It’s essential to determine which type of foundation cracks are most severe and to know when they are serious enough to need repair to prevent slab foundation damage. Some cracks in foundations and exterior brick walls are much worse than others. However, they can get wider over time. That’s why it’s wise to be proactive about fixing a foundation crack.
Specialists from HD Foundations offer quick evaluations of your property to assess issues on your property. These inspections by our certified professionals only take 45 minutes, and our team provides you with a comprehensive report along with recommended foundation crack repair solutions that best suit the needs of your property.
In this guide, we’ll answer questions like:
- What causes cracks?
- When is a foundation crack serious?
- What are the differences between the different types of cracks?
- What symptoms indicate structural problems?
- What are the best foundation crack repair methods?
What Causes Cracks in a Foundation?
Various factors can cause cracks in foundations, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area has its own conditions contributing to foundation issues. Some common causes of foundation cracks in homes and commercial buildings in the DFW area include:
- Expansive Clay Soil: The DFW region has expansive clay soil, which expands when wet and contracts when the soil gets dry. This soil movement, common in the region, can exert much pressure on foundations, leading to cracks and potential structural damage.
- Weather Conditions: Different areas in the DFW metroplex experience varying weather conditions, including periods of drought and intense heat. Drought can cause the soil to shrink, while heat can lead to the expansion and contraction of the foundation, contributing to cracks.
- Poor Drainage: Inadequate drainage around properties can result in uneven moisture levels in the soil. Poor drainage may lead to excessive water accumulation or soil dehydration, impacting the foundation’s stability.
- Tree Roots: Large trees seeking moisture can extend their roots beneath foundations, causing soil movement and potentially damaging a home’s foundation.
- Poor Construction Practices: Improper site preparation, inadequate soil compaction, and the use of substandard materials during construction can contribute to foundation issues.
- Fault Lines and Seismic Activity: The presence of fault lines and occasional seismic activity in the DFW area can contribute to ground movement, potentially causing foundation cracks.
- Plumbing Leaks: Undetected or unrepaired plumbing leaks can saturate the soil around foundations, leading to uneven soil moisture and potential foundation movement.
- Poor Foundation Design: Foundations not designed to account for the specific soil and environmental conditions of the DFW area may be more susceptible to cracking.
Homeowners and property managers in the DFW area must be vigilant for signs of foundation issues, such as cracks in walls or floors, sticking doors, or uneven floors. Prompt, professional assessment and intervention can help address the underlying causes and prevent further damage.
Determining Which Type of Foundation Cracks Are Most Serious
Look at your slab foundation and determine how wide any gaps are. Even a crack that is 1/16″ wide can be a problem because it’s big enough to allow moisture to enter your slab and compromise its integrity. While hairline foundation cracks are normal and can be expected to appear over time due to minor foundation movement, cracks that are larger than 1/8″ should be carefully monitored.
Remember that what starts as a hairline crack will eventually get larger. Moderately sized cracks (3/16″ -1/2″ in width) can slowly but surely develop into severe 1″ cracks. When large fractures appear, they are often accompanied by other signs of foundation issues, including wall cracks, crevices in brick exteriors, and doors that don’t open and close correctly.
Types of Foundation Cracks
Not all foundation cracks signal impending structural damage, and understanding the types of cracks is crucial for homeowners. Certain cracks, like hairline cracks and settlement cracks, typically don’t pose immediate threats to a structure.
Hairline cracks are thin and surface-level, often caused by the natural settling of a building. Similarly, settlement cracks may occur during the initial curing process of concrete but generally stabilize over time, posing no ongoing risks.
On the other hand, diagonal and horizontal cracks can indicate more severe issues. Diagonal cracks may result from lateral soil pressure, while horizontal cracks may suggest foundation movement or water damage.
Recognizing these distinctions is essential, as timely identification and proper intervention can mitigate potential structural problems in a home or building. They can also help you determine when a foundation crack is serious.
In the following sections, we’ll go over the details of the different types of foundation cracks:
About Vertical Cracks
These fissures are wider at the bottom than at the top. Cracking in a vertical direction is mainly associated with soil movement (such as expansion and contraction of soil.) These foundation cracks are commonly found in areas like the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex, where houses are built on expansive clay soils. Don’t worry if you see small hairline cracks — continue to monitor them. If your vertical cracks have grown larger, consult a foundation expert.
If you see fractures of this nature, there’s good reason to be concerned. Horizontal cracks can start in one area and move to a connecting wall. In the end, they can lead to complete foundation failure. These cracks can be caused by water or soil pressure, meaning that you could have a drainage problem or a major issue relating to soil movement.
These problems can force a wall to bow or break. Of course, it is also possible that weak brick ties will become a problem. You need to take action if you see horizontal cracks in your walls or exterior brick. Call a professional right away. Do not ignore the signs. Horizontal cracks can lead to serious structural foundation damage and even cause a house to collapse.
These types of fissures appear on slab foundations and brick exteriors. They are typically 30-75 degrees from an upright vertical position. Fractures of this type are most often due to foundation settling. In some instances, they may be considered “concrete shrinkage cracks.” That means they resulted from the concrete foundation needing to be mixed or cured correctly when it was initially created.
Stair Step Cracks
Like vertical cracks, these are often associated with settling. Over time, a house’s foundation will move along with the soil beneath it. The best course of action is to stabilize your foundation by having foundation piers installed. These piers can be placed around your foundation or directly underneath it.
Fixing a Foundation Crack
It is best to consult with a structural engineer or a seasoned foundation contractor from HD Foundations to ascertain that a crack doesn’t indicate a significant structural problem. These professionals can assist you in determining if a crack is a cause for concern. Further, they can evaluate issues based on industry-standard criteria and recommend appropriate foundation crack repair solutions.
Here are some of the recommendations you may receive based on the assessment by an on-site crew:
- Hairline Cracks: Hairline cracks are about the same width as a thread used for sewing, and they often appear a year after a foundation is laid and aren’t a cause for concern. These are due to the normal settling of concrete, and they usually appear near doors, windows, and, in some cases, around basement corners.
- New Narrow Cracks: New narrow cracks can be a concern as they may indicate settling issues, posing a potential problem if they continue to expand. To monitor a crack, make pencil marks at both ends with the date and measure the width at its widest point. Alternatively, you can snap a photo with a tape measure next to the crack for documentation. Regularly check for expansion before considering crack sealer.
- Small Cracks Due to Concrete Settling: Cracks that are smaller than an inch aren’t usually a cause for concern. If you find cracks in your walls or basement foundations that are ⅛ or ¼ of an inch, they typically don’t cause structural damage. However, these smaller cracks can contribute to moisture buildup, so it is best to seal them. Sealing also prevents the proliferation of radon gas or other soil smells.
- Bigger Cracks In Basement Floor: If you find horizontal cracks appearing close to the basement floor, it is also not a structural issue for your property. However, just like smaller cracks, they should be sealed as soon as possible. These cracks appear because the concrete for the walls and the poured concrete for the basement floor don’t always bond perfectly. When that happens, cracks appear, usually around ½ inch wide. Professionals fill up the cracks using caulking suitable for concrete.
- Water Seeping Through Foundation Cracks: No matter what size of the foundation crack you’re dealing with, when you see water seeping through it, that is already a sign of a severe problem. It is important to note that repairing foundation leaks is more expensive than repairing concrete cracks. Professionals divert the water and seal the crack, addressing the cause of the leak to prevent further damage to your property.
- Foundation Gaps: Some larger foundation cracks tend to be harmless. However, if you find gaps in the foundation that are ½ inch wide or larger, it is best to have a professional inspect it. This scenario may require more than just caulking or sealing since there may be a more serious underlying problem with the foundation.
- Bulge with Foundation Crack: During an inspection, if professionals find foundation cracks with a bulging area, it indicates a structural problem. Contractors will assess the gravity of the problem and recommend applicable solutions to resolve the issue and preserve the stability of your home.
- Foundation Cracks That Change Directions: Contractors will monitor more serious foundation cracks. If they find one that changes direction over time or follows mortar joints, the soil movement underneath the foundation must be addressed.
Trust DFW Foundation Experts from HD Foundations
To determine how many foundation piers you need and where they should be installed, you’ll want to contact a foundation repair contractor or a structural engineer. An experienced professional can determine if you have foundation problems (or drainage issues). If you do, they can offer a solid solution. Contact HD Foundations if you’ve noticed foundation cracks and your house is in the Dallas, Fort Worth metroplex. We provide free foundation evaluations to homeowners.