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How to Spot a Problematic Foundation Crack and What to Do About It

Not every crack that you find in your foundation will be a cause for concern. Sometimes the foundation of new homes will simply form cracks as it cures and dries, which is normal. Older homes will also form cracks as the home settles and shifts. But how do you know which cracks are serious and which are normal? Read on to learn how to spot a problematic foundation crack and what to do if you do notice one.

Check the Size

First things first, how big is the crack? You can use a dime to determine if the crack is large enough to indicate an issue. Small hairline cracks are rarely worth worrying about, but if you can squeeze the edge of the dime into the crack, then it’s time to call in a foundation professional. 

Check the Length

Short, one-foot cracks are rarely problematic. Finding a longer, 5-foot crack that has expanded since the last time you looked is different. Extensive cracks that are also wider than ¼ inch often indicate an underlying foundation issue and deserve attention. If left unaddressed, these cracks can eventually cause the concrete slab to heave or collapse.

Inspect the Cinder Blocks

Is there a vertical crack that is moving right through one of the cinder blocks? Don’t ignore it. These types of cracks make the perfect entry point for water to seep in and percolate through to the basement. If you spot any, call in an expert. 

Look for Step Cracks

Cracks that look like steps coming up through the cinder block and bricks are also cause for concern. If the wall is also bulging then you could have a structural issue or moisture problem that is exerting pressure on that part of the wall. In any case, if you find any stair-step cracks, they will need to be repaired. 

Check for Vertical Cracks On Adjacent Walls

Vertical cracks that travel from the top to the bottom of the foundation are the most common and least severe. They’re usually the result of foundation settlement and can be found in both new homes and older ones. You should only worry if you spot two large ones on adjacent walls. These are early signs that the footing needs repair. 

Inspect the Basement for Horizontal Cracks

Do you have a number of horizontal cracks forming along the basement walls? These types of cracks are usually caused by freeze and thaw cycles at the frost line. If you spot any condensation in the area or if the cracks are increasing, it could be a sign that water is seeping in. Filling these cracks with epoxy might stop the water at the point of entrance but it won’t fix the underlying problem. If the waterproofing membrane is failing, the hydrostatic pressure will continue to press water into the foundation wall from the outside, forming new cracks and deteriorating the structure in the meantime. You need a foundation expert to reapply the waterproofing and properly seal the cracks to prevent any more of the water from getting inside. 

How to Fix Cracks

There are several methods for fixing cracks in the foundation walls. Small cracks can be filled in with an epoxy, but more serious ones should be seen by a professional. Depending on the type of crack and the underlying problem, the solution could range from steel braces to underpinning the foundation, adding waterproofing or potentially replacing the entire foundation. That’s why it’s so important to have a comprehensive foundation inspection completed by a reputable professional. Only a licensed expert has the right tools and knowledge to identify a problematic crack, determine its underlying cause and apply the right solution.

Can You Fix It Yourself?

When it comes to foundation repair, it’s best to leave it to the pros. If you make the mistake of filling in a crack without addressing a serious underlying issue, it could cost you a lot more down the road to fix. To put it into perspective, the difference between completing a simple repair versus an entirely new foundation is approximately $500 vs. $40,000. So it’s always best to call in a professional to assess the situation and recommend the proper solution.

If you have any of the above cracks forming in your foundation walls, don’t wait, call us at the Foundation Experts. Our team has been providing top-quality foundation repairs to the residents of Ottawa and the surrounding region since 1995. For over 20 years we’ve maintained