Identifying Different Cracks in Foundations

As a home owner, you should know a few facts about the place you call home. Facts like when to run your heater, when to open your windows, what lights to leave on at night and what the various cracks in your foundation mean.

Okay, the last one seems a little out of place. But it’s true nonetheless, because every foundation will likely have at least one crack. Due to wind and weather, foundations develop cracks as they age. At the same time, cracks in foundations can also point to significant problems with your home, which should be addressed by a professional. How do you know the difference? Allow us to help. Here are the several types of cracks in foundations you may encounter, and what they mean:

Hairline cracks in the Mortar

When these occur in the mortar between your foundation stones, you don’t have to worry. Foundations shrink slightly after they are first built, and when they can’t shrink evenly, these type of cracks develop. Think of them like wrinkles as you’re getting older: you may not like them, but they’re also not a sign of immediate demise. Here’s a picture of what a hairline crack in your foundation’s mortar may look like.

Cracks at an L-Shaped Section

Similar to hairline cracks, these types of cracks develop when your foundation shrinks – most likely if it’s situated in an L-shaped section of your foundation, such as when it tapers down to follow a hillside. While not structurally dangerous, these cracks may let water or moisture into your foundation, so getting them fixed (while not a high priority) should be on your mind.

Interior Cracks

A variety of cracks on interior walls may indicate issues with your foundation. Gaps in the crown molding are almost never a sign of problems, but corner cracks above doors and windows may be. If the cracks get smaller as the humidity level rises, they’re normal. If not, you may want to have your foundation checked out.

Stair-step cracks in masonry joints

Now we’re getting into more dangerous territory. Especially if the crack is wider than 1/4 of an inch or the wall is bulging, it’s time to call a professional. Something is putting pressure on your foundation, whether that’s a plugged gutter or some other moisture problem, and it will only get worse the longer you let it go. When you see cracks that look something like this, consult with someone who knows foundation cracks inside and out.

Vertical Cracks

If your stone or cement foundation starts showing vertical cracks, caution is necessary. They may get wider at the top or at the bottom, but both are signs of your foundation getting out of whack. There is still time to fix it before it needs replaced, but you’ll need to call a professional soon. Otherwise, it may lead to worse problems, such as:

Horizontal Cracks

Horizontal cracks are without a doubt the most serious possible foundation crack you could encounter. They are literally signs of a breaking foundation: your stones simply cannot handle the pressure anymore, and are giving in. If you don’t get these types of cracks fixed, the worst-case scenario is your house caving in. As you can probably imagine, it’s also the last thing you’d want to happen to your beautiful home.

Anytime you notice a crack like this, which is horizontal and affects the actual stone, don’t hesitate to call a professional. The sooner it gets fixed, the safer you are. If you let it go, you may even need an entirely new foundation.

Of course, you may still not be sure what type of cracks your foundation exhibits. In that case, simply contact us so we can come out, examine the issue, and give you a professional opinion. It’s your home, and we want to make sure you’re safe in it.

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