There are a lot of reasons why you’ll begin to see damage on your foundation: the house settling, the freeze-thaw effect, heavy rains, extreme draught, natural aging, and more. Because of that, it’s important to watch out for any changes in appearance such as cracks in the concrete. Here’s a quick guide to what you’ll most likely see:
In terms of damage, this is the least concerning one to see on your foundation. Concrete will naturally settle and shift, which causes tension in the material, but vertical cracks mean it’s settling evenly. As long as they’re small and water isn’t leaking out, they will most likely not need a complete replacement but a simple sealant. Additionally, vertical cracks can occur if there’s too much water pressure because of heavy rains. If you see vertical cracks appearing, then it might be a sign that you need to reevaluate your drainage systems. Are your gutters and spouts working and correctly guiding the rain away from your foundation? Are there areas around your home where rain naturally gathers? Does a low window have a properly installed sill around it? Then corrective grading will help with that.
Some vertical cracks can have a slight diagonal direction, but if you see a more dramatic shift (more than 30 degrees) then that would be a diagonal crack. Just like vertical, these often occur because the foundation is naturally settling, but in a way that’s not as structurally sound if it continues. Essentially, it means that that part of the home is settling differently than the other areas of the foundation. We see this a lot in homes built on hills or soil that has rapidly changing conditions due to a lot of rain or drought. A foundation expert should be brought in for an inspection if you start to see these.
These are the ones you want to worry about. When the structure starts to take on too much force, it will bow inward and cause those horizontal cracks. You might also see signs of the foundation not properly holding up in your floor and door frames. Look out for signs like the floor dipping or cracking and the doors either not fitting in the frames properly or getting jammed. If your foundation has bricks, you should also look out for star-step cracks, which is a horizontal crack moving within the brick pattern. We definitely encourage homeowners to get an expert in if they see these.
While some cracks signal more pressing needs than others, it’s always a safe bet to have a foundation expert come check it out. If you’re in the Twin Cities area, give Concrete & Foundation Solutions a call for a free assessment.