Cracking the Code: Understanding the Types of Foundation Cracks and Their Implications

The foundation of your home or building is its backbone. It’s not just about keeping your home level but also about moisture protection, insulation, and pest control. When cracks or signs of damage appear, it can be alarming. However, by understanding the types of foundation cracks, you can take informed action to protect your property.

Different Types of Foundation Cracks

As a house settles, it is customary to see some small and minor cracks in its foundation. Certain cracks, however, are a cause for concern and can indicate that the foundation’s structural integrity is damaged. Here are the different types of cracks and what they mean for your foundation’s structural integrity:

Vertical Cracks: Vertical cracks in a foundation are often the most common type homeowners will encounter. Small vertical cracks less than two inches long and only a few millimeters wide are expected as a home settles and typically don’t threaten a foundation’s integrity. Vertical cracks that are longer than two inches and broader at the top of the crack than the bottom can indicate ongoing movement of the structure. These can be caused by soil erosion or improper water drainage from the foundation. These cracks can cause structural damage to a home and should be inspected by a foundation repair professional.

Horizontal Cracks: Horizontal cracks typically result from the pressure that can cause a home’s foundation to bow inward. Common causes for these cracks include hydrostatic pressure, expanding soil, or frozen water expanding around the foundation. These factors cause inward pressure on a foundation, as seen with horizontal cracking. Horizontal cracks are also often seen when the foundation of a home has been underpinned or reinforced at some point previously and is starting to fail. Large horizontal cracks need to be examined by experts to determine if structural damage to a foundation is threatening the building.

Stair-Step Cracks: Stair-step cracks in a foundation usually indicate uneven home settlement. As a structure settles over time, it will follow the path of least resistance, which can cause it to settle unevenly over time, with cracks appearing in a stair-step pattern. These cracks are also associated with structural shifts in a home from design flaws in a foundation and poor reinforcement. A foundation inspection can determine the exact causes of stair-step cracks and determine what steps need to be taken to repair the foundation.

Hairline Cracks: Hairline cracks are the most common type of crack homeowners will see in their foundations. Most commonly, these cracks are from natural shrinkage as the concrete dries and hardens when the foundation is laid. Environmental changes such as fluctuating temperatures can cause materials in a foundation to expand and contract, causing hairline cracks over time. Homeowners should monitor these cracks over time, and they typically are not an immediate cause of concern if they are less than two inches long and only a few millimeters wide.

Prevention and Repair of Foundation Cracks

Homeowners can take several steps to prevent foundation cracks. Managing moisture levels around a foundation by installing gutters and rain downspouts that direct water away from the home can prevent moisture from damaging a foundation and eroding soil. Inspecting a home’s foundation and monitoring cracks when they appear can also allow homeowners to catch problems with a foundation before they get worse. Foundation repair professionals can repair and prevent future cracks with:

  • Applying water-proof sealants
  • Stitching or stapling
  • Underpinning and reinforcing
  • Grout work
  • Rebuilding of a foundation
  • Epoxy injections for small cracks

The key to saving money on foundation repairs is to prevent cracks when possible, monitor cracks when they appear, and contact an expert for professional foundation repairs before the entire foundation starts to fail.

Contact Tom’s Basement Waterproofing and Foundation Repair

If foundation cracks or a leaky basement are causing problems for your home or building, contact Tom’s Basement Waterproofing today at (586) 949-7826. We are Michigan’s best residential and commercial basement waterproofing and foundation repair provider, and we are dedicated to getting your foundation in top shape.