Why do foundations crack?
In our local area, we have a lot of older homes that were built upon a poured concrete raised foundation, and finding foundation cracks is a common occurrence. These older foundations crack primarily because of moisture sitting at the foundation over a long period of time. Most foundation movement is preventable by properly shedding water away from the home with correctly installed gutters and grading the surrounding landscape down and away from the home. But sixty to eighty years ago when they built many of these houses, long-term water management wasn’t an overwhelming concern, and the effects are starting to show.
Are all cracks bad?
Not all foundation cracks are a huge red flag or a reason to walk away from an escrow. Cracks that are vertical and thin are generally ok and are surprisingly common to find during a home inspection. Horizontal, diagonal, and diverging cracks are more concerning when it comes to the stability of the structure. When I see large cracks (wide enough o fit a nickel in) or a pattern of deflection, I always recommend contacting a structural engineer to determine if the building is still shifting around or if the damage presents a stability concern.
What to look for
If your home is exhibiting more than one indication of movement, such as: out of square doors, sloped floors, corner cracks in the interior walls, and large cracks in the foundation, I would certainly be looking for assistance. Your home is built upon the foundation, so when your foundation moves-so will the rest of the structure. It’s important to take in the whole picture and piece together the story that the home is showing you to determine the severity of the issue. As the building moves, the structure will undergo periods of stress and look for ways to relieve that stress. This stress relief commonly shows itself through cracks in various areas of the home. Think of it this way; if you were to slowly bend a graham cracker, for instance, it would eventually break in half to relieve the stress- buildings will do the same thing.
Can foundation cracks be fixed?
Sure, they can. Anything in a home can be fixed. Repairs can range from sealing small foundation cracks to prevent future moisture penetration all the way up to structurally stabilizing large sections of foundation walls with steel straps and bolts. Unfortunately, foundation repairs can get quite expensive, depending on the scope of work. If you are looking for a trustworthy structural engineer or foundation contractor, reach out to your real estate agent or local home inspector, both will have a lot of contacts that could help you out.