How Worried Should A Homeowner or Business Owner Be About Foundation Cracks?
That moment when you first notice a crack running along the wall or floor of your basement or building is not a pleasant one. Any sign of a cracked foundation should be taken seriously and investigated right away, but not all foundation cracks are indications of serious problems. Knowing whether a foundation or wall crack means trouble or is merely cosmetic can save you a lot of time, money and worry.
What Causes Cracks?
There are a number of factors that can cause your slab or basement to shift. In general, they are related to the condition of the surrounding soil. For example, soil with a high clay content can expand considerably when it’s wet and contract when it dries. This results in constantly changing pressure against your foundation, which can cause the bricks or concrete to crack. Properties that have leaky plumbing or lack proper drainage also are more likely to experience problems. That’s because excess moisture can cause the earth underneath to expand. In colder climates, the ground may freeze and exert too much force against your walls and floor.
When is a Crack Serious?
Any time you see a crack in your foundation, it means conditions on your property have changed enough to cause the structure to shift. In some cases, however, this only means that the structure has settled a bit. Settling may also cause cracked paint around windows and doors. That’s not a necessarily a major problem, but you shouldn’t just ignore it. Water — along with termites and other pests — can get into your structure through even tiny, hairline breaches. Be sure to measure any cracks you find and recheck them as the seasons change. If they are getting wider or seem to be spreading, it’s time to call in professional foundation contractors.
Signs of a more serious problem that requires immediate attention include horizontal gaps that appear between bricks or concrete blocks. Cracks that appear to be wider at one end than at the other also could be a sign that you have major foundation issues. If your foundation is shifting, you also may notice problems in other areas, such as doors that won’t stay closed or floors that feel like they’re slanting.