Foundation damage can present a variety of symptoms depending on the severity, the location of the issue, and the reason it forms in the first place. We’ll include some information on the more common warning signs of foundation problems below, along with the issue that is most likely to cause each.
The rigid concrete beneath your home is almost sure to crack at some point during its life. Breaks can form as a result of routine and harmless settlement, but some cracks signify structural issues and the potential for foundation failure. It’s helpful to know the different types of fissures you might find and the damage they indicate.
Slab or Basement Floor Cracks
Gaps are almost certain to develop on a concrete slab, whether it’s the sole foundation for your house or acting as your crawlspace or basement floor. All foundations settle shortly after new construction, and hairline cracks in the slab form in response. These are normal and mostly harmless, as long as they remain under ⅛” and level. A polyurethane or epoxy seal to keep water and moisture out is generally the only repair solution required.
If slab surface cracks widen beyond ⅛” or one side pushes above the other, differential settling is likely the cause. These gaps are significantly more problematic, signify structural instability, and require immediate stabilization.
Vertical Wall Cracks
Vertical gaps in your crawlspace or basement wall develop when your foundation settles after construction. These gaps will appear in most basements throughout Baltimore, and especially in the row houses that were built in the early 1900s. These fissures are mostly harmless, but many homeowners have a foundation repair company seal them to help maintain a dry basement.
Horizontal Wall Cracks
Gaps that travel along your foundation wall laterally develop when undue hydrostatic pressure from the clay soil in the area forces the wall inward until it cracks from the stress. They indicate that your foundation wall is structurally compromised, so they require immediate stabilization and wall repair.
Stair-Step Wall Cracks
The last type of crack you’ll find in your foundation develops in a stair-step pattern on your concrete block wall, moving along the edges of the blocks in a diagonal direction. These cracks suggest a sinking foundation, usually in response to differential settling below. The concrete lifting repair process for this damage is often extensive and costly.
Bowing Foundation Walls
Horizontal wall cracks are typically preceded by bowing walls in your crawlspace or basement. These appear when the hydrostatic pressure from the expansive clay soil in Baltimore has begun to force your wall inward but hasn’t progressed enough to create a stress crack. Stabilization and an exterior drainage system are often employed to reduce stress on your concrete wall and further movement.
Damp or Wet Basement
The abundant rainfall and absorbent soil in Baltimore combine to make water intrusion and moisture accumulation in the space under your house widespread and significant. Many homeowners in the city experience ongoing and recurring problems, which can be identified in a variety of ways.
Water can leak through cracks in your concrete or around basement windows and doors. It often results in a wet concrete floor, puddles or standing water, and water damage to building materials in the space.
Water vapor is another persistent problem in Baltimore, usually resulting in moisture accumulating in the air beneath your home. You’re likely to find mold growth, musty smells, noticeably damp air, and signs of pest infestation, including feces and frass. You may also find efflorescence on the walls, which is a build-up of minerals left behind by incoming runoff.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
Finally, water and moisture issues beneath your home can often affect your indoor air quality, so you may be able to diagnose the need for waterproofing and basement or crawlspace repair from your living space.
Humidity from beneath your house can seep upstairs and raise moisture levels, often resulting in uncomfortably hot or cold air in the summer or winter. Your utility bills may unexpectedly increase as you combat the moist air with your heating and cooling system.
Mold growth in your crawlspace or basement can trigger allergic reactions inside your home, so unexplained sneezing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose can help identify a foundation leak.