There’s a big difference between settling cracks vs. foundation cracks and the sight of cracks is frightening to any homeowner. However, not all cracks are cause for concern. As the name implies, settling cracks are common and appear when the foundation begins to “settle.” On the other hand, foundation cracks may cause widescale issues.
No matter the size of your house or the topography it sits on, you should know to differentiate between settling cracks vs. foundation cracks. Moreover, it’s also important to recognize when you need to call a professional contractor instead of attempting a DIY solution to fix a cosmetic problem.
Settling Cracks vs. Foundation Cracks: What’s the Difference?
Let’s explore the key differences between settling and foundation cracks, what causes them, and how to fix them. We’ll also help you understand what types of cracks you can ignore.
A Closer Look at Settling Cracks
If you just bought a new home, don’t let settling cracks alarm you. These types of foundation cracks are standard and typically start to appear within two to three years. However, if you begin to see cracks in the foundation of a home that isn’t new, then you could have a problem on your hands.
Settling cracks occur when the home’s foundation begins to “conform” to the ground that it is sitting on. In some cases, these cracks are so small that you can barely notice them.
Since the contraction and shifting of soil are out of our control, there’s no need to worry if your house’s foundation settles a couple of inches. As long as your builder constructed your home with foundation settling in mind, you shouldn’t have long-term issues.
When Do Settling Cracks Become a Serious Issue?
There are two scenarios in which settling cracks are more concerning. First, if you notice settling-like cracks in a home that isn’t new, settling might not be the root cause of the cracks. There could be a more concerning problem.
Secondly, if your home is new and the settle cracks continue to expand after several months, then you should contact a professional contractor. Foundation cracks can lead to more severe issues, such as cracks in your walls and other parts of your home’s interior. As you can imagine, this leads to a whirlwind of problems such as leaks and structural damage.
How to Fix Settling Cracks
These types of cracks are cosmetic at best. If the cracks are genuinely caused by settling, you may not even need to repair them. However, it’s always a brilliant idea to have a professional inspect the cracks to ensure they aren’t a more severe issue.
Many homeowners cover settling cracks with an epoxy sealer simply because they don’t like how they look. Using sealer such as epoxy requires a caulk gun, which you can buy on Amazon and at The Home Depot and Lowe’s. If you don’t have the tools on hand, it’s best to call a licensed contractor.
The Cost to Fix Settling Cracks
Because settling cracks aren’t a serious issue, they’re relatively affordable to cover. You can buy an epoxy sealer for as little as $50, and don’t forget the caulk gun, which can cost up to $100.
If you plan to hire a contractor, you can expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars or less. Keep in mind that a contractor will provide an inspection and cover the settling cracks for this price. Hiring a professional is an excellent route to ensure that the cracks were caused by settling and not severe foundation issues that could lead to more significant structural problems.
Foundation Cracks: What Are They?
Unlike settling cracks, foundation cracks are typically longer and either horizontal or vertical. What’s the difference between vertical and horizontal cracks? Most vertical cracks arise from soil movement; however, these cracks are more significant than the standard settling cracks.
Horizontal cracks in your foundation are a much more severe issue. When you see horizontal cracks, that usually means there is heavy soil pressure pushing against the home’s foundation. The leading cause of heavy soil pressure is high water content (either due to rainfall or a nearby water source).
If you neglect horizontal foundation cracks, the consequences to the integrity of your house could be determinantal. For example, water could leak into your house, your walls could warp, and in the most severe of cases, your home’s structure could start to fall apart.
How to Fix Foundation Cracks
You should never attempt to fix serious foundation cracks on your own. A professional should assess the severity of the cracks and determine if there is more damage that you can’t see with the eye.
Professional contractors will use an industry-grade cement filler or a similar product to patch the foundation cracks. They’ll also fix any other damaged caused by the horizontal or vertical cracks.
The cost to Fix Foundation Cracks
Unfortunately, fixing severe foundation cracks is a bit more expensive than touching up minor settling cracks. The average cost to get rid of the cracks is about $4,000. Note: this is the cost to hire a professional, not the cost to attempt a DIY repair (which we don’t recommend).
Are Foundation Cracks More Common in Certain Climates?
There’s not a particular climate that causes more foundation cracks. Instead, weather patterns tend to have a more substantial impact on the health of your home’s foundation. For example, many homeowners will experience foundation cracks during periods of extreme drought and heat. On the other hand, multiple days of heavy rain could also lead to foundation cracks and interior flooding.
A Final Note: Settling Cracks vs. Foundation Cracks
Now that you know a little bit more about settling cracks vs. foundation cracks, it may be an excellent time to have a contractor inspect your house. Although you don’t need to worry at the sight of a small crack, you want to ensure there are no significant, underlying foundation issues. It’s much cheaper to fix foundation cracks before they cause widespread damage to your house. If you do have foundation cracks not caused by settling, you should always use the help of a professional.