How to Fix Foundation Problems Early: Basement Cracks
If you have a basement, it’s important to keep it healthy. One of the ways you can consider whether your basement is healthy is by looking for basement cracks. These types of cracks come in many shapes and sizes, but they’re all problems and you should handle them as such.
The reason it’s important to find these cracks early is that they can be indicative of a deeper problem. For the most part, these cracks occur due to foundation settlement or hydrostatic pressure. Keep reading to learn more about how you can handle your home’s basement cracks more easily.
What Can You Do to Discover Basement Cracks Early?
The first thing you want to consider is how you can discover these cracks as early as possible. Here are a few of the ways you could find basement cracks early on.
- Know the Warning Signs
Basement cracks typically occur because of foundation settling. This foundation settling doesn’t occur in a vacuum; the cracks are just one of the signs you might see. If you know other warning signs of foundation settling, you’ll be more likely to catch your basement cracks as well. These are a few of the more prominent warning signs you might notice:
The reason you need to look out for these signs is that they typically occur simultaneously with basement cracks. It’s not that drywall cracks cause basement cracks. Rather, they both come from the same root cause. If you notice drywall cracks, there are likely basement cracks just under the surface.
- Utilize a Yearly Expert Inspection
There are some warning signs that only an expert can catch. That’s why they’re the experts, after all; your home’s structure has a lot of small nooks and crannies that can be very difficult to look into. A foundation repair expert knows all about these and can go everywhere in your home, from the roof to the crawl space, to make sure they’ve done a thorough inspection.
It can be tempting not to schedule a yearly inspection because you regularly hear that your home is just fine. When you get a clean bill of health every year, it’s easy to become complacent. However, you must remember the crucial nature of a safe foundation. A yearly inspection can bring to light a variety of concerns that you wouldn’t be able to notice otherwise.
- Inspect the Home Yourself
Even though an expert inspection is important, inspecting your home on your own is just as crucial. The expert can only come every so often, but you live in the home every day. It’s much easier for you to notice when something is different, which can be a huge indicator of a problem an expert may otherwise overlook.
When you do inspections, you won’t be able to go as in-depth as an expert, but you can look for generalized concerns. For example, maybe you want to walk around your home once a month and check to see whether there are any nail pops around the edges of the walls. Even just this small commitment can help you discover problems early on.
How Do Basement Cracks Impact My Home?
Sure, basement cracks are an eyesore. However, did you know they’re a serious problem? Here’s how basement cracks can have an impact on the basement itself and beyond.
Of course, the basement itself will suffer because of basement cracks. The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that basement cracks don’t look great. They’re relatively ugly and can make a basement look poorly maintained. If you’re the type of person who takes a lot of pride in the aesthetic of your home, you might want to fix it just for this aesthetic reason.
However, because basements are underground, it’s also important to recognize that basement cracks can have a crucial impact on its health. Water can seep through these basement cracks, collecting in the basement and causing serious problems. Part of the basement waterproofing process is making sure that there are no cracks in the basement walls.
- General Home Structure
The entire structure will suffer because of basement cracks. For the most part, however, this is less about the cracks themselves and more about the underlying reasons for the cracks. These cracks often occur because of foundation settling or because of hydrostatic and soil pressure outside the basement walls. Those forces can have additional impacts on your home as a whole.
For example, if your basement walls start to shift, the floor joists above them may also shift. That can lead to uneven floors and floor joists that sink in the middle. Foundation shifting can also cause windows and doors to stick as well as other problems with the home’s structure as a whole. In all, you’ll notice problems from your home’s foundation as these cracks make themselves known.
- Structure Outside the Home
Your home’s structure isn’t the only thing that will suffer as these cracks continue to spread across your basement. The entire property can have similar problems because of how basement cracks tend to form. When basement cracks occur because of problems in the soil, those soil problems typically happen across an entire property, not just around the basement.
This means you may notice generalized structural concerns outside your home, including issues with concrete. That may be concrete in your driveway, on various sidewalks, around your pool, and anywhere else you might have poured concrete at some point. This structural problem can become a huge concern as the soil continues to move and shift.
FAQs About Basement Cracks
When you have cracks in your basement, you might wonder whether certain basement cracks inherently have more weight than others. Here’s what you should know about the different types of basement cracks that you might experience.
- Hairline and Settling Cracks
Hairline cracks are one of the very few types of cracks that might not indicate serious basement concerns. A hairline crack is typically a crack that’s small enough for you to not even be able to fit a business card into. Cracks that are this small can indicate shrinking or small amounts of moving, but they typically aren’t a huge problem. However, if you notice water coming through these cracks, you might still want to talk to an expert.
During the first year after the concrete pouring, you’re also at a higher risk for very tiny cracks. This happens as the concrete settles into its eventual final position. This can be normal, but you should still call in an expert if you start to see larger cracks. As with hairline cracks, it’s also important to check for water intrusion, which can cause high indoor humidity.
- Other Cracks
Hairline and settling cracks are two types of basement cracks that might not indicate that there’s a problem. However, all other cracks should be approached with serious caution. They indicate the support beams are inefficient, that the foundation is shifting, or that serious weather problems are damaging your home’s structural integrity. That’s just to name a few possible causes.
With that said, it’s difficult for the average person to tell the difference between minor cracks and serious cracks. You may end up ignoring a clear warning sign thinking it’s a natural result from your slab’s pouring or general wear and tear. That’s why it’s a good idea to call in an expert when you see cracks in your basement wall. No matter how big or small they seem, they can be a problem. An expert will be able to come in and assess the wall to see whether the damage is serious or whether it’s something you can ignore–at least for right now.
It’s important to learn more about what’s causing your basement cracks so you can make sure it doesn’t have an impact on the rest of your home. Cracks are prominent concerns for your home’s air quality, strength, and long-term safety, especially because they can cause more problems throughout the property as a whole.
- Foundation Movement
One of the most common reasons for basement cracks is foundation movement or foundation settling. If the foundation has started to settle for any reason, you might start to have problems with walls, flooring, and even your roof. There are a variety of reasons that your foundation might start to settle, and none of them are good.
The leading cause of this is soil erosion. If you have preexisting risk factors like expansive soils it’s even more likely that you’re going to end up with foundation problems that can include settling, shifting, or tilting. That can all lead to significant cracking in the basement.
- Hydrostatic Pressure
Hydrostatic pressure describes the pressure that water exerts when it’s at rest. Because basements stretch so far underground, hydrostatic pressure tends to be pretty extreme on basement walls. The further down a basement goes, the more intense the hydrostatic pressure will be, especially in areas of the country with a lot of rain or humidity.
It’s important to think about hydrostatic pressure when you’re trying to understand your basement’s potential for concern. This type of pressure can exert a lot of force on the floor and walls. A situation like this can very easily result in serious cracks, tilting, or bowing in your walls and floors.
Many homeowners feel that if they ignore their basement problems, they’ll just go away. You might wonder the same thing about the cracks appearing throughout the lowest level of your home. Could you just ignore them to make them go away? The short answer is no.
- Water Problems
Due to hydrostatic pressure, you’ll almost certainly begin seeing water problems if you don’t address these cracks. When cracks go through the entire basement wall, you’re going to see water leaking through them, regardless of how thick they are. Even the smallest basement cracks can end up causing water or moisture damage.
Water is great at getting through even the tiniest cracks. That means that it’s essential to patch these cracks as early as possible. You’ll avoid problems with condensation, standing water, and high levels of indoor humidity. The returns on fixing these problems early are more than enough to make up for it.
- Future and Current Problems
Nothing good will happen from ignoring basement cracks. The best-case scenario is that the basement cracks will not widen any further. However, they certainly won’t close up. That just means you have to deal with cracks that let in moisture, bugs, or other debris.
In the worst-case scenario, the cracks will begin to grow deeper, wider, and spread across other areas of your basement. In the end, you may find that the walls and floors in the upper layers of your home also begin to bow, or tilt. If you repair the cracks and address the underlying issue, you can then stop the damage from progressing and save on costly repairs in the future.
Plastering over basement cracks tends to come from an idea that basement cracks are just an aesthetic problem. However, the truth couldn’t be more different. If you’re experiencing basement cracks, it’s important to fix the underlying cause.
- Aesthetic Fixes
Sure, plastering over the basement cracks will make it look like less of an eyesore. You can buy plaster in your local hardware store and cover the issue up in an afternoon. However, the underlying damage will just continue underneath the plaster, leading it to chip and fall away in the next few weeks. Worse yet, you may end up hiding other warning signs, so you don’t notice when the cracks get worse or spread to other parts of the home.
If you’re not able to reinforce the walls, the root cause of these basement cracks will escalate in the coming days and months. Fixing the underlying problem will be the only way to avoid that inevitable end result. As a bonus, formal repairs that are conducted by professionals will also clean up the aesthetic damage, while ensuring the walls or floors are better prepared for the future.
- Foundational Fixes
Of course, if the cracks are a result of pure foundational damage or weakening, then you can’t do anything but have them repaired professionally. After all, foundations are made to support several thousands of pounds. If one part is not receiving the support it needs, the entire structure may begin to deteriorate, weaken, and then crumble. If you try to ignore the issue or fix it yourself, you can rob it of even more structural support and end up with a need for a full replacement, not just a repair.
Talk to a Groundworks expert to learn more about how you can fix the foundation of your basement so you can truly fix the basement cracking problems. There are many reasons you might have basement cracks and just as many ways to fix the problem. Schedule an inspection through Groundworks to get a customized solution to your unique problem.
Fix Your Basement Cracks Permanently with an Expert’s Help
It’s not enough to make your basement cracks less annoying to look at. You need to fix whatever’s causing the basement cracks in the first place. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can do on your own. You need an expert’s help if you’re going to uncover the root cause of your home’s basement cracks.
This is exactly why a local foundation repair expert can help you with your basement problems. Whether you have basement cracks or some other problem sign of foundation concerns, contractors in your area can help you understand and fix the problem for good. You can request a free inspection today and start on your journey toward a healthier basement.