When To Worry About Cracks in Foundation

Here is how to know when to worry about cracks in your foundation.

Worrying about foundation cracks is a universal problem faced throughout the world and cannot be overemphasized as cracks will not go away magically.

They worsen over time and get bigger slowly that you might not notice in time. If you don’t pay close attention and if not properly and immediately tackled, could lead to hazardous consequences.

You might be tempted to let them be and forget, but, when you do so, there might be a possibility of the whole foundation wall failing and posing a high risk of expensive repairs resulting from damages you would have avoided initially.

When To Be Concerned About Foundation Cracks

Foundation cracks don’t get better with time and as such, the cost implication when trying to fix it doesn’t get cheaper either. So the earlier they are discovered and fixed, the better.

You might ask if worrying about foundation cracks is normal, well, you’re not wrong asking.

However, the answer to that isn’t as simple as a ‘’yes’’ or ‘’no’’ and depends to a large extent on the type of foundation you have, is it poured concrete or block?

Cracking is considered a common problem in real-life conditions, more so, it is very rare to find a crack-free structure in real-world situations.

Cracks in a foundation are possible even at an early age depending on the composition mix, level of environmental exposure, temperature difference, rate of hydration, and conditions for curing.

Understanding the Cracks in Foundation

Generally, there are two categories of cracks; structural cracks and non-structural cracks

  • Structural Cracks

This type of crack is caused due to errors in the design and overloading of components of the structure.

Structural cracks might pose difficulty when trying to resolve thereby endangering the stability of the building.

  • Non-Structural Cracks

This type of crack is generally a result of interior forces developed in the building due to condensation, moisture variation, and temperature changes.

This type of crack varies in width ranging from a thin hair crack that can be barely seen, thereby causing negligence, to a gaping crack.

These types of cracks are classified into thin cracks, medium cracks, and wide cracks.

When Foundation Cracks Become Problematic

As mentioned above, not all cracks signal trouble. Some are only basic cracks but such could worsen with time when not addressed.

This section points out when to get worried about foundation cracks appearing.

i. Type of Crack Matters

When it comes to foundation cracks, the type of crack is a primary concern. Certain cracks types are considered more serious than others.

Examples include horizontal and stair-step cracks. There’s also the vertical type of crack.

  • Horizontal Foundation Cracks

Cracks that show up unexpected can be due to many reasons. The horizontal type of crack is one you should take seriously. This could either appear on foundations or elsewhere along with the building.

When this is seen, it’s important to call the attention of a professional to determine the problem and find ways to address such.

  • Stair-Step Foundation Cracks

This is another type of foundation-related crack that could signal trouble. As the name suggests, it takes the form of stair steps and follows the mortar sections of brickwork.

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Several reasons ranging from hot and cold compressions, hydrostatic pressure, etc could cause this type of crack.

  • Vertical Foundation Cracks

Vertical cracks may also be observed on your home’s foundation. This tends to be less severe than the other two mentioned above.

Concrete shrinkage is mostly the reason why these cracks appear. There’s no cause for alarm when these are seen. However, such cracks must be still checked to prevent deterioration.

ii. Be Wary of the Type of Surrounding Vegetation

Surrounding vegetation also plays a pivotal role in determining whether or not cracks show up on your foundation.

Sapling trees are the most notorious for causing such. It’s important to inspect the trees around the structure. If there are any deep-rooted species, they should be removed.

You may want to go for tree species that aren’t deep-rooted. Such varieties won’t harm your structure as deep-rooted species would.

What Causes Cracks in Foundation

Before we get into specifics on the severity of cracks, it’s necessary to first take a look at the likely causes of such cracks.

These could arise due to several conditions ranging from construction issues, concrete shrinkage, ground instability, and moisture & water infiltration.

Soil pressure and settlement are other likely causes of foundation cracks. Any, or a combination of these factors could easily lead to cracks appearing on foundations.

It is however pertinent to know some of the causes of cracks in the foundation, and when to worry. You might want to know some of the causes of foundation cracks and how you can prevent them, right?

So, if your answer is yes, then here, you might want to consider the following;

  • Construction Issues

When building constructions aren’t handled by professionals, resulting in issues such as foundational cracks are bound to occur.

For example, the fill soil used could be loose, or the foundation footings may not be up to size. Cracks could also appear due to insufficient reinforcements.

  • Moisture & Water Infiltration

Water getting absorbed into the foundation is likely to result in cracks especially when weather conditions are harsh. Freeze-thaw cycles occur due to such and could cause cracks in your home’s foundation.

  • Shrinkage

You notice that when moisture is absorbed from the atmosphere, it expands building materials and tends to shrink when they dry. This is usually experienced when excess water is used during the concrete mixture.

To prevent shrinkages from occurring, you might want to opt to use a minimum quantity of water in mixing cement concrete.

  • Ground Instability

Ground instability is another likely reason why you’re seeing cracks appearing on your foundation. Natural ground movements might be slow but still play a role in affecting foundations.

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The only way to address this geological problem is by providing reinforcements to your foundation.

  • Quantity of Cement

A general rule often used is that the richer the concrete cement mixer, the greater the shrinkage or drying will be.

But, on the contrary, the more the quantity of cement used, the greater the chances of cracks it poses.

You might be wondering how to prevent the chances of cracks in the foundation? Simple, avoid using an excessive quantity of cement when mixing for concrete cement.

  • Earthquakes

Earthquakes are a natural phenomenon, which happens abruptly or as a result of certain geological events.

However, a sudden shift in the lower layer of the earth may result in a crack in the foundation.

You might be wondering to ask since we don’t plan for earthquakes, they happen naturally, so, how can you possibly prevent them?

Don’t stress too much, you only need to construct the foundation of the building on firm ground, the connecting beams at the foundation level, door level, and roof level should be tied up properly.

  • The Surrounding Vegetation

Your surrounding vegetation plays a pivotal role in determining the level of foundation cracks.

Deep-rooted and fast-growing trees connecting under the foundation are obvious reasons for cracks, these cracks occur in the soil due to condensation contained by the tree roots.

How can you prevent such you might ask? Well if you notice the sight of any sapling tree around, remove it immediately and do not grow deep-rooted trees close to the building.

  • Settlement

Settlement is a common occurrence that could cause cracks in foundations. Such compression could be due to expansive soils. As the soil compresses or settles, your structure adjusts.

Such adjustments could lead to cracks developing.

  • Poor Construction Practices

Due to carelessness, greed, ignorance, or share negligence, we often tend to experience the lack of good construction practices by our construction workers.

It is however important for the construction workers to ensure a good quality service delivery.

How do you prevent such, you might ask? Here, you should ensure adequate and proper monitoring of construction workers and ensure good quality of materials to be used for construction.

  • Thermal Movement

Generally, you observe that most building materials expand when they are warm or heated up, and when they are cold they contract.

The expansion and contraction are a result of temperature changes and thus, one of the leading causes of cracks in walls and foundations.

To prevent this, planned joints should be constructed carefully, that is slip joints, control joints, construction joints, and expansion joints during the construction period.

  • Chemical Reaction

The materials used in the mixing of the concrete, constitute the cause of cracks in the foundation or walls of the building, as they contain active ingredients like silica and alkalis, which are also derived from cement hydration, mixtures, or sourced externally.

This interplay of chemicals reacts and results in cracks in the foundation or walls.

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Determining the pH content of the soil is paramount because when the sulfate content in the soil exceeds a certain percentage, or in groundwater, you use a very dense concrete increasing the richness of mix to prevent cracking due to corrosion in reinforcement i.e. don’t use salt water in mixing the concrete.

Usually, you notice cracks in the foundation when there is a large difference in settlement of foundation either due to local variation like supporting soil, a low factor of safety in the design of the foundation, or unequal bearing pressure under different parts of the structure.

Never Leave Foundation Cracks Unattended

You must avoid leaving foundation cracks unattended.

Any severe cracks observed should be fixed within a few weeks of noticing them. This action is aimed at addressing any underlying issues that may be present.

An on-site assessment of the damage performed by a professional will help determine to what extent the damage goes. It also helps with the adoption of appropriate intervention measures.

Now, one of the common questions often asked by homeowners is how to go about the process. It’s important not to repair yourself.

Never Fix a Cracked Foundation Yourself

DIY fixing of cracked foundation might seem like a good way to reduce cost.

However, the truth is; you shouldn’t adopt such an approach. Foundation cracks are quite serious and require the input of professionals to assess and determine how to go about fixing the problem.

There are lots of things that could go wrong when you adopt the DIY approach. A simple foundation crack could steadily deteriorate into something more serious when a situation isn’t properly handled.

To gain further insight into the type of problem you’re faced with, it’s important to ask certain questions.

Vital Questions to Ask a Contractor

After calling a professional, you do well to ask the contractor the timing (when the work will be done) of the project as well as knowing whether the contractor’s services are insured.

Is there a warranty? Is such warranty conditional?

Also, what aspects of the job are covered by the warranty provisions?

Knowing when to worry about cracks in the foundation helps you take drastic steps in resolving the problem. We’ve seen the many different scenarios where a foundation cracks signals danger.

More importantly, fixing a foundation crack problem should only be done by experienced professionals.

Conclusion

It’s quite common to find cracks developing on structural foundations. These happen for several reasons and vary by severity and type. Of more concern is the extent to which such cracks develop.

In other words, cracks become a major worry when they progress beyond a certain point.

This article explains the extent to which cracks would signal a major structural defect. If you’ve recently observed a crack on your home’s foundation, its severity will be determined by how large it is or how widespread it is.

Sometimes, your visual assessment might not be enough to know the extent of the problem.

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