Of the variety of crawl space problems you may have, foundation cracks may be some of the most worrisome. Many people worry about whether all foundation cracks portend disaster, while some people ignore genuinely troubling cracks.
The good news is that you can take foundation cracks seriously without overreacting to cracks that are only surface level. There’s a difference between the types of foundation cracks, and understanding those differences is an important part of making sure you tackle them properly.
Foundation Cracks and Repair in Virginia, Maryland, and DC
Identifying and Understanding Foundation Cracks and Crawl Space Structural Issues
Do These Cracks in the Crawl Space Foundation Look Familiar?
Take a look at these images of various crawl space foundation cracks. They include a variety of types of cracks: stair-step cracks, vertical foundation cracks, and other types of foundation issues. If you’re starting to see cracks that look this significant, you should talk to a JES expert about your options immediately, because an expert can give you the advice you need to fix them.
Foundation Cracks FAQ
Especially if you already have some cracks in your foundation, you probably have a lot of questions. What cracks should I look out for? Are these cracks really that bad? When is it time to get a professional involved? Don’t worry: there are answers to all these questions.
Some people worry about their foundation cracks because they often seem like they came from nowhere. Is there something you’re doing wrong? Are these foundation cracks just supposed to be there?
The good news is, there are reasons for foundation cracks. These are some of the most common reasons:
Poor Drainage and Grading
Your home needs to have an acceptable drainage system. If you don’t have the right drainage system in place — a drainage system that removes water around your foundation and directs it to the appropriate areas — you’re going to have a difficult time with foundation stability as a whole.
These issues can arise from multiple areas. It’s very common for people to have issues with draining after a flood, and that problem may largely arise from issues with the downspouts and associated drainage. If you don’t have proper drainage systems set up throughout your entire home, not only in your basement or crawl space, you’ll tend to have water damage problems.
This water damage can come from natural disasters; hurricanes, for example, can cause a significant amount of rain in a very short period. This often leads to flooding as the ground has a difficult time soaking up the water, and the drains may not be designed for that much water.
There are other types of natural disasters that can cause serious foundation problems as well. For example, earthquakes and tornadoes can lead to serious problems across the entirety of your home. If you’ve recently been through a very significant natural disaster, especially one that caused damage to the upper part of your home, talk to an expert about an inspection to make sure your foundation is okay.
Excess Rain or Drought
Another natural reason for foundation cracks is brought on by issues that aren’t necessarily natural disasters. If you’re experiencing seasons with more rain or more drought than usual, you can end up with excessive house settling. That can seriously impact your foundation, and it’s an important thing to pay attention to.
The problem with this is that it’s usually less easy to recognize. A natural disaster is easy to notice as it causes lots of damage to all parts of your home. However, it’s easy not to recognize excess rain or drought. This is one reason you should have an expert inspect your home’s foundation every so often just to check for problems.
You might think that most water damage comes from natural water outside your home. However, water damage can occur on the inside of the home as well. For example, when plumbing leaks occur they impact the inside of your home as well and can have a direct link to your crawl space.
If you’ve experienced a plumbing leak in the general space of your home, you need to think about whether or not water may have entered your crawl space. Additionally, if you’re having signs of a minor plumbing leak, like low water pressure and higher water bills, but you’re not seeing symptoms, consider looking into your crawl space to see whether there is water in there.
There are many potential reasons for flooding. You may start to notice flooding after a natural disaster, during which water can start to sink into your home. If the area around you is flooding, it’s likely that your crawl space will flood if you have open crawl space vents or other entrances for water.
Flooding in your crawl space can cause all kinds of problems, no matter the reason for the flooding. You need to get the water out, dehumidify the space, and make sure the water can’t come back in again. This can be a tall order, but if you get the right expert to help you with the flooding problems, you can do it.
Something you need to pay attention to is different foundation cracks. That’s because different types of cracks can have different repercussions in your space. If you want to tackle them properly, it’s a good idea to determine which type of cracks you have.
Do you have stair-step cracks? What about vertical foundation cracks? Here’s what to know about the different types.
A stair-step crack is a type of foundation crack that looks like stairs. It typically threads through brickwork; because the bricks are laid out in a stair-step-like pattern, it’s often the pattern that’s easiest for the cracks to form.
However, don’t just write it off as “normal” cracking. Stair-step cracks are a big deal. That’s because they’re a sign your house is settling unevenly. One side is settling more quickly than the other, causing more stress on that side.
This is a serious foundation problem. If you’re seeing stair-step cracks in your crawl space, talk to a JES expert about what you can do to fix it.
These cracks most commonly tend to form between bricks and grouting in a brick wall. However, they can also form in walls that don’t have any grouting and they’re usually less even.
Horizontal cracks form when the foundation can’t stand up against the force of the dirt pressing against it from outside. If you leave these cracks alone without fixing the underlying problem, they’ll turn into bowed walls. Left long enough, the walls could eventually collapse.
Clearly, it’s important to tackle these horizontal cracks as soon as possible. If you’re starting to see horizontal cracking in your walls, talk to a JES expert now for a free inspection so you can start handling the problem.
What if these cracks just go straight up and down? Vertical foundation cracks are typically caused by house settling.
These types of cracks tend to be more of a cause for concern if they’re not just thin, narrow cracks in the center of the wall. If it’s wider at the top or bottom, near the corners of the foundation, or near the soil line of the foundation, it’s very possible that it’s evidence of a serious problem.
If you see these vertical foundation cracks, contact a JES expert to learn more about the problem during a foundation inspection.
These are cracks that are narrower than one-sixteenth of an inch. They’re called “hairline” because they may look like a small hair lying on the surface of the concrete, rather than an actual crack in the foundation.
Of all the different types of cracks, this is the one with the least potential for concern. Of course, you should take it seriously because they can always get bigger.
If you’re only seeing one or two small hairline cracks, especially if they’re forming within the first year after the concrete was poured, it’s likely the cracks come from shrinking concrete. However, if you’re having other foundation problems, it’s still a good idea to talk to a professional about it.
What are your best options when it comes to foundation cracks? If you have cracks in your foundation, you’re going to have to fix them eventually. The thing is, this isn’t a DIY project; it’s something only an expert can really help you with.
If you do have cracks in your foundation, here’s how you must fix them.
Fix the Underlying Problem
One of the reasons foundation cracks aren’t a DIY project is because you must fix what’s going on. You can’t just assume the problem is only surface-level and try to fill it over with grout.
Instead, you need to know what’s causing the problem and fix it. Do you have excess water in your crawl space? Is your crawl space suffering from hydrostatic pressure? Is your home starting to settle, especially more on one end or the other?
The only way for you to know what’s causing the cracks, and therefore how to fix them, is to have an expert look at your foundation and the rest of your crawl space. Talk to JES to schedule your free inspection today.
Encapsulate Your Crawl Space
If moisture is an ongoing problem for your crawl space, you’re probably going to need to pursue encapsulation. That may mean closing open crawl space vents, laying down a vapor barrier, or insulating cold water pipes.
Crawl space encapsulation is an important part of home repair if you have a dirt crawl space. You don’t want moisture in your crawl space because it can have very serious long-term impacts on your family’s health and the health of the space.
Don’t try to do crawl space encapsulation on your own. It’s common for DIY homeowners to try and fix a problem but miss crucial steps that an expert would be able to notice. Instead, discuss your problem with a JES expert who can help.
Maintain Your Foundation
After all this, it’s vitally important that you maintain your foundation’s health. You can put as much work as you want into making a healthy foundation, but it won’t really have a significant impact if you allow the problem to recur.
Instead, you need to take steps to maintain your foundation. That may mean putting a dehumidifier in the space or pursuing additional long-term changes. There are many ways to maintain a crawl space.
Regardless of what you need to do to keep your crawl space healthy, it’s best that you get that information from a professional who knows what they’re doing. Talk to a JES expert today to learn more about what you can do to maintain your foundation.
Let JES Help You with Your Foundation Cracks
Foundation cracks aren’t a problem any homeowner wants to deal with. It can be worrisome to see these cracks pop up in your crawl space foundation. Whether they showcase a very serious structural problem or a cosmetic issue, it’s equally important to handle them with care.
That’s exactly why you should trust JES. At JES, you can get a free crawl space inspection, which will uncover any problems you’re dealing with. Then you can proceed with a personalized plan of action.