Protecting Your Foundation From Cracks: Tips and Tricks

Friday, January 3rd, 2020


Guide to fixing foundation problems

Owning a home puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. It’s not just you, though, that’s under a lot of stress. If you live in an area that sees frequent weather fluctuations, then your foundation may be under pressure, too. That excess pressure can sometimes lead to the development of a foundational crack.

What kinds of cracks have homeowners had to contend with before, and what steps can you take to keep your foundation whole? Let’s break down your options so you can keep your home in tip-top shape.

Why Foundations Crack

Your foundation comes under a lot of stress while supporting your home. As the weather warms, the particles that make up your foundation will expand. In turn, your foundation will grow. As the weather cools, those particles will shrink, and your foundation will contract.

Unfortunately, North Carolina’s weather can be unpredictable. When the weather starts to change rapidly, your foundation will struggle to keep up with the demanded expansions and contractions. When your foundation comes under this amount of stress, it may crack in an attempt to comply with environmental demands.

That said, there are other reasons your foundation may crack. Expansive root systems from nearby trees, for example, may bully their way into your foundation, generating cracks as they go.

Types of Foundation Cracks

The good news is that, should your foundation crack, it can only crack in so many ways. More often than not, you’ll have to deal with one of the three following crack types:

  • Vertical. Vertical cracks tend to appear in newer homes. Your contractors will most likely support the foundation of your home with wooden beams. Unfortunately, some contractors opt to use wooden beams that haven’t fully matured. This green wood responds poorly when exposed to standing water or dampness in the long-term. When the wood caves, you’ll start to see the walls of your crawl space or basement bow, and your foundation will vertically crack.
  • Horizontal. You’re most likely to see a horizontal crack in your foundation if you have a foundation made out of brick or concrete. These foundations contract and grow in response to changes in the weather. If the weather changes too quickly or your foundation is exposed to water, the materials will crack to better keep up with the physical demands of their environment.
  • Diagonal. Diagonal cracks appear in your foundation for much the same reason horizontal ones appear. However, diagonal cracks indicate that your foundation is settling unevenly. If you notice rainwater settling on one side of your basement or crawl space more frequently than the other, then you’ll need to talk to a contractor about the steps you can take to avoid the development of a diagonal crack.

Signs of a Cracked Foundation

You won’t always be able to spot a crack in your foundation, even if it’s resulted in a leak. If you think you do have a crack to contend with, though, keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Unpleasant smells
  • Pest infestations
  • Cooler basement temperatures
  • Fogging windows
  • Standing water or frequent leaks
  • Water damage

While these signs are also symptoms of a leak, they can help point you toward any foundation cracks that may be letting excess water into your home.

How to Keep Your Foundation From Cracking

The good news is that you don’t have to wait for your foundation to crack to act. There are steps you can take to keep your foundation in one piece. These include:

  • Waterproof your foundation. Long-term exposure to flood waters can put extra stress on your foundation. That’s why it’s important, upon construction, to talk to a professional about the different waterproofing solutions you have available to you. Tools like French drains, sump pumps, dehumidifiers, temporary sealants, and vapor barriers can all redirect water away from your foundation, ensuring that it remains structurally sound for longer.
  • Clean your gutters. There are some basic chores you can do around your home to keep your foundation safe, too. Cleaning your gutters may be a pain, but doing so will help you keep water away from your foundation. A gunky gutter will spill water right out onto your perimeter, allowing precipitation to reach your foundation and add additional stress to its already heavy load.
  • Be careful with your landscaping. As mentioned, expansive root networks can compromise the structure of your foundation. If you’re planting trees or bushes in your lawn, make sure the largest are at least 20 feet away from your home upon their planting.
  • Water your lawn. If the soil around your home is healthy, it can help prevent the worst side effects of excessive North Carolina rainstorms. As soil is exposed to water, the particles remain hearty and hale. During droughts, however, soil particles will shrink. These shrunken particles won’t be able to absorb any excess water that arrives with the first rainstorm after a drought. When you water your lawn, you keep your soil healthy and help it absorb excess rainwater when storms do arrive.

You can work with a North Carolina contractor to reduce the amount of stress your foundation is under. Don’t let the local weather keep you from retaining the value of your home.