How to Repair Cracks in Concrete Foundations Walls
Whether you are a homebuyer, a new homeowner, or have lived in your house for many years, there’s something that can make your heart sink and fill you with dread – cracks in your concrete foundation walls.
Concrete is a versatile and durable material, which is why it is used in many home construction projects including the foundation, walls, and below-grade areas. But it is subject to wear, tear, and damage over time.
Your concrete foundation walls can form cracks and other types of damage for several reasons, and not all cracks spell doom for your home. However, it is important to keep a close eye on these fissures and ensure they are fixed so you will never have to worry about them again.
DIY repairs do not address the causes of foundation cracking.
How Are Concrete Foundation Walls Built?
Structures across the country are built with many different types of foundations, but the most common are basements, crawl spaces, and slabs.
Basements are prevalent in the Northeast and Midwest, and these are below-ground areas that most frequently contain concrete foundation walls on which cracks will be visible.
During home construction, a hole large enough to accommodate the foundation is dug in the ground. Concrete is used to pour the concrete footing, foundation walls, and the floor slab. Basement walls will either be built using concrete masonry blocks or poured concrete.
Once the basement is completed, external drainage is added, soil is backfilled around the walls, and the construction of the rest of the house continues.
Concrete Foundation Wall Problem Signs
Concrete cracks because of various external reasons. Let’s walk through the various types of cracks and what could be the culprit. Cracks in foundation walls can take many forms, including:
Vertical – These cracks span from the floor to the ceiling on the foundation wall. In newly built homes, these could be shrinkage cracks between the forms where the concrete was poured. They also could be an indication of foundation settlement or inward movement of the wall.
Horizontal – Cracks can run the length of the wall horizontally and appear parallel to the floor. Commonly found on CMU (concrete masonry unit) walls, these are almost always an indication of inward lateral movement.
Diagonal – These kinds of cracks typically indicate foundation settlement, which seriously compromises the home’s structural integrity. This happens when the moisture levels change under one part of the home and not another. Homes that rest on hills and drought-stricken areas frequently have diagonal cracks.
Stair-step – Cracks that follow a stair-step pattern are common in concrete block or brick walls. They begin at the horizontal crack in the middle of the wall and follow a stair-step pattern up and down to the corners of the wall along the mortar joints.
Shrinkage – These forms of cracks, also known as hairline cracks, occur when a poured concrete foundation cures. They typically crack between the seams in the 4’ concrete pans that were set when the foundation was poured. They are not an indication of foundation problems, but they often leak, and you should not finish your basement before addressing them.
Active – All foundation cracking other than shrinkage cracks indicates active foundation movement. Foundation issues are almost always caused by the soil on the outside of the foundation wall or the soil under the footing. Because the soil conditions are always changing due to moisture levels changing, these problems will never fix themselves.
What Causes Wall Cracks and Other Damage?
There are two types of foundation movement that lead to concrete wall cracks, inward basement wall failure and foundation settlement.
Foundation settlement is caused by the soil that is below the footing. As various weather patterns roll through the country, they impact the level of moisture in the soil.
There are thousands of different soil types across the country, but the basic ingredients of soil everywhere are clay, silt, and sand. Clay, known as an expansive soil, is the most problematic. When clay soil is wet it swells, and when it dries out it shrinks.
If soil shrinks away from the footing or gets too wet, it will cause the home to settle.
Inward basement wall failure is caused by hydrostatic pressure. This is the weight of the backfill soil, the weight of the water in the backfill soil, and frost in the backfill. It is also the source of basement groundwater seepage.
Methods of Repairing Foundation Wall Cracks
Repairing foundation wall cracks is important in ensuring your foundation’s integrity and your home’s safety and longevity. There is a wealth of options you can take advantage of, but only certain solutions will stand the test of time.
Crack Repairs That Do Not Work
The average tenure of a Groundworks company is 26 years, so you can rest assured that we’ve heard and seen it all when it comes to foundation repair.
One of the worst pieces of foundation repair advice our specialists at Ohio Basement Authority have come across is “continue to monitor the crack until something changes.” While it is important to keep an eye on your basement walls and any cracks in them, you shouldn’t let them go too long without having them repaired.
Cracks, particularly active horizontal or stair-step cracks, will only worsen over time, become more dangerous, and cost more to fix in the long run.
Many big box stores offer crack repair options, and the Internet is filled with do-it-yourself tutorials. However, foundation repair, including fixing basement wall cracks, is not a DIY project. Mistakes can happen, and the right solution for your specific wall cracks may not have been appropriately applied.
Temporary basement wall crack solutions include epoxy injections, caulk, patches, sealants, and other “cover ups.” These solutions are temporary bandages that only mask the problem because they do nothing to address the soil that is causing the foundation to crack.
Permanent Crack Repair Solutions
Before fixing your basement wall cracks, having a professional inspection completed is crucial.
The experts from your local Groundworks company will evaluate your home and its foundation to diagnose issues such as cracks and pinpoint their root cause. Once we know what your home is up against, we will recommend permanent repair solutions customized to your home.
Among our various foundations repair solutions, we offer some specifically for cracking basement walls.
Carbon Fiber Straps
Catching foundation wall cracks and bowing early not only goes a long way in saving your foundation, but it allows you to have less intrusive solutions installed. If your basement walls have minor to moderate cracking and inward bowing of less than 2”, low-profile carbon fiber straps can be used to permanently reinforce them.
Used with epoxy resin for firm adherence to the walls, these straps are 10 times stronger than steel. They support the walls in their current positions and protect against any further movement or cracking, but these straps will not actively repair or move the walls back to their original positions.
IntelliBrace™ Wall Braces
Another option for any amount of inward movement, or if you would like to have the opportunity to slowly move the wall back to a straighter position without digging on the outside of the home, your basement walls will benefit from our specialized wall repair beams.
Our IntelliBrace™ Wall Repair System takes standard I-beams to the next level. Static beams cannot move or do anything to repair a wall’s condition, but our braces can be adjusted at intervals to help restore walls to their original positions and help close up cracks and gaps.
We attach the beams to the slab floor with a bracket for support, as well as fasten them to floor joists with a large bolt that we will adjust with special equipment. As the system is tightened, it pushes back against external hydrostatic pressure, slowly restoring the orientation of your foundation wall.
Our third method of permanently stabilizing foundation walls with any amount of inward movement is the Wall Anchor System.
Wall anchors act the same way as our wall braces to neutralize hydrostatic pressure. Earth anchors will be embedded in stable soil 10 feet away from the damaged wall, and a steel rod connects the earth anchors to wall plates inside basement wall.
These interior components can be adjusted with special equipment to help straighten the walls over time.
Additionally, if the foundation is settling, our various piering systems – helical piers, push piers, or slab piers – can be installed underneath the foundation to permanently stabilize it and help lift the settling sections.
Also, after installing these various solutions, our crews will fill wall cracks along the way, but tackling the wall problems at the source is crucial for long-lasting repair.
Repair Foundation Wall Cracks with Expert Help from Groundworks
Foundation wall cracks need to be repaired with the best solutions before they threaten the safety and security of your home and family. Entrusting your foundation repair to your local Groundworks experts is the most effective way to achieve a safe living environment. We know your home is more than just a house, and our teams will take great care of it.
Contact us today to schedule a free inspection and estimate with our knowledgeable and friendly professionals. We’ve got the experience and tools needed to put your home back on solid ground.