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When to Worry About Foundation Cracks

Posted on: August 1, 2023

Most people have heard enough about the risks of foundation cracks to be concerned about potential problems when a crack is first spotted in your home. Foundation cracks can be the first sign that your house is shifting unevenly on the soil below. This can often be caused by a serious water drainage problem around the house. Over time, an unstable foundation can do serious damage. But what most people don’t know is that not all cracks in walls and ceilings are signs that you should worry about.

Brick building with large foundation crack in cement.

When should you worry about foundation cracks, and when should you simply grab the epoxy to patch it up? At Bud Matthews Services, we can help you determine which foundation cracks to be concerned about and how to resolve each type of foundation crack you see.

What Causes Foundation Cracks?

Foundation cracks form for a predictable range of reasons.

  • Concrete contracting as it dries
  • Uncompacted soil settling below the house
  • Expansive clay soil adapting to moisture
  • Excessive water around the foundation
  • Erosion on a slope
  • Nearby Excavation

The most common cause for small foundation cracks is curing concrete. This happens with concrete slabs sometimes; as it dries, it forms a solid, and two sections pull slightly away. These cracks are not water-tight, but they are otherwise harmless.

Uncompacted soil can cause a house to sink into the ground unevenly as the soil settles. Clay in the soil will expand with moisture and contract when dry. Both can lead to uneven shifts, which are more dangerous. Excessive water due to poor drainage or underground plumbing leaks and erosion on a slope can cause a house’s foundation to shift and crack.

Warning Signs of Foundation Problems

How do you know when to be concerned about foundation cracks? It depends on the type of crack, its size, and other signs that your foundation is or is not at risk.

Structural Foundation Cracks & When to Worry

Structural foundation cracks are the most dangerous type. They indicate that your home’s foundation is no longer stable, and the structure is at risk. Signs that you have a structural foundation crack and it’s time to worry include:

  • Horizontal cracks
  • Cracks that continue from the walls to the ceiling
  • Cracks wider than 1/10 inch or widening over time
  • Stairstep cracks in bricks
  • Vertical cracks near each other
  • Big diagonal crack

Non-Structural Foundation Cracks – When Should You Worry?

Non-structural foundation cracks are usually formed when the concrete cures. However, they can sometimes signal less critical leaks behind concrete walls and structures that are not yet threatening your house structure. These include:

  • Cracks less than 1/10 inch wide
  • A single vertical crack that does not reach the ceiling

However, if water is seeping through the crack or it gets wider, it’s time to worry.

What to Do if You Have Cracks in Your Foundation

Foundation cracks are bad news, but many different things can cause them. When you see a foundation crack, it’s important to get it diagnosed. Bud Matthews Services can help you by identifying which foundation cracks to be concerned about in any situation, whether the crack is coming from a leaking pipe below your slab, which can damage the concrete and destabilize the soil below your house.

Slab Leak Services

A slab leak is when your water main or sewer line has sprung a leak below the house and is now seeping into the soil and foundation below your house. We can identify and repair this type of damage starting with slab leak detection.

Leak Detection Services

Foundation cracks in walls can also come from pipes behind concrete walls, especially in your basement. Leak detection can be done by back-tracing pipes to find where the damage has occurred in a hidden place.

Call the Foundation & Plumbing Repair Experts in Chapel Hill, NC

If you see cracks in your foundation, especially if they are seeping water, Bud Matthews Services can help by finding out if the problem is being caused by plumbing leaks below the slab or behind your walls. Since 1981 we have been expertly and professionally serving North Carolina in Chatham, Durham, and Orange counties. Contact us today for leak detection services to protect the long-term integrity of your foundation.

photo credit: Jasmine Sahin /Shutterstock

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