As homeowners, we often take the health of our property’s structure for granted. A healthy and strong floor, roof, and walls seem like the most basic requirements of a home, but they are not guaranteed. Bad weather, appliance breakdown, poor-quality soil, and floor cracks are just some of the things that can put your property’s health at risk.
Cracks of any kind in your concrete flooring could potentially be a problem sign for structural damage and instability in your property. Their placement and size can tell you a lot about the issues that are at work around your property.
You need to know what you are looking for. Learning to recognize the other red flags in a property is a skill that is useful to any property owner. Here’s what you need to know about floor cracks.
Why Floor Cracks Are a Problem
There are many different signs of damage that you should be aware of, as a homeowner, but spreading cracks in floors and walls are both some of the most common and most serious of all. The problem is that they are also some of the most ambiguous. Floor cracks and wall cracks can be a sign of many different issues. After all, what spreading cracks really mean on any surface is that the structure is struggling to cope with strong pressure of some kind.
Not all cracks are signs of damage. Some are perfectly harmless.
Hairline vs. Spreading Cracks
Hairline cracks are the most common that you will find in any home or structure. This is because they form during the natural process of settling or relaxation (not to be confused with settlement) that occurs after a property is constructed. Hairline cracks are:
In short, these cracks are not growing and they are so small that you couldn’t even fit a business card into most of them. That’s because they are signs of previous movement, not ongoing issues. Spreading cracks, however, are a different matter.
Spreading cracks are:
- Larger than hairline cracks (generally)
These cracks are created by ongoing pressures and change over time. Even if they start off as hairline cracks, they can quickly become larger, deeper, and more noticeable than any hairline crack. They also have the potential to allow water and pests into your home, depending on their placement and depth. As such, you should take note of where the obvious cracks in your home are and keep an eye on them. If they start to grow over time, please contact a professional for advice, as they can be a sign of many different issues.
What Floor Cracks Can Mean
As previously stated, floor cracks are basically just a sign that your property is under strain. This can either be excessive pressure from somewhere, either inside or outside of the property, or a lack of support in key areas. When you see spreading floor cracks, in particular, there can be a number of issues at work.
Here’s what floor cracks can mean:
Expansive Soils Are Causing Damage
Your foundation soils can cause many different issues for your property. In truth, very few Ohio homes are built on ideal soil. This is why it is so important to know how different soils can impact your house. Nonetheless, expansive soils are some of the most damaging because of the way that they change in volume when they are saturated or dehydrated.
Floor cracks in your home can be caused by expansive soils in a number of ways. Firstly, very saturated soil will swell and put pressure on your foundation and foundation walls. If you have a basement, this could cause bowing walls that will put pressure on the floors above and below, causing cracks. Likewise, sudden snap freezes could lead to foundation heave.
When dehydrated, expansive soils shrink and crack. This can create voids below a property and lead to an issue called settlement. Settlement is the term for a process by which sections of a foundation break away and sink into the ground. Not to be confused with the natural relaxation or settling of a property, this is a very damaging process that will definitely cause flooring to crack and even sink or sag.
Your Foundation Is Damaged
Expansive soils are not the only cause of foundation damage, but foundation damage is the leading cause of serious floor cracks in many homes. Foundation damage can be caused by loose or weak soil shifting during extreme weather (which can cause lateral movement and put pressure on a property) or by processes known as washout and erosion.
Soil washout and erosion are processes by which unhealthy soil, generally topsoil, is washed or blown away over a period of time. This makes the soil progressively less healthy over time but can also lead to voids forming underneath concrete surfaces and even your home as a whole. This can cause floor cracks by destabilizing the property and causing uneven strain.
Your Perimeter Is Saturated
Poor drainage and perimeter saturation commonly contribute to foundation movement and sinking, as well as issues like bowing basement walls. These issues can lead to spreading cracks in both walls and flooring, as well as many other issues.
Unsurprisingly, cracked floors and walls in a property that is also dealing with poor drainage and perimeter flooding will lead to dampness and humidity in a property. This can lead to many secondary issues and forms of damage that could be damaging to your health, as well as your home.
You Have Damaged Joists
Damaged support beams and joists can contribute to floor cracks in a number of ways, though they can also be a sign of deeper issues at work. Cracks in basement flooring and walls are most likely to be a result of foundation damage, but if you also see cracks in your ground-level or upper-level floors, there is a chance that the joists that support them have been damaged.
Dampness, mold, wood rot, and a shifting or sinking foundation can damage your support joists. If you see cracks and unevenness in a wooden floor, however, you should call a professional as quickly as possible. These could be signs of impending collapse.
There Are Design or Construction Flaws at Work
There is always the chance that defects in the concrete itself are causing the floor cracks in your property. Design or construction flaws can lead to defects in the concrete that can manifest in a number of ways. For example, if the cement mix has the wrong ratio of ingredients, the concrete can be more prone to spalling, flaking, pitting, and staining.
Likewise, if the concrete is disturbed after it has started to set, or it is not given the proper time in which to cure, the cement can be weak or have huge fault lines running through it. This makes large floor cracks more likely.
It is hard to tell which of these issues is at work based solely on the appearance and placement of cracks in your flooring. There are many other signs that you should be on the lookout for. Learning to spot other red flags can make all the difference.
Other Problem Signs to be Aware of
Spreading cracks are one of the most generic problem signs that can appear in any part of a home. This means that it can be very tough for a non-professional to properly diagnose the underlying issues that are causing them to form.
There are other problem signs that you can look out for to help you in this endeavor. They are:
Condensation is a sign that humidity in your home has reached an unmanageable level. Once the relative humidity reaches 100 percent and the air is unable to hold any more water, contact with a cool surface will lead to condensation. You can recognize condensation as small droplets of water forming on cold surfaces like glass, metal, and concrete.
If you see condensation in your home in tandem with floor cracks, there is a strong likelihood that foundation damage is somehow connected. Dampness and high relative humidity are common side effects of foundation damage.
Mold and mildew formation are also very general signs that something has gone wrong. In fact, they are primarily signs of humidity (like condensation). If you see mold and mildew in your home alongside floor cracks, this is also a strong sign that you have foundation damage at work. Internal leaks or smaller kinds of structural damage, like leaking window wells can cause excess humidity.
Mold can also cause damage, however, by eating away at organic surfaces like wood and textile. This can lead to sagging and damaged floors and joists, as well as health concerns. Those who have underlying health issues are most at risk.
Sticking Doors and Windows
Sticking doors and windows may not seem like a sign of anything serious, but when all of the doors and windows in a certain part of your home start to stick or jam, you should pay attention. This can be a sign of structural shifting, foundation damage, and uneven walls or flooring. If this occurs in tandem with floor and wall cracks, you should call in a professional as quickly as possible.
This sticking generally occurs because of the way that movement in the structure of a home deforms the door and window frames, making it harder (or impossible) for them to achieve their full range of motion.
Floor and Wall Gaps
Floor and wall gaps are a sign of serious structural damage, no matter where or when they appear. Even small gaps are a problem sign. These gaps start to form either because a floor is moving down or inward or because lateral pressure is causing the walls themselves to shift.
Common causes include:
- Damaged floor joists
- Foundation damage
- Bowing walls
- Foundational shifts
If you find pools or puddles of standing water in your home with no obvious and benign causes, you should consider it a strong warning sign. First and foremost, interior leaks, plumbing problems, and appliance breakdown can cause pooling water. When you see it in tandem with floor cracks, however, the source is more likely to be exterior.
Many different kinds of structural damage can let a significant amount of water into a home, but those most likely to also cause floor cracks are generally foundation problems like settlement and subsidence.
Deciphering these problem signs can be a little tricky when you have no training or experience. This is why we always recommend that you hire a professional to help you figure out just what is happening in your home. A confident (and correct) first diagnosis of the issues at work can make all the difference when it comes to getting a quick and efficient solution.
If you have noticed a pervasive bad odor in your home and you can’t quite place the source, there are a few possible causes that you should consider. There is also the chance that more than one factor is at work.
Pests, Mold, and Mildew
Generally speaking, the most common causes of bad odors in any property are some form of infestation or fungal growth. Pest infestations can vary in the amount of damage that they do and the strength of the smell that they produce. The infestations most likely to cause a strong and unpleasant smell are cockroach and rodent infestations.
Mold, mildew, and fungal growth can create a strong smell over time, especially when they go hand in hand with rotting organic material. Wood rot, for example, is notoriously inviting for both pests and certain species of mold. This not only weakens the wood but can lead to a strong musty odor and even some health issues for those living on the property.
Structural Damage and Dampness
Both of these issues require some degree of dampness and structural damage to really take root. Floor and wall cracks commonly act as an entry point for smaller pests and will also allow water to seep into a property from the soil around it. This can create a perfect environment for mold, mildew, fungal growth, and pests inside a property’s basement or crawl space.
In most cases, there is no single underlying cause. The formation of a very strong and unpleasant smell takes time and is often connected to secondary and tertiary issues that increase the smell and add their own complications to the situation. As such, bad smells are surprisingly hard to diagnose. Nonetheless, if you see floor cracks in a basement with bad odors, it is time to worry.
A few cracks in your property’s flooring may not seem like an overly serious issue, but floor cracks can be the first warning sign of some very serious issues.
Floor Cracks Are Signs of Pressure
At the very heart of the issue, floor cracks (or any kind of cracks) are just a sign that a structure or surface is struggling to cope with some kind of pressure. This can be an active, excessive pressure being placed on the surface by external factors, or the pressure created by the weight of a structure when it is left without adequate support.
Whatever the cause, there is a good chance that these cracks will continue to grow. Furthermore, they are often the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Floor cracks are often the visible face of deeper structural damage. As such, it is important to have them checked out, even if you think they may be benign, to avoid being surprised by the sudden appearance of more serious issues at a later date.
Spreading Cracks Are Active
Spreading cracks, in particular, are a bad sign for any home. Unlike hairline and static cracks, these cracks are a sign that there is an active and ongoing source of pressure or damage within a property. As these cracks spread and grow, they can lead to many other problems including increased humidity, leaning or bowing walls, HVAC deterioration, and even increased energy bills.
The most worrying potential side effect of floor cracks is the destabilization of the walls connected to damaged floors. As the cracks spread and the pressure mounts, it can often lead to walls and floors starting to separate. This can cause points of serious weakness in the structure of a property and lead to widespread problems.
We understand that finding structural damage in your home can prompt you to consider the easiest possible solution. Nonetheless, we do not recommend that you simply fill in floor cracks. There are too many things that can go wrong.
Covering Issues Doesn’t Fix Them
Covering up or filling in cracks by resurfacing concrete will make your home look better in the short term, but it will not address the actual causes of damage. This can lead to a number of problems, but the most worrying issue is that this covers up the signs of deterioration. While this may only last for a short time (cracks will always recur unless you deal with the underlying cause), by the time the filler starts to crack, the damage will be much worse.
This means you could end up costing yourself more money and time, as well as allowing the issue to deteriorate unchecked when you simply cover floor cracks. More worryingly, there is the chance that filling in these cracks could actually make the problem worse and lead to secondary and tertiary issues forming in your home.
DIY Foundation Repairs are Dangerous
As you can see, it is important to deal with the actual cause of the damage rather than the visible signs. In many cases, this means undertaking foundation repairs. Foundation issues are the most common causes of floor cracks in Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, but this is not the only issue that they will cause in a home.
When it comes to foundation repair, you should not even think of undertaking the task alone. Foundational repairs, and structural repairs in general, are not only difficult and intensive, but they can also be actively dangerous if you do not have the tools, skills, and experience to complete them properly. As well as the risk of deterioration following a shoddy repair, there is also the likelihood of collapse or injury during the process. As such, professionals are the best placed to investigate and deal with floor cracks.
Call Ohio Basement Systems for Quality Floor Repair
Whether you have just one or two small cracks in your property’s flooring, or there is a large web of cracks spreading widely, the team here at Ohio Basement Systems is on hand to help. We have been helping homeowners in Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, to restore their flooring and foundation to their full glory since 1999.
Over the years, we have completed tens of thousands of repairs in a variety of situations. No matter what forces are at work in your home, you can be sure that we will be able to help you. All you need to do is contact our team to arrange a free inspection appointment. Our inspectors will be able to quickly and efficiently identify the underlying causes of your floor cracks, as well as the secondary damage that may have been caused. They will then give you a written estimate for the cost of our suggested repairs so you can make an educated choice.