The underlying causes of foundation damage can present many different symptoms in your foundation and under your home. We’ll discuss the most prevalent signs of a foundation problem in Littleton below.
Foundation cracks can mean various things depending on their location and size, indicating anything from normal settling or newly poured concrete to severe structural damage. We’ll break down the types of gaps below and include the most likely cause of each.
Hairline Floor Cracks or Vertical Wall Cracks
Thin cracks form in most foundations as the cement settles naturally into the ground under the weight of your house. These can develop in a vertical position on your crawlspace or basement walls or on your concrete slab.
They are often harmless as long as they don’t continue growing more than a few years after new construction and don’t widen to more than ⅛”. The best course of action is to seal them with epoxy or polyurethane to prevent water from getting through them.
Horizontal Wall Cracks
Horizontally-oriented cracks that form on your concrete block wall should be cause for concern, as they suggest that the wall’s integrity has been compromised. They occur when the hydrostatic pressure from the surrounding soil becomes too much for the wall to resist. This is another typical issue in Littleton because of the bentonite and clay-rich dirt in the ground.
Cracks that form in the shape of stair steps are another sign of hazardous differential settling on your property. When areas under your home lose support from the soil underneath, they can crack off of your property and sink into the ground more rapidly than the rest of your home. The downward movement creates a step-shaped crack on your crawlspace or basement wall.
These cracks generally indicate structural problems and need a foundation repair contractor to carry out stabilization.
Bowing Foundation Walls
Inward bowing of your foundation walls can be an easy sign to miss, but it usually means they’re suffering from structural damage caused by the inward pressure from soil expansion. They often lead to horizontal crack formation when the concrete can’t flex any further.
Uneven Basement Floor
The shrink-swell soils in Littleton create frequent earth movement around and under your home’s foundation. Eventually, the concrete slab is likely to crack from differential settling, and an area of your foundation will settle into the ground more rapidly. You may notice floor cracks where one side of the gap is raised above the other, or you may just discover that your floor slopes or isn’t level, depending on the extent of the damage.
Moist or Wet Basement or Crawlspace
Lastly, many homeowners in the Littleton area experience water intrusion or moisture build-up under their homes. The expansive soil, bentonite, and heavy snowfall can all contribute to these problems.
Water can seep into your home through foundation cracks and is typically identifiable by wet or stained concrete in your basement or crawlspace, water puddling on the floor or trickling down the walls, and water damage to construction material, including insulation and sheetrock in finished basements.
The expansive soil holds moisture against your foundation for long periods, allowing water vapor to wick directly through solid concrete even if there are no unsealed cracks. Signs of moisture build-up include musty odors, damp air in your under-home area, and efflorescence, which is a deposit of minerals on the wall after intruding water evaporates into the air.
Mold thrives in damp conditions, and insects and rodents are naturally attracted to moist areas. As such, you may notice mold growth or signs of a pest infestation under your home if you’re experiencing problems with water or water vapor getting into your home.