Your beautiful new home can look gorgeous from the doorstep. But foundation cracks in the ground below can soon turn it into a money pit.
Foundation repairs can cost between $15,000 and $35,000. That figure shoots up to $100,000 for severe problems.
So you certainly want to keep an eye out for issues before they cost that much.
But, just what are the signs you should be looking for? Read on to find out.
Are the mortar joints slanted?
Watch a mason at work. See the level they’re constantly using?
You already know that’s there to make sure the brickwork follows straight lines. Those strong even lines lead to sturdy walls that will last for years.
But if your mortar joints are out of line, then it could mean that you have foundation cracks. They cause the walls to move and become uneven, leading to unsightly joints.
A specialist will check the joints using a laser line. They can diagnose if the walls have shifted due to foundation cracks.
Can you see foundation cracks outside?
90% of all basements in Canada are built using a concrete wall system. And if your house has a poured perimeter foundation, you should be able to see the concrete.
If it looks solid, that’s good news. But if it looks like it’s flaking, push into it with a screwdriver. If the concrete is sound, you won’t damage it.
But if you chip it or break pieces off, then the concrete could be breaking down. The original mix might have contained dirty sand, or had too much water added.
Remember that well-made concrete shrinks slightly as it cures. So hairline cracks in the mortar between concrete blocks are normal. If you’re not sure, paint over them with a concrete waterproofing paint.
Check back later. If the paint doesn’t crack, then you don’t need to worry. If it does, then the gap is under pressure. You may have more serious foundation cracks at hand.
Cracks that meander down a wall or taper down to a hairline can appear where a foundation follows a hillside. The cracks appeared as the concrete shrank and you can plug them.
But stair-step cracks in masonry joints are not so normal. If the crack is wider than 1/4 inch, get it checked out quickly.
Are there visible cracks in the walls?
If you see wall cracks on the outside of your home, you already know you have a problem. The faulty foundation puts pressure on the sections of wall, making them lean in different directions.
The telltale signs are stair-step cracks and horizontal cracks between brick lines.
If your walls are showing vertical cracks instead, then that can also point to foundation cracks. Lacking support, the wall cracks vertically when it rotates.
It’s also important to check for cracks around door and window frames. If the frames are coming away from the wall and causing gaps, then the wall has moved.
The crack appears because the frame is no longer square. Sure, you can fill the gap, but you won’t be fixing the problem.
And you don’t have to just look outside either. Have you noticed cracks in your drywall or plaster inside the house?
They’re equally symptoms of problems below the house.
Have you found suspicious patches and repairs around your home?
Chances are, you’re not the first owner of your home. And while most people are honest, some sellers can paper over problems just to make a sale.
And if there are foundation cracks beneath the house, they might have tried their own repairs to hide it.
So, check the house for signs of previous repair work. If you can find wall patches, it might mean the settlement has been causing problems for a while.
Remember, settlement can cause your house to settle on a specific side. That makes your house tip up at an angle. It can cause foundation cracks due to the stresses placed on the building.
And the doors and windows are designed to work when they’re level. The moment the house tips, they stick because they’re no longer level.
So if you can find signs that the framework or latches have been moved, then the previous owners might have known about it. And tried to hide it.
And don’t worry if you have wallpaper on your walls. You can still use it to spot problems.
If foundation cracks cause the walls to shift, that also pushes creases and wrinkles across the wallpaper. Wallpaper can even tear where the wall below has cracked.
Have you checked the floors?
Foundation cracks can cause slanted floors as well as problems with the walls and windows. Just be careful your specialist checks the floor all around the house.
That’s because a slanted floor can also be a sign of problems with the beams or joists. They’re different problems, but they still need to be fixed.
Don’t worry if you have incremental drops of an inch across the floor. That’s acceptable.
But you need to call in the professionals if your house slopes more than an inch at regular intervals across the property.
And you should definitely call in a professional if the floor has sunk so low it’s separated from the wall. Hero Response can certainly help with foundation repairs.
But once you’re finished looking at the floor, remember to look up. Do you see any gaps between the molding and the ceiling?
If so, it can mean foundation cracks are causing the house to tilt.
Are there problem signs in the basement?
Are the basement walls solid and straight? That’s a good thing. But are they bowing in?
That’s bad news. Wet soil expands and pushes against the foundation. When it dries, it pulls back. That can cause weak areas in your foundation, which can lead to cracks.
And you should check for cracks in the basement floor. While they can be caused by problems with the concrete installation, it’s worth having them investigated.
Cracks in the basement can indicate water damage. You may want to invest in waterproofing services to keep water at bay.
That’s particularly important in Ontario. According to Aviva, water damage claims in 2014 actually accounted for 44% of all property damage claims.
So if you have suspicious foundation cracks, then contact us to get them checked out. And if it turns out to be a water damage problem, we can definitely fix that for you too.