Foundation problems are a homeowner’s most significant structural concern, so it’s normal to worry when you see cracks in your basement wall.
However, should you panic the first time you see them in your home? Could they be signs of significant foundation problems? Or is it safe to just ignore them?
Let’s take a closer look at basement wall cracks, their causes, and how they can indicate more significant foundation problems.
Why Do Basement Wall Cracks Form?
Any number of issues can lead to cracked foundation walls. However, these five root causes are especially prevalent:
1. Repairs and Renovations
Have you ever done work in your basement — projects requiring wall drilling?
For instance, someone may have drilled one of your basement walls if you’ve had a new sewer, electric, or gas line set up. Such drilling often leads to weaker concrete and cracking. These cracks commonly form in the corners of windows that angle off from the edge. A professional will typically check this spot first for cracks during a foundation inspection.
2. Soil That’s Too Wet
At times, the soil under a basement might get drenched, causing the footings to lower. The footings are the structures supporting the basement walls, and when the footings descend, they can crack the walls.
Additionally, an inadequate home drainage system can worsen this wet soil problem. You can solve this issue by regularly cleaning out your gutters and positioning all of your downspouts at least six feet from your house.
3. Soil That’s Too Dry
A lack of moisture in your soil can cause your walls to crack. The ground underneath your basement will dry out and shrink whenever there’s a drought. As a result, your basement walls will shift outward and cause the footings to settle. In this case, your foundation will sink, stretching the walls and making them crack.
4. Expanding and Contracting
If concrete isn’t poured correctly, it can cause significant issues. Water is necessary when mixing concrete, and it will naturally expand when it’s wet and contract once it dries. Fluctuating temperatures and changing moisture levels can cause concrete to expand and contract. Over time, this growth and shrinking often lead to cracks.
5. Timing and Aging
Finishers sometimes run out of concrete when a foundation is being poured. This can disrupt the process and result in an incomplete foundation. Cold joints can form if you wait for more concrete to arrive, causing water to seep into your foundation. Over time, concrete ages and weakens, causing cracks to form.
Basement Wall Cracks: Are They Signs of Foundation Problems?
There are two types of cracks in basement walls. Cracks that are diagonal, vertical, or zigzag don’t indicate a serious issue. Furthermore, if a basement wall crack measures one-eighth of an inch or less, you probably don’t need to worry about it too much.
On the other hand, you should be concerned about horizontal cracks in walls. They can indicate a structural problem with your foundation. Don’t delay seeking a professional inspection if you notice horizontal cracks in walls.
Hiring a Professional for Cracks in Your Basement Wall
If you notice basement wall cracks — or any other signs of foundation problems — we recommend calling a professional.
After all, even minor cracks should be sealed. Otherwise, they allow water inside, leading to moisture building and water damage. Additionally, basement bugs can enter your home through tiny openings. Moreover, if cracked foundation walls are left alone, they’ll worsen over time and can lead to significant foundation problems.
Foundations that are seriously damaged sometimes result in bowed walls, sagging floors, shifting chimneys, and homes that are too unsafe to live in. The sooner you get major cracks repaired, the less likely you’ll face costly structural damage.
At Ground Up Foundation Repair, our foundation experts specialize in repairing crawl spaces, foundations, and basement walls. We can fix basement wall cracks of all shapes and sizes and protect your home’s investment. Contact us to schedule a free inspection.