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Foundation Cracks: A Symptom of Poor Building Methods

Some owners of existing or relatively new homes and structures encounter foundation cracks that can run vertically or horizontally from ceilings to floors and even through all sides of the structure. More susceptible are basements or lower level rooms. Water and air can seep through these cracks causing water damage and other forms of inconvenience to the occupants of the home.

Although some concrete cracks are cosmetic and occur normally during the course of construction, bigger foundation cracks can signify a serious issue and can actually be a symptom of poor and inefficient building methods. Unless remedial work is performed, the structural integrity of the home is questionable and this could pose serious safety risks to the occupants of the home.

What are foundation cracks?

Building materials, which includes concrete blocks, bricks, poured concrete and other masonry products are rigid when set in place and would crack if bent by forces strong enough to overcome their rigidity. This bending force is called tension and can be applied horizontally or vertically. The backfill or soil that is pushing against the foundation or retaining wall creates a horizontal tension against the structure.

On the other hand, the poor compactness of the base soil under the concrete block wall footers may not be strong enough to support the weight of the structure. This can cause the block wall to drop below the level of excavation and cause a vertical tension throughout the walls.

What are methods to remedy foundation cracks?

A cracked foundation can be serious structural risks and should be addressed as soon as possible. However, the remedy can differ depending on the severity of the cracks. The first thing to do is to identify which are cosmetic cracks and which are valid foundation cracks.

A clear indication that homeowners should look out for would be the presence of vertical cracks in walls directly over areas that have risen up or recessed further into the ground. There could be a foundation problem causing this movement. Another problem indication is the gaps caused by these cracks, which even a coin, can pass through.

Cosmetic cracks can be repaired by putting a layer of epoxy crack-repair compound. Serious cracks would probably need a new foundation and this should be verified by a certified structural engineer.

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