Many homeowners get pretty stressed out when they discover a crack in their foundation wall. In some instances there is concern about water leaking into the basement, the structural integrity of the home and even ants finding their way into the basement. In this post we cover:
- Why foundation wall cracks are repaired
- How foundation cracks are repaired; and
- Recommendations as to when you should repair your cracked foundation
Typical foundation cracks
Why foundation cracks are repaired
In the case of the two images above it is clear that the wall cracks needed to be repaired because they were leaking water into the basement. In general, cracks are repaired for five main reasons:
- To resolve basement leaks – A crack that is leaking usually bothers homeowners. A leaking crack can certainly damage carpeting and laminate and cause mold growth, and when allowed to continue to leak the resultant saturated concrete deteriorates.
- To facilitate home sales – Foundation cracks are often repaired when the sale of a home is contemplated or as a result of the discovery of the crack during a buyer’s home inspection. Crack repair cost generally becomes a negotiation issue during home sales; we advise most clients to repair any cracks before putting their house up for sale. This subject is covered in more detail later in this post.
- Prior to, or during, basement finishing – There is no better time to inspect the condition of a foundation wall than prior to finishing a basement. If there are foundation cracks you have the opportunity to weigh the cost of fixing the cracks without finished walls in place against the cost of repairing leaking cracks in the future, in addition to the associated cost of wall repair and painting, and flooring damage.
- When a crack is considered to have structural implications – Structural cracking is normally the result of settlement. Very minor settlement is fairly common while significant settlement is not and must be addressed. Here are examples of foundation cracking that must be attended to by competent professionals.
Significant Structural Foundation Cracks that must be addressed
5. To prevent insects from getting into the basement – When a crack is in proximity to sandy soil or an interlocking walkway it is common for ants to enter the basement as shown in the following picture.
The Ants Were Marching In…
How foundation cracks are repaired
The proper way to repair foundation cracks has always been the subject of much debate. In general the argument is whether or not the best repair is accomplished from the inside or the outside. In reality the question is not that simple; the purpose of the foundation crack repair requires consideration. Do we want to fix a crack because it is leaking, may leak, or because we are concerned about the structural integrity of the home?
How we answer those questions is the best way to determine the most appropriate repair method. In a nutshell, a foundation crack is a hole in the wall; if the size is normal (< 3mm wide) any interior or exterior repair method should do the trick for preventing basement leaks. When cracks are wider than 3mm we need to decide whether the crack will likely widen as this makes structural repair a major consideration in how we deal with the problem.
The subject of crack repair methods can get complicated; for more detail check out these links:
- Poured concrete foundation wall crack repair (homes built since 1980)
- Concrete block / cinder block foundation basement crack repair (homes built before the late 1970’s)
When you should fix your cracked foundation
I admit that we’re in the business of repairing foundation cracks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our opinion is biased. There are good reasons to get foundation cracks fixed; here are our recommendations which many homeowners wish they had known before running into trouble:
- Repair cracks before your finish your basement – This may sound logical enough but some homeowners discover that there are 10 cracks in their basement upon close examination. Some cracks never leak and some leak all the time, and nobody can predict when a crack will leak. It comes down to your risk tolerance. It is always cheaper to conduct repairs before the basement walls get closed in.
- Fix the visible cracks before putting your home on the market – Over the years we’ve encountered situations where potential buyers wouldn’t even consider putting an offer on a home because they considered that a foundation crack meant the home was structurally unsound. At other times buyers tried to get significant discounts on the purchase price because of the required foundation repair work identified by their Home Inspector. The Bottom Line: there is nothing to discuss or any reason for high stress negotiation concerning foundation repairs when you’ve had cracks professionally repaired and you have a transferable warranty to hand over.
- If a crack has any staining, fix it – Staining around and from cracks is an undisputable sign that there is water ingress through your foundation. Even if you haven’t noticed water on the floor or don’t care about water in your basement, wet concrete will result in foundation deterioration. What is not a big deal in the beginning can become one later on.
- If any crack is wider than 3mm have it looked at by a professional. Cracks that are not too wide can be stabilized inexpensively; a cracked brick veneer repair will cost far more than crack stabilization. If the crack is really wide you definitely want to deal with it before it ends up costing 10’s of $1000’s to repair it.
- If your block foundation appears to be bowing get on it! – Soil pressure can and does cause block foundation walls to cave in. Caught early the walls can be reinforced. What do think it would cost to repair a collapsed foundation wall?