“It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.” David Allan Coe

Happy New Year from “It’s on the House!”

The New Year is a great opportunity for reflection on building a better personal foundation. Identifying any cracks in your individual or family core will help shore up a strong future. It’s on the House has some foundation facts that will give your peace of mind that your home is on sure footing, too!

No matter what their age, houses will shift and settle over time. The result – cracks! You may notice cracks in either finishes or structural components of your home. Usually cracks have no structural significance, but we recommend some detective work to help your understand the differences in foundation cracks.

Shrinkage – Think George Costanza!

Shrinkage cracks may occur in newly-poured concrete foundations as it cures. Small vertical cracks could develop, but they are not structurally significant. A few characteristics of shrinkage cracks include:

• Small, vertical cracks, usually less than 1/8” wide

• The crack is in the foundation wall only and does not extend up through the structure

• Typically, shrinkage cracks occur in the middle third of the length of the foundation wall. If the cracks are located toward the end of the length of the wall – it is probably not a shrinkage crack.

Settlement Cracks – Don’t Settle!

Similar to shrinkage cracks, settlement cracks are vertical but they extend up through the structure. Cracks can be found in block or brick foundations. The cracks may follow the mortar joints in a step pattern rather than vertical and most settlement cracks are caused by short-term settlement. Usually on-going settlement is uncommon but overtime can cause structural problems.

If a settlement crack size is more than ¼” wide it is more likely to indicate ongoing movement than smaller cracks. Take a look at the direction of movement of the settlement cracks. The edges of a typical settlement crack line up and fit together vertically, much like puzzle pieces. If you notice the edges of the crack have shifted, or sheared so that they no longer line up, the 1/4 “ rule described above not does apply. This type of crack can be a significant structural concern.

Repair and Re Cracked – Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be!

Unless it is a hairline crack, a settlement crack that was repaired and has re-cracked could also indicate ongoing movement and should be addressed.

Horizontal Cracks – Problems Down the Line!

In homes with true basements, a horizontal crack in the foundation wall, below grade and running the entire length of the basement is likely a sign of foundation failure. Since foundation walls are designed to support loads from above rather than lateral loads, expanding soil can cause problems. For a house with a full basement, the soil outside the foundation wall exerts a tremendous amount of pressure on the foundation wall.

Occasionally, there can be unanticipated additional loads exerting pressure on the foundation wall which will cause horizontal cracking. Factors such as expansive clays, hydrostatic pressure, and freezing water can create too much stress on basement walls and foundations, causing them to push forward and even possibly collapse entirely over time.

We recommend addressing any potential issues or concerns as it could cause much greater problems down the line, including structural failure. Contact a certified structural engineer to assess your foundation and make recommendations.

Jeff Hunt is a Pillar to Post Franchise Owner and Certified Home and Stucco Inpsector. Jeff is an industrial engineer with over 20 years of construction management and quality control experience, experience including the quality control division of the Phillies Citizen’s Bank Park construction. Jeff is licensed in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.

For more information, contact The Jeff Hunt Team at jeff.hunt@pillartopost.com

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