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Settling Cracks in Foundation: What Causes Them and How to Fix Them

Settling Cracks in Foundation: What Causes Them and How to Fix Them

If you do not fix foundation cracks promptly, your home could face costly damage. There are two types of foundation cracks – structural and non-structural. As the name suggests, structural cracks can pose threats to your home’s structure. On the other hand, non-structural cracks are merely cosmetic.

Settling Cracks in Foundation: What Causes Them and How to Fix Them

Without a general understanding of construction, it’s not always easy to differentiate a structural crack from a non-structural crack. Anytime you see signs of foundation cracks, you should call a professional contractor to inspect your foundation. The cost of hiring a professional is certainly much less than the cost to repair structural home damage.

What Causes Foundation Cracks?

No matter where you live in the United States, you are at risk of foundation cracks. Various factors can cause cracks – both external and internal. Let’s explore some of the most common culprits.

Leaks in Your Plumbing System

A very common cause of foundation cracks is leaking in your home’s plumbing system. Your foundation has a network of pipes buried within it. If these pipes leak, the water pressure can cause your foundation to crack. This turns into a domino effect because when the pipes leak, they make the soil below the foundation wet. Once the soil gets wet, more foundation cracks will appear. Unfortunately, a cracked foundation can also cause more plumbing issues, leading to a complete mess.

Settling Cracks in Foundation

Increased Temperatures

While you might enjoy warmer temperatures, your foundation can take a severe hit. Here’s how it works: temperature levels have a direct effect on the clay soil around your foundation. As temperatures continue to rise, the soil gets dry. If the soil gets dry enough, it will shrink and move away from your house.

When the soil shrinks, it causes the foundation to move, ultimately leading to cracks. At first, this phenomenon causes minor cracks, but over time, they can become much larger and cause structural damage. Cracks caused by soil movement are sometimes referred to as settling cracks. You might be wondering, “what are settling cracks vs foundation cracks?” In short, settling cracks are caused by the settling of soil and they are foundation cracks.

Wet Soil

As briefly touched on earlier, wet soil can be detrimental to your home’s foundation. The soil below and around your foundation can become wet from long periods of rain or a leaking plumbing system. If you have trees near your home, the water in the soil will travel in paths created by the tree’s roots. Water moving through paths underneath the foundation or near the foundation can cause the foundation to crack. This is another example of settling cracks, and when you look at settling cracks vs foundation cracks, there is not much of a difference. Settling cracks are a subset of foundation cracks.

Earthquakes

This is an obvious one: earthquakes. In the United States, there are about 16 serious earthquakes each year – earthquakes that can cause foundation cracks and severe structural damage. When an earthquake hits, the ground below your home shakes, causing the foundation to move. This movement causes both structural and non-structural cracks.

If there is an earthquake with even minor movement, you should have a professional contractor inspect your foundation for damages. Generally, cracks the size of a piece of hair do not pose threats to your home’s foundation. On the other hand, cracks that measure greater than ¼ inch could lead to long-term structural damages.

How to Tell if Your Home Has Foundation Cracks

Foundation cracks are not always easy to detect. While you can see some foundation cracks around your home’s perimeter, many of them are hidden underneath. The first tell-tale sign of cracks is if you notice shifts or sinkage in your home’s structure. Next, take note of doors that do not shut all the way or open on their own.

There are a few other signs of foundation cracks that are not visible to the naked eye. If you notice any odd smells or increased humidity in your house, there is a good chance that your foundation is damaged. If you notice any of these signs, you should contact a professional contractor right away. Attempting a DIY repair job is not the best idea when your home’s structure is at stake.

Once you have established that your home has foundation cracks, let’s talk about how to fix them.

How to Fix Foundation Cracks

There are various ways to fix foundation cracks, depending on the size of the crack and whether it is structural or non-structural. If you catch foundation cracks before they become a widespread problem, it may only cost a couple of hundred dollars to a thousand dollars to repair them.

Hire a Contractor

Hiring a contractor is without a doubt one of the best ways to fix foundation cracks. Contractors can inspect the entirety of your home’s foundation and use the industry’s best practices to repair it. Depending on the severity of the cracks, a contractor can also advise if you need to make repairs to your home’s structure. A contractor will have the best tools to get the job done (tools that are often expensive to purchase on your own). For peace of mind, hiring a contractor is the best route to go.

Epoxy Seals

Using an epoxy seal is a proven way to repair non-structural foundation cracks. Many professional contractors use epoxy seals. The materials used in epoxy seals are resistant to water, oils, grease, and various other elements that could cause more foundation cracks. Many homeowners also use epoxy seals on their garage and basement floors.

Concrete Fillers

Other concrete fillers are an alternative to epoxy seals. Most of the common crack fillers are made from polyurethane – a material that is resistant to water penetration. You can use polyurethane in cracks ranging from ¼ to ½ of an inch. There is one caveat – most of these products are designed to fill cracks in driveways, garage floors, and basement floors. We do not recommend you use polyurethane fillers to fix structural foundation cracks. However, these fillers could be suitable for non-structural cracks.

A Final Glance at Foundation Cracks

As a homeowner, you must be mindful of foundation cracks. If you notice any of the above signs of foundation damage, be sure to call a contractor. Not fixing foundation cracks can lead to structural damage that can cost thousands of dollars to repair.

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