Whether you're in the market for a new home or just trying to keep an eye on the condition of your house, you need to understand how to spot and address foundation cracks. Here are a few things you should know about different types of foundation cracks and tips for dealing with them.
A hairline crack in your foundation is a thin crack with minimal gap. It can be anywhere from an couple of inches to several feet long, depending on the condition of your foundation and property. In order to address hairline cracks, you need to determine the underlying cause.
Excessively dry soil around the foundation can cause fractures in the concrete foundation. If you're seeing fine cracks in the concrete and the soil seems dry, use a trickling water source to rehydrate it. Place a few hoses around the perimeter of the house and let the water run at a trickling rate. This ensures that the water is absorbed gradually instead of flooding the soil. The soil will swell with moisture, and may even force fine cracks closed. If your soil is perpetually dry, install root barriers around the perimeter of the house to preserve the naturally existing moisture.
Over-saturated soil can also cause foundation damage, because the excess moisture can cause the soil to erode and the foundation to shift. Shifting often causes cracks. If you see signs of pooling water around the foundation, you'll want to improve drainage. Add gutters around the outside of the house and direct runoff away from the house. In severe cases, a French drain can even help reduce water buildup.
Stair-step cracks get their name from the resemblance to stairs. These staggered cracks most often appear along brick or concrete. You may see cracks like this in the mortar between the bricks or across the concrete foundation walls. This style of crack is an indication of soil instability beneath the structure. You'll want to talk with a foundation repair specialist like Safe-Guard Waterproofing or others about shoring up the soil and structure for added stability.
Cracks that are wide on one end and thin on the other are key indications that part of the house is starting to shift, while the other part isn't. If you see cracks like this, you'll need to talk with a foundation contractor to determine where the shift is happening. He or she can spot which side of the house is actually moving and help you add extra supports to keep everything in place.
Seeing any kind of crack in your home's foundation is cause for concern, especially if you're not sure of its origin. With these tips, you'll be able to narrow down the source of the problem and address it safely.