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Foundation Cracks: What Is Normal and When to Worry

Foundation Cracks: What Is Normal and When to Worry

Cracks in your home’s foundation can range from benign cosmetic fissures to critical faults threatening your property’s stability and value. Do you know the difference?

This blog offers straightforward advice on identifying various types of foundation cracks, their implications, and the appropriate steps to ensure the safety and preservation of your home’s foundational integrity.

What Are Foundation Cracks?

Foundation cracks are fissures or fractures that develop in the concrete or masonry of a building’s foundation, like in basements, crawlspaces, concrete slabs, wood, and pier & beam foundations. These cracks can occur due to various factors, such as soil movement, settling, temperature changes during changing seasons, or poor construction. While many are harmless, resulting from the natural curing process of concrete, some suggest deeper structural issues. Recognizing the signs of troubling cracks early can save you from costly repairs down the line.

Signs of Foundation Damage

  • Cracks in Walls or Floors
  • Doors and Windows That Don’t Close Properly
  • Uneven or Sloping Floors
  • Gaps Around Window Frames or Exterior Doors
  • Visible Cracks on the Exterior Foundation
  • Water Intrusion in the Basement:
  • Bowing Walls

Types of Foundation Cracks

Horizontal Cracks

1. Horizontal Cracks

Horizontal cracks run parallel to the ground and are often a result of external pressure from soil pushing against the foundation walls. These cracks are considered potentially serious, especially if they show signs of widening over time, indicating a structural threat to the foundation’s integrity.

Action Steps

If you notice horizontal cracks, it’s important to act. Keep an eye out for any changes in the crack’s width—growing cracks are a sign that it might be time to seek further advice. Acting immediately can help keep your home safe.

Stair Step Cracks

2. Stair Step Cracks

Stair step cracks are shaped like staircases and are often found in brick or concrete block foundations. They usually form due to the foundation settling or shifting.

Action Steps

If you see cracks that look like stairs, you may need expert help. A small crack without any crumbling around the edges might just be a surface issue. However, if the space where the bricks or blocks join is falling apart, that’s a bigger problem.

Hairline Cracks

3. Hairline Cracks

Hairline cracks are very thin cracks that you might see running along your foundation. They’re usually caused by small movements in your house’s foundation or changes in temperature. For the most part, these tiny cracks aren’t something to worry about.

Action Steps

If you notice hairline cracks, it’s generally safe to simply monitor their stability, as they often do not impact the foundation’s structure. For aesthetic purposes, you can fill them with epoxy or a sealant.

Vertical Cracks

4. Vertical Cracks

Vertical cracks run in an up-and-down direction and are typically a manifestation of the foundation settling or undergoing shrinkage as it ages. These formations are rather common, particularly in newer constructions that are in the process of stabilizing. Minor, narrow vertical cracks might not mean major issues; they are often simply sealed to prevent water damage.

Action Steps

If you see vertical cracks in your foundation, evaluate their severity. If the crack is wider than 1/4 inch, seek professional evaluation. Pay attention to any active vertical movement because this could represent underlying issues.

Diagonal Cracks

5. Diagonal Cracks

Diagonal cracks, which appear at an angle, often result from differential settlement of the foundation, meaning one part of the structure is sinking more than another.

Action Steps

If you observe diagonal cracks, pinpoint the cause, such as issues with soil or drainage, and consult a professional to determine if structural repairs are necessary.

Shrinkage Cracks

6. Shrinkage Cracks

Shrinkage cracks are small, fine cracks that appear due to the concrete curing and drying process; though they might be ugly, they are generally considered cosmetic issues rather than structural threats.

Action Steps

If you notice shrinkage cracks, it’s typically no immediate concern—they are common. For aesthetic purposes, you can choose to fill them with a sealant or simply leave them as they are.

Foundation Slab Cracks

7. Foundation Slab Cracks

Foundation slab cracks are fractures that appear in slab foundations due to soil movement, temperature changes, or poor construction, with their severity ranging from harmless to serious.

Action Steps

If you discover foundation slab cracks, start by evaluating their size; large or widening cracks require immediate attention. Address underlying issues by considering soil stabilization and ensuring proper drainage around your home’s foundation.

A Word From Virginia Foundation Solutions

Evaluating foundation issues is a nuanced process that often demands expert judgment. Although certain types of cracks may not present immediate concerns, homeowners must learn to differentiate these from more serious structural threats.

At Virginia Foundation Solutions, we are dedicated to helping homeowners in Virginia Beach and beyond maintain the stability and integrity of their homes. With our specialized foundation repair services and strategies like dehumidifiers and waterproofing, we can identify foundation issues early on, distinguishing minor cosmetic cracks from much bigger structural concerns.

Schedule a free inspection for foundation and crawlspace repair, and take the first step towards securing your home’s foundation.

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