The numerous underlying causes of foundation damage can present a variety of symptoms in your concrete foundation and under your home. We’ll discuss each of the common signs of damage below and offer some insight into what causes each kind.
Foundation cracks are typically the first signs of damage that homeowners notice. We’ll break down the cause and severity based on the location of the crack below.
Hairline Floor Cracks
Hairline cracks forming in the crawlspace or basement floor are often caused by typical concrete settling in the first few years after new construction. This type of damage appears on most foundations and doesn’t indicate structural problems. As long as the crack doesn’t widen or become unlevel from one side to the other, it can typically just be sealed to stop water from getting in.
Vertical Wall Cracks
Like hairline floor cracks, thin vertical gaps can form in your crawlspace or basement walls in response to normal settling. These gaps aren’t signs of structural problems, so sealing them with epoxy is often the best course of action.
Horizontal Wall Cracks
Foundation cracks on the wall that run parallel to the ground are much more severe. These gaps result from hydrostatic pressure that has become too much for your concrete block wall to resist. The concrete cracks, and the upper portion shifts inward.
This damage is generally structural in nature and needs to be stabilized by a foundation repair contractor immediately. They can lead to foundation failure and collapse of the house above.
Stair-Step Wall Cracks
Lastly, cracks can form in the shape of stair steps around the concrete blocks on your wall. These occur commonly in Springfield because of the many factors resulting in differential settling. If a portion of your foundation loses support from the shrinking clay soil underneath, that area of your home will crack off and sink into the ground more rapidly than the rest of the structure. These cracks indicate severe damage and should be repaired immediately.
Bowing Foundation Walls
Hydrostatic pressure from the surrounding soil commonly causes horizontal cracks to form in your basement walls. However, the concrete can flex slightly before it cracks, resulting in an inward bowing of the wall. This damage indicates structural problems or the potential for them, as bowing walls tend to worsen with time and crack under the mounting pressure from outside.
Sinking or Raising Foundation
Differential settling and frost heave are both widespread issues in Springfield, and they can cause foundation sinking or upward bowing of the slab. These issues are both indicative of structural damage, and the symptoms can look very similar.
Common signs of sinking include an unlevel or sloping floor in your crawlspace or basement, floor cracks that are more than ⅛” wide or that aren’t level across the gap, and stair-step cracks on the wall.
The typical signs of a heaving foundation include an unlevel or sloping basement floor and floor cracks widening to over ⅛” or forming in a circular pattern.
Moist or Wet Basement or Crawlspace
Expansive soil, heavy precipitation, and flooding in Springfield all contribute to water intrusion and moisture build-up under your home. Water can trickle in through foundation cracks, and water vapor can wick through the porous concrete.
Common signs of water intrusion and moisture problems include water pooling on the floor of your basement, wet or stained concrete, mold growth on your concrete or other building materials, sagging insulation, and efflorescence, which is a white powder on the walls.
Moisture problems can manifest themselves inside your home as well because the air under your home naturally mixes with air in your living space. You may notice abnormally high utility bills in the summer and winter, uncomfortably warm or cold temperatures in your house, or unexpected allergy symptoms if mold spores seep into your upper floors.