Caring for your home is difficult enough when you have to contend with a leak. What are you supposed to do if your foundation cracks?
Let’s dive into the whys, whens, and hows of foundation cracks. With this knowledge and some preventive steps under your belt, you’ll be able to take on this challenge with confidence.
Why Do Foundations Crack?
Your foundation, like you, experiences environmental stress. When the weather starts to warm, the particles in the materials that make up your foundation will start to expand. When the weather cools, the particles will contract. When the weather starts to fluctuate – as it frequently does in Cleveland, OH – your foundation may struggle to keep up with the changes the laws of physics demand. As a result, your foundation may crack.
There are other environmental forces that may cause your foundation to crack as well. These include branching, extensive root systems from trees nearby or natural disasters.
Signs of a Crack
What do you do, though, when you suspect you have a cracked foundation but can’t spot the crack itself? You look for clues. The same signs that let you know that you have a leak on your hands will let you know whether or not your foundation is cracked. These signs include:
- Unpleasant smells
- Mold clusters
- Pest infestations
- Fogging windows
- Standing water or flooding
- Water damage
You’ll need to talk with a local contractor to determine whether your leak is coming from a joint or if the water in your home is coming up through a foundational crack.
Types of Foundation Cracks
Luckily, there are only so many ways your foundation can crack. The three most common types of foundational cracks are:
- Vertical. If your home is on the newer side, you may find yourself dealing with a vertical crack. These cracks appear when your foundation can no longer support the weight of your home. The contractor who built your home may have used green wood when establishing your supports. This type of wood isn’t able to withstand long-term contact with water without suffering. You’ll know you have a vertical crack on your hands if your crawl space or basement walls are starting to bow inward.
- Horizontal. Homes with foundations made of brick or concrete are more likely than other homes to suffer from horizontal cracks. These cracks result from the aforementioned cycle of contraction and expansion that your foundation undergoes. If your home frequently settles, then, consider reaching out to a local contractor to determine what the negative side effects of Cleveland’s weather may be.
- Diagonal. Diagonal cracks form for the same reasons horizontal cracks form. However, these cracks tend to be wider on one side than the other. This is because diagonal cracks form in homes that settle unevenly. This could be because your home is built on a hill or because one side of the foundation comes into contact with more precipitation than the other.
Steps to Take to Prevent Foundation Cracks
The good news is that you can prevent – or delay – foundational cracks. If you want to preserve the structural integrity of your home, consider the following solutions:
- Waterproof your foundation early. As mentioned, long-term exposure to precipitation, dampness or standing water can weaken the foundation of your home. If you waterproof your foundation, that water won’t be able to damage your home. French drains, dehumidifiers, sump pumps, and temporary sealants will all direct water back out toward your lawn where it can nourish the soil instead of corrupting your wooden supports.
- Be careful with your landscaping. Tree roots, too, can have a negative impact on the structural integrity of your home. It’s recommended that if you’re working on your landscaping, you keep plants with extensive root systems and any trees at least 20 feet away from your home upon their planting. The last thing you want is for your beautiful bushes to cause a leak in your basement.
- Keep your lawn damp. The soil around your home can help protect your foundation from excess contact with water. However, if you’re in the middle of a Cleveland drought, the soil particles in your lawn will shrink. If you choose to water your lawn, you’ll keep your particles healthy, and they’ll be able to more readily absorb any rainwater that would otherwise get into your home.
- Do outdoor chores. Few people in the world enjoy cleaning their gutters. You’re going to need to take on this chore, though, if you want to preserve your foundation. If you don’t clean out your gutters, run-off water will drop straight down onto the perimeter of your home. From there, it’ll make its way into your foundation, where it can cause cracks. Cleaning your gutters, then, may be a nuisance, but it’ll help save you money in the long run.
Don’t feel as though you have to wait for your foundation to crack to act. Talk with a local contractor about the different waterproofing and foundation solutions that will keep your home in one piece.