Of the issues that can make a homeowner antsy, a cracked foundation is probably pretty close to the top of the list. Not only can cracked foundations become very expensive to repair, their appearance can lead to many other problems throughout the structure, driving expenses up even more. The fact is, though, that if they are caught early enough, many foundation difficulties can be remedied faster--and even less expensively--than many might imagine. It is for this reason that calling for service as soon as a problem is noticed is the best course of action.
Since these cracks not only look bad but may allow moisture to seep indoors, filling them is probably a good idea.
1.Why Does Concrete Crack?
Though there are several different foundation materials that have been used throughout history, concrete has become the modern standard. Slabs, footings, piers, and insulated concrete forms (ICFs) all make use of this tough, durable material, and according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, these concrete elements are typically expected to last 100 years or more. This estimate is only valid, however, when the elements were built properly and constructed upon a stable base; factors like earthquakes, shifting or unstable subsoil, and erosion can cause concrete elements to age prematurely. In some cases, a single event can severely damage installations that would have otherwise lasted for decades and decades more.
2.What Are the Signs of Foundation Problems?
A structure that is visibly sinking or shifting obviously has some foundation issues, and large cracks in basements or slabs are sure signs, too. There are, however, several other more subtle indicators that your home's foundation may be in trouble.
• One window or door that isn't closing properly is probably a sign of a problem with that individual window or door. A series of windows and doors that are sticking shut or not closing fully may be a sign of foundation issues.
• Old flooring is bound to experience a certain degree of warping. However, sloping floors are a sign of issues in the foundation.
• The cracks and separation in the places where walls meet the floor, the ceiling, and each other can be a sign of foundation issues. If these planes pull apart or the walls themselves begin to bow, foundation problems could be the culprit.
3.Repairing Cracks in the Foundation
Small cracks (less than ¼ inch wide) on basement floors and walls may be nothing more than a sign of aging. However, since these cracks not only look bad but may allow moisture to seep indoors, filling them is probably a good idea. Caulk or putty can often be used to fill in these small cracks; injecting such fissures with epoxy is also an option.
4.How Much Does Foundation Repair Cost?
Filling in cracks isn't rocket science, and even homeowners with very little experience can typically perform this job themselves. However, because these cracks can be indicators of much larger problems in the future, having them examined by a professional is highly recommended. A professional inspection will be able to identify potentially large problems while they are still small (and while a permanent fix may still be relatively inexpensive). Bringing in a pair of seasoned eyes might cost a couple hundred bucks, but because it could save you thousands in the long run, this is definitely an investment worth making. Sure, you might find out that the cracks are harmless and end up filling them in yourself anyway, but the knowledge that a larger issue isn't waiting just around the corner is something you'll be glad you have. To learn more, see our price guide on the Cost to Repair a Foundation.
5.Avoid "Free" Inspections
Home improvements and repairs are rarely cheap, and the contractors who are good at their jobs are not afraid to charge premium prices for their work. Inspectors operate similarly. While some companies who offer a free inspection (for any home component from the roof to the foundation) may be doing so to meet potential clients and leave a good impression, no-cost inspections may also be a ploy to provide services that are unnecessary. Competent work is worth paying for; if you want a good, unbiased inspection, it is worth the time to find a foundation repair contractor who will only profit from the inspection--not from fixing the problems he or she identifies.