Get Help with Cracked Foundations
Part 2 of 8 in The Old House Web Home Hazards Series
Homeowners are often so concerned with visible threats to their homes--fire, flood, storms--that they ignore the very foundation that holds their precious investment in place. Cracked foundations don't always spell doomsday. But foundation cracks beyond those caused by normal shrinkage can require extensive and expensive repairs.
If you find chips or cracks in your concrete foundation, it can be a prudent move to call in a contractor or structural engineer. The extent of damage depends on the original pour of concrete, how it cures, and your soil. Simple concrete crack repair can sometimes be done by introducing water into to soil to boost up the support and level out your cracked foundation. You may need piering--the installation of steel supports. Or your foundation may need "mudjacking", where concrete grout is pumped into the soil to lend support.
Typical Causes of Cracked Foundations
Varying moisture content or uneven dry patching in the soil beneath your concrete foundation can cause it to settle unevenly. Normally, settling has to do with how the original foundation was prepared and poured, and how long it was allowed to cure. Improperly mixed concrete can also cause a damaged foundation, presenting its damage in a series of hairline cracks.
If your concrete foundation was mixed properly and poured with steel-supported footers, it may not show any cracks at all.
Inspecting Your Foundation for Cracks
Small, single, insignificant cracks may not need repair at all. However, you may want them inspected right away to determine if there is immediate or potential structural damage. Experts can base their findings on the patterns, severity, and location of the cracks. They'll include a review of damage in relation to walls, back fill, and other site conditions that can cause damaging changes over time.
Make an inspection of your foundation a routine event. Walk the perimeter of the foundation with a notebook in-hand, listing all discolorations, cracking, chipping, or bulging. Be on the lookout for roots from nearby trees that may have crept underneath your home. Chipped paint, buckled siding, or warped doors and windows can also be telltale signs of a settling foundation. Be sure to indicate the size and direction of any cracks or damage.
Save your notes for the next inspection and if conditions change, it's time to call for help.
Woodrow Aames has written articles and profiles for Yahoo, Microsoft Network, Microsoft Encarta, and other websites and print magazines around the world. He holds an MFA degree and has taught English abroad.