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Stairstep Basement Wall Foundation Crack

Cracks as Indicators of Foundation Problems

Looking at foundation cracks alone is not enough to determine the major cause of foundation problems.

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Are Foundation Cracks Accurate Indicators of Foundation Problems?

Trying to figure out what caused the foundation cracks in your Virginia Beach, VA, home by observing cracks alone is no different from diagnosing an illness by merely looking at the symptoms. Both can lead to grossly misleading conclusions. Different types of cracks with different patterns exist. And they all occur because of different things.

So it’s not enough to just look at the crack patterns when inspecting the foundation. You also have to factor in the site’s conditions, building history, and evidence of home shift and damage to recognize foundation defects and to determine whether the cracks are cosmetic or serious.

If you don’t know what hairline cracks are or why they occur, you can easily conclude they’re a serious problem when that may not be the case. Only a thorough inspection of your foundation and home by a professional can reveal what kind of cracks you’re dealing with and their causes.

What Causes Foundation Cracks?

In most cases, water is the #1 culprit. Changes in soil moisture can cause the soil and underlying components to shrink or swell, leading to movements below the foundation. Other reasons that make your home’s foundation susceptible to damage include:

Stairstep Basement Wall Foundation Crack

Foundation Settlement

After some time, the soil beneath your home may cave in from the weight of the structure above. Your foundation may begin to settle unevenly, and in the process, cracks may appear.

Tree Roots

Though they don’t directly cause foundation damage, they can cause changes in soil conditions which can then lead to structural problems.

Plumbing Leaks

Sometimes water leaks from water lines in the home or the sanitary sewer, the drain that channels incoming water away from the home to the city’s service drain. You may not be aware there’s a leak until cracks start popping up. Unless a plumber fixes the leak, your foundation may also start moving.

Clogged Gutters

When gutters are obstructed by debris, they won’t be able to channel water away from your roof to the drainage system below. Water can spill over to the foundation perimeter and seep into your foundation.

Inadequate Ground Preparation

Poorly compacted soil or low-density soil beneath the home can trigger foundation cracks and the problems associated with them. Likewise, the cut and fill method is another cause of settlement problems.

Concrete Shrinkage

As concrete cures, it tends to shrink, causing hairline cracks on the foundation walls. They’re usually 1/16” wide or less. Such cracks are pretty common and are not necessarily a sign of serious underlying problems. Often, they appear toward the center of a span and maintain a consistent width along the length of the crack.

Frost Heaving

When the soil beneath the home freezes and thaws, it can cause heaving and uplifting, which pushes the soil upwards.

Improper Drainage

This is another leading cause of foundation problems. Poor drainage can cause constant moisture concentration, leading to soil settlement and compaction or erosion, removing the soil that holds up the foundation wall. Either way, foundation cracks can form and water could eventually get into your basement.

Substandard Foundation Construction

Low-grade steel or inferior concrete in inadequate amounts also contributes to a weak home foundation and slab movements. Low-quality building materials can make your foundation prone to sinking or settling problems as well.

Warning Signs of Foundation Issues

Most foundation problems in Virginia Beach, VA, manifest physically. Some signs are subtle, while others are visible and obvious. When carrying out foundation repair inspections, look out for the following signs:

  • Cracks in ceiling and walls
  • Creaking floorboards
  • Sloped or uneven floors
  • Leaning or bowing foundation walls
  • Chimney leaning away from the side of the house
  • Cracks in the concrete slab
  • Loose or cracked floor tiles
  • Sagging roof
  • Cracks in brick siding

Taking care of the foundation

As a homeowner, your priority should be to keep water out of the foundation because it’s the major cause of problems. A dry and water-free foundation is both structurally sound and safe. Some of the measures you can take to protect and maintain the foundation of your home include:

  • Inspecting the home interior and exterior, specifically the plumbing system and water lines, for leaks
  • Asking a tree specialist to remove big trees that stand too close to your home
  • Maintaining uniform ground elevation for flower beds around the home at three to four inches below the slab
  • Ensuring the drainage flows away from the foundation perimeter and that there’s no standing water near the foundation wall
  • Maintaining a steady internal temperature to prevent concrete slabs from expanding and contracting
  • Ensuring moisture levels in the soil around your home remain at a constant level
  • Letting the soil settle first before construction begins

Are you worried about cracks that have formed in your foundation? Not sure whether they’re cosmetic or serious? Contact us and schedule a free foundation repair inspection. We’ll assess your foundation and give you a free estimate along with recommendations to fix all the foundation problems we uncover.

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