foundation, leading to wall cracks.
- Poor Concrete Mixing and Preparation
A construction company that’s creating a home needs to mix the concrete before pouring it and letting it set. That means making sure the ratio of mix and water is correct, pouring it on a correctly-prepared surface, letting it set for the right amount of time, and pouring it at the right thickness.
During any of these steps, the company can make some mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes can be very costly. If the company mixed, poured or set the concrete incorrectly, it can have problems holding up to the immense weight set on it every day, leading to basement wall cracks. Alternately, it may also crack if the concrete shrinks too much as it dries.
- Poor Construction
Overall, the construction of the house needs to be solid. Of course, many homes do have solid construction. The thing is, too many companies try to cut corners to make sure the profit margins are as high as possible. If you cut too many corners, you’re going to end up with a poorly crafted home.
For example, a wall that’s bearing too much weight won’t be ready to deal with that weight. Instead, it’ll crack, showcasing the pressure it’s holding. If you wait for too long to deal with it, you could end up having your entire home fall down. That’s why it’s vital to deal with it as soon as possible.
Types of Wall Cracks
When you notice wall cracks in your foundation, you’ll also notice that there are three major wall crack types. These three types of wall cracks all require different types of fixes because they’re usually caused by different things.
You should try your best to determine the types of wall cracks you have. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what a JES expert will be looking for.
- Horizontal Cracks
If you see a horizontal crack in a foundation wall, it means there’s too much pressure happening on the outside of your wall. That pressure can come most commonly from either expansive soils or hydrostatic pressure caused by flooding.
Unfortunately, a horizontal crack in a foundation wall almost always indicates a serious structural problem. That horizontal crack may come along with bowed walls, which can eventually result in an entire wall falling inward.
These cracks require a skilled JES foundation repair expert. The pressure typically requires a more invasive fix, and just trying to bandage over the problem with plaster won’t fix the actual problem you’re having.
- Vertical Cracks
There are a few different reasons for vertical cracks in the foundation. If your foundation is poured concrete, these cracks may be due to shrinkage. This often means the concrete was poured or mixed incorrectly, and as the concrete cured, it pulled in on itself.
Typically, these cracks only show up within about the first year after the foundation was poured, and they’re often only hairline fractures. If you notice that the crack is uneven, it’s coming up many years after you’ve had any work done, or it’s wider than one-sixteenth of an inch, it could instead be a structural problem.
It’s extremely important to get in touch with a JES foundation repair expert if you notice vertical cracks in a brick foundation. Repairing cracks in a concrete block foundation can be a bit easier, but brick or stone definitely shouldn’t have these types of issues.
- Stair Step Cracks
What about stair-step cracks? It’s most common to see these types of cracks in brick walls, as well as concrete block walls. Most commonly, it means that one side of your home is settling more quickly than the other.
When your home is settling on one side more than the other, it wants to crack along the path of least resistance. For brick walls, which use an offset pattern for maximum stability, that path typically runs along a stair-step pattern.
Regardless of where you’re seeing these stair-step cracks, it’s almost certainly a sign of house settling. That can turn into a serious structural problem very quickly. It’s important that you schedule an inspection with a JES foundation repair expert to see whether you’re having these structural problems.
How to Fix a Cracked Foundation Wall
Many people try to figure out how to repair cracks in block basement walls on their own. After all, if you have a crack in something like a piece of furniture, it often just requires an extra coat of paint or a bit of spackle to make sure it looks brand new.
It’s much more difficult to fix a crack in a foundation wall than it is to try and repair furniture. Here are the steps a JES foundation repair expert can help you take.
- Determine the Real Problem
No matter how you look at it, painting over your foundation wall cracks isn’t going to fix things. There’s a problem hiding behind those foundation cracks that you have to address.
If you just try and paint over the current foundation cracks, you’re quickly going to discover that the cracks return again and again. That’s why you need a JES foundation repair expert, who can help you find out what’s actually wrong.
You can’t do a foundation inspection on your own. An expert, however, can look through your foundation and actually determine what’s wrong.
- Craft a Custom Response
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all response when it comes to cracked foundations. You’re not going to be able to figure out how to fix cracks in block basement walls overall, because everyone’s situation is different.
Instead, you need to craft a response that works for your specific situation. That may mean a very small fix or a very expansive fix.
The only person who can help you figure out a custom response for your foundation wall cracks is an expert. You can schedule an inspection with a JES foundation repair expert to learn more.
- Execute the Plan Professionally
The word “professional” here is important. You might be able to save money if you DIY a solution for certain other things, but your DIY expertise, unfortunately, doesn’t extend to home repairs.
You don’t ever want to try and fix something on your own when it could actually connect to a serious foundation issue. That’s something you should always leave to the experts, even if you know a little bit about home repair.
Don’t make the problem worse by trying to fix it on your own. Instead, talk to a JES professional and learn more about the potential fixes that an expert can help you with.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Causes of a Crack in a Foundation Wall
What Do Foundation Cracks Mean?
If you worry that you’re experiencing foundation cracks because of something wrong you did personally, it’s important to remember that foundation cracks can happen through no fault of the homeowner. The formation of cracks in your foundation should spur you to contact a foundation repair expert to learn more about your options.
Why Is My Foundation Wall Cracking?
There are many potential reasons you might be experiencing foundation cracks. These might happen because of hydrostatic pressure, because of foundation sinking, or because of poor foundational structure. No matter the reason for your foundation cracks, it’s important that you tackle the problem as soon as you can.
When Are Cracks in the Foundation a Problem?
Any time the foundation of your house is cracked, you need to get help with the foundation. However, it’s especially important to contact a foundation repair expert if the crack in your foundation wall starts leaking or if it starts widening after seeming stable for a long period of time. This can indicate that there’s a very significant problem happening underneath.
How Do I Fix Cracks in the Foundation?
Fixing foundation cracks isn’t always a simple or clear-cut process. In fact, it can be very complicated, requiring crawl space jacks, push piers, or many other professional tools. Instead of trying to fix this problem yourself, contact a JES expert to schedule your free foundation inspection and start on crafting a fix for your concerns.
Let a JES Expert Help You With Foundation Crack Repair
Repairing cracks in a foundation isn’t as easy as it may seem. That’s because cracks are always indicative of a deeper problem. You’ll almost never see a cracked foundation that doesn’t also have structural problems elsewhere.
Whether you’re currently seeing signs of a structural problem or you’ve only just started to see cracks in your foundation, you want to make sure you’re getting it fixed. Fixing a cracked foundation is an important part of staying safe in your own home. With a free inspection from a JES professional, you can make sure you’re prioritizing safety.