It is not uncommon to find cracks in a concrete foundation of a home. This goes for new homes as well as older ones. While some cracks can indicate a serious issue with the home, many are considered normal shrinkage cracks. Let’s discuss the issue of cracks in a foundation and what it means to you.
Minor shrinkage cracks are common in new as well as older home foundations. Poured concrete shrinks as it cures, or settles. As the concrete shrinks, small vertical or 45 degree cracks may develop over time at basement windows, door openings, or corners. We call these stress or surface cracks. These cracks are 1/4″ wide or less and do not affect the structure of the building. If you see small cracks in a new foundation, or an old foundation for that matter, don’t panic. The concern here is moisture intrusion into the basement or crawlspace. This is a fairly easy fix with epoxy insertion or concrete caulk. On older homes these cracks may return, especially if the walls are made of lath and plaster. But, don’t be alarmed, it’s just the home continuing to settle.
The same can be true of cracks in the drywall of the home. Stress or settling cracks will be small in width, about a ¼ inch, and go at a 45 degree angle from the corner of the door frame or window. Again, don’t panic as this is not a structural issue but more cosmetic. Repair of the crack involve easily performed drywall repair, which can be accomplished in very little time.
More severe cracks in the foundation or walls do need the attention of a qualified contractor to investigate and correct. The type of crack that deems attention is the horizontal crack. These cracks are often accompanied by bowing, building, or leaning of the foundation wall. These types of cracks may indicate a foundation issue, which may be expensive to correct or if it can be corrected.
There are also additional types of cracks that may be related to structural movement. Included in the severe crack category are cracks that have deflection. By this we mean that one side of the crack is higher or beyond the other side of the crack. Also cracks that run diagonally across a wall, or in a stair step fashion. And lastly, cracks on the interior finish (drywall or lathe and plaster) that are in the same vicinity as cracks on the exterior of the home.
Repair of these structural movement or structural damage cracks can include several different avenues. Many of them will include repair of the exterior as well as to the interior portion of the home.
That in a nutshell is a discussion of foundation or wall cracks in a home. If you see these types of cracks, it might be best to have a qualified professional inspect the cracks. The professional can then give you an idea if they are normal settling cracks or ones of a more severe nature.