Are All Foundation Cracks Serious?
Not all cracks are serious. Sometimes when concrete cures (fully dries) there is the potential for cracks to appear in the foundation walls and concrete floor (slab) that may or may not affect the structure of the foundation. This is one of the reasons why basement contractors advise home owners of newly constructed homes to wait a few years before finishing their basement, allowing the foundation to settle.
Three Common Causes for Foundation Cracks and Leaking Basements
1) Soil & Moisture Content
The earth under your home’s foundation can be made up of stone in one area and soil in another. This can cause the foundation to settle unevenly and crack.
Creaking floors, stuck windows and doors, along with a leak in your basement are signs of movement in your foundation.
Heavy backfill or premature filling of the backfill can create excessive pressure on the foundation walls, causing them to buckle inward and crack. The material used to backfill should also be taken into consideration, as some materials can cause excessive fluctuations when settling.
2) Changes In Temperature
- The freezing and thawing cycles help promote movement under the walls of your foundation, ultimately affecting its rigid structure.
Backfilled soil around the foundation is more porous than the surrounding area, absorbing additional water near the walls of your foundation. Thus making it important to ensure your foundation is crack free.
Bedrock naturally drains water, but can be blocked by the presence of your home, further increasing the amount of water near the walls of your foundation.
As we read above, soil does move with time; as a result ensure that the soil is correctly graded (the soil is angled away from the home, moving water away from your foundation walls).
Blocked gutters and/or gutters that are not directing rain water away from your home are literally pouring water onto your backfilled soil, draining down to your foundation walls.
Other Factors That Can Damage Your Foundation
Over time tree roots can greatly damage foundation walls, pushing against the structure of your home and making their way through cracks. Tree roots can also push upwards on the house from under the foundation, causing the house to settle poorly. One can argue that such roots will help in absorbing water, this is true although it can leave one area of the backfill dry (settling differently than another area of the backfill), creating movement in the foundation.
If your house is located directly alongside a major roadway or railroad, these nearby vibrations in the earth will weaken the walls of your basement foundation.
What Should I Do Moving Forward - Good Foundation Habits
The Montreal winter months can be cruel to the structure of your foundation, freezing the soil around your home in one month, and thawing out a few months later. As a result it is expected to see movement in the soil surrounding your foundation, which over time can lead to foundation and structural cracks. The important thing is to keep an eye out for changes and small minor cracks you see on the interior and exterior walls of your home. When was the last time you checked the perimiter of your home? Besides the inside of my home, which I see often, I try to make it a point to walk around the outside of my house (once before the winter season and once after) to take note of any concerns I see and if those concerns worsened with time. A 5 minute walk around twice a year today can help save thousands in water damages months or years later. If you are unsure about the structure of your basement, call your local foundation expert! Estimations and inspections are usually free and can help put your mind at ease.