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The Ins and Outs of Foundation Cracks

There are several different ways your foundation can crack. Seal a cracked foundation off before investing in any waterproofing solutions.

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Maintaining your foundation can be a difficult task, especially when you live in Virginia. Unfortunately, your foundation can develop weather-related problems without you even noticing. One such problem includes the foundational crack.

What kinds of cracks should you be on the lookout for, and what symptoms give them away? Here, you’ll learn what signs to look for when you suspect a crack and what steps you can take to keep your home in one piece.

Why Is Your Foundation Cracking?

When you’re in the midst of the stress that comes with a cracked foundation, you may find yourself asking, “How did this happen in the first place?!”

Your foundation most frequently cracks because it’s endured a significant amount of environmental stress. As the weather changes, the particles that make up your foundation will grow and shrink. If the weather changes abruptly – as it frequently does in Virginia – your foundation may not be able to react quickly enough. In its attempts to keep up with the physical laws of the planet, it may crack.

That said, there are ways to reduce the amount of stress that your foundation has to endure. Waterproofing your foundation, for example, will prevent water from reaching the materials supporting your home. This means that your foundation will be less likely to undergo snap changes in temperature, as long-term exposure to sitting water will reduce the temperature of your foundation, regardless of how warm it is outdoors.

The Different Types of Foundation Cracks

What are the different kinds of cracks you may find yourself dealing with if you don’t reduce the amount of stress your foundation endures? Most often, you’ll be working with one of the following:

  • Vertical cracks. Vertical cracks most frequently appear in new Virginian homes. Many contractors will use new, or green, wood as the support beams in your home. Unfortunately, this kind of wood hasn’t had enough time to harden, meaning it will be more susceptible to cracking when exposed to Virginian precipitation. If you notice the walls of your crawl space sagging, then you may be dealing with a vertical foundation crack.
  • Horizontal cracks. Comparatively, horizontal cracks tend to appear in foundations made out of concrete or brick. These cracks most often appear when your home has settled. “Settling” describes the process of contracting and expanding described in the previous section. When your foundation simply can’t take the stress anymore, it will crack horizontally to better accommodate the laws of physics.
  • Diagonal cracks. Sometimes, one side of your home will settle more frequently than the other. In these circumstances, you may find yourself contending with a diagonal crack. These cracks tend to be wider on one side than on the other. They’ll frequently stem from the side of your home that floods most frequently.

Do note that you’ll need to fill a crack in your foundation before moving forward with any additional waterproofing solutions.

Signs That Your Foundation May Have Cracked

If your basement is flooding but you can’t find the source of the water, you may be dealing with any of the aforementioned foundation cracks. However, you won’t always be able to spot these cracks without the help of a professional.

If you suspect your foundation is cracked, keep an eye out for the following symptoms. They serve both as signs of more severe leaks and of cracks you can’t normally see:

  • Pest infestations
  • Unpleasant, persistent smells
  • Mold growths
  • A higher electrical or gas bill
  • Standing water and water damage

Three Ways to Prevent Foundation

Cracks So you know what signs to look for and what sorts of cracks you may have to contend with. How, though, can you go about preventing a crack from forming in the first place? There are a few tricks you can employ, including:

  • Watch your trees. While landscaping lends to the beauty and value of your home, certain plants and trees can compromise the structural integrity of your foundation. It’s recommended that you keep trees and plants with broader root systems at least 20 feet away from your home at their planting.
  • Embrace your sprinkler system. It may seem contradictory to tell you to water your lawn if you want to keep water away from your foundation. By consistently watering your lawn, though, you keep the soil particles surrounding your home from shrinking. When your soil is healthy, it can more readily absorb Virginia rains, thereby keeping water away from your foundation.
  • Keep your perimeter clean. Only a few people in the world enjoy outdoor chores like cleaning the gutters. You’re going to need to take on these tasks, though, if you want to keep your foundation in one piece. By cleaning the gutters and keeping water away from the perimeter of your home, you’ll ensure your foundation floods less frequently and thereby is less likely to crack.
  • Waterproof your home. The various waterproofing solutions you have at your disposal will absolutely help you keep your foundation from cracking. By redirecting water away from your foundation, these solutions (French drains, sump pumps, dehumidifiers, vapor barriers, temporary sealants, and more) will lower the amount of stress your foundation must endure. As a result, your foundation will stay healthy for longer.

You don’t have to live in fear of a foundation crack. If you suspect your home’s developed one, or you want to prevent one ahead of time, reach out to your local contractor to learn more about your options.

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