That’s one of the reasons why homeowners tend to worry at the first sign of any cracks, especially when they appear in, or are related to, foundations. The main concern is whether the structure is safe. It is extremely rare that foundation cracks will result in an unsafe building. But, can the same be said about the potential for a wet basement?
Know your foundation
The first step to knowing how damaging a crack in your foundation will be, is knowing the composition of your foundation. The main materials found in foundations are concrete and steel. How these are put together to form your foundation may affect the type and severity of the cracks you experience. The main types of foundations are:
- Slab on grade – the soil under the house is smoothed down and a layer of concrete is poured on top. This type of foundation is generally found in warmer, dryer climates.
- Pier and grade beam – the outer frame of the house is supported by a concrete beam while the middle section is supported by piers placed throughout a crawl space under the house.
- Piers only – piers are drilled up to around 20 feet deep below the house and then the weight of the house is distributed evenly on top of them
Types and seriousness of foundation cracks
While no crack will ever go away, not every crack means your house will fall down or cost you a fortune in repairs. Foundation cracks happen for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common are:
- Contraction in the concrete Once completely set, concrete is an extremely rigid material. As the concrete loses moisture it also experiences shrinkage. This can cause stress that eventually pulls the concrete slab apart, causing cracks to occur, especially in areas where there are other objects, such as drains, that may affect the movement or shrinkage of the concrete slab.These types of cracks are common and rarely cause structural damage that will affect the whole house. However, they allow insects and small creatures free access into your basement. They can also be a main cause of water damage, so it is a good idea to get them fixed sooner rather than later, to avoid increased bills due to water damage or infestation at a later date.
- Settling soilIf you have a slab on grade foundation it is at increased risk of movement as the soil expands and contracts. Soil contracts when it is dry, leaving spaces that were not necessarily there when the concrete was poured. Heavy rain can make the soil expand and put pressure on the concrete foundation, while freezing groundwater can have a similar effect.If the cracks appear at ground level or below ground level then water damage to your basement is a distinct possibility. However, it is important to check the direction of your cracks as well as their position on the wall. While foundation cracks that are result of soil settlement can cause water to seep into your basement, you will need to take quick action if they are higher in the wall and horizontal, as that can be an indication of structural problems.
Regardless of your foundation type, it is better to get any cracks checked out before you start to experience problems. Don’t hesitate to contact us for advice, before they result in a wet basement.