With the exception of houses built on solid rock, ALL foundations settle over time. Fixing foundation is not uncommon but you should still consult a residential foundation contractor to help. A typical total foundation settlement range is up to approximately one inch. The alternative is to build on soil, which has a tendency to settle or in some cases, depending on soil type and moisture changes, heave over time. The purpose of a foundation is to allow the structure to settle evenly, or uniformly, versus differentially.
The question is “When does foundation settlement or movement become a problem?”
Foundation Problems Caused By Soil Expansion
Soil conditions directly affect how the foundation of your home settles over time. Poor water drainage can leave excessive water in the soil, with this exposure causing many types of soil and clay to expand. When expansive soils shrink and swell, it puts direct pressure on the foundation, causing cracks and water damage. Poor water drainage can be due to many factors, such as plant watering areas next to the foundation that are not diverted away from the house or areas that have not been sloped correctly to avoid excessive pools of water.
Too much standing water or moisture is not good for your home as it can cause foundation movement and cracks to appear in walls.
Differential Foundation Settlement Movement
Even though foundation settlement is to be expected, the purpose of a foundation system is to keep the framing on top of it as plumb and level as possible. Industry standard for a new construction building floor is +/- ½" out of level in a 20’ length. When one part of the foundation settles or heaves faster than another, which is referred to as differential settlement or movement, it creates distress in the framing. This can make it so that your house leans or tilts to one side, causing distress and cracking in the foundation.
Differential foundation movement can create problems. Windows and doors may bind and become inoperable. Drywall or plaster may crack and fall off the walls and ceiling, and floor coverings like tile and hardwood may buckle and bend. In more extreme instances, framing connections may be compromised and cause structural failure. To prevent this, foundation repair should be considered before it gets to that point.
Home Foundation Fixing Experts
Do you have problems with door and window operation, interior and/or exterior cracks in finishes, and sloping floors? These are just a few warning signs indicating that there may be a problem caused by excess differential foundation movement. If you notice these signs, it is best to have qualified residential foundation contractors assess the structure. A residential foundation contractor can determine if the movement is normal or if home foundation repair is necessary.
Give Versa Grade a call at 775-284-1964! We are happy to have one of our residential foundation contractors come out and take a look at your home and let you know if a foundation repair is needed. We will also advise you if a repair is not needed!
Foundation cracks worry a lot of people. Home inspectors may tell you that they need to be repaired, and to consult with foundation repair contractors/residential foundation contractors. Home buyers may see problems that call for your foundation fixing but walk away from a potential transaction or ask for a reduction in the sales price. Truth is, most foundations have cracks. It is the type, size, and orientation of a crack(s) that determine whether or not there may be a problem.
How do cracks form?
From the moment concrete is placed, it begins to shrink via the hydration process. Extensive research has been conducted to evaluate why and where concrete tends to crack. As a result, several standards have been put into place to reduce, eliminate, or control the locations of cracking.
There are several external factors such as temperature (both ambient and concrete mix), water content, humidity, and placement practices that all play a role in how concrete performs.
Controlling the spread: fixing foundation
There are two common means of control done by our residential foundation contractors. The first, Expansion Joints, are designed to permit expansion and contraction of concrete masses. On the other hand, Control Joints are saw cuts or tooled joints in concrete sections to allow it to crack at specified locations. The addition of reinforcement in the pour, such as rebar, will also help curtail cracking.
However, in the end, most concrete pours crack during the curing process. The American Concrete Institute (ACI) spells out the technical aspects here, but the California Department of Transportation adopted an easier to read specification for concrete shrinkage. .05% - .08% for every 12’ feet. This works out to about the width of a dime every 12’.
Warning Signs of Foundation Problems
The question is: “Are the cracks in my foundation normal? Or do I have a foundation issue?”
“Hairline”, or small cracks, are typical in most foundations. They generally are vertical and are not offset. That is to say, that one side of the crack has not moved up or down, or in and out as opposed to the other side. They are also generally the same width from top to bottom. These types of cracks are generally considered normal and are usually of small concern. Water can get into these cracks, and if it freezes, can actually break off pieces of concrete making the crack bigger. The best way to address these cracks is to have residential foundation contractors seal them up with paint, caulk, or a variety of readily available sealers that will prevent water infiltration.
However, any crack wider than ¼” may be cause for concern and a need for fixing the foundation as it can allow for water infiltration. The type of crack is also important. Diagonal cracks & cracks that are wider on one end vs. the other may be a sign of movement. Cracks that are offset, or groups of several cracks are also likely a sign of distress. These types of cracks should be looked at by a professional to determine a cause and remediation. All structures settle over time. The purpose of a foundation is to allow the structure to settle as a unit at a slower rate. If you have foundation problems, you are likely to see interior sheetrock cracks, doors misaligned within the jamb, uneven floors, tile cracks, window frame separation, and even walls pulling away from the house.
To wrap up, here are some warning signs that will need to be evaluated by a foundation repair expert:
Any crack wider than 1/4"
Cracks that are wider on one end versus the other
Cracks that are offset
Groups of several cracks
Interior sheetrock cracks
Window or door frame separation
Walls pulling away from the house
These can be signs of water infiltration, movement or distress in your foundation.
In summary, concrete cracking can be the result of a poor batch of concrete, poor placement and/or curing methods, less than adequate installation of expansion and/or control joints, or the result of non-uniform foundation soils movement. Concrete cracking is generally classified as structural or non-structural. Structural cracking may require monitoring and potentially remediation, while non-structural cracking is mostly cosmetic in nature.
If you start to see threatening cracking in your foundation, give one of our residential foundation contractors a call at 775.284.1964 or send us an email! We will be happy to come out and take a look as your foundation crack repair experts!