The above factors can wreak havoc on your home’s foundation over time, and each type of damage they cause can bring about different symptoms in your foundation and throughout your home. We’ll discuss the most common signs of foundation damage in Cincinnati below.
Foundation cracks are prevalent, but they don’t all mean your home is suffering from foundation damage. Some are more or less harmless and need very little intervention.
Vertical Wall Cracks
Cracks running vertically on your foundation wall usually form during the concrete’s natural settling period. They very rarely mean your foundation has suffered damage, so most foundation contractors simply seal them with epoxy to prevent water from coming through them.
Horizontal Wall Cracks
Cracks running along the length of your crawlspace or basement wall parallel to the ground are caused by hydrostatic pressure, which forces the upper portion of your wall inward. Unfortunately, these cracks are common in Cincinnati due to the expansive soil in the area. This type of damage is often structural and requires immediate stabilization.
Stair-Step Wall Cracks
Cracks in your foundation wall that form in the shape of steps form when differential settling leaves a portion of your foundation unsupported from underneath. This is another form of crack repair that is routine in Cincinnati due to the topsoil depth and karst. Stair-step cracks should be repaired as quickly as possible, as they typically indicate a loss of structural integrity.
Basement Floor Cracks
Hairline cracks in basement floors form during the natural settling period of the concrete. They should simply be sealed to prevent water intrusion.
However, larger floor cracks or those that aren’t level across the gap are common in Cincinnati as well, and they are far more hazardous. They form in response to the upward movement of the expansive soil in the city or from the shrinking of the ground that leads to portions of your foundation sinking into the earth. These typically require stabilization beneath your foundation, which can be an invasive and very costly repair.
Bowing Foundation Walls
Foundation walls sometimes bow inward if the hydrostatic pressure from the soil outside is too intense. Excessive stress on concrete block walls frequently happens in Cincinnati because of the concentration of clay in the soil and poor drainage. Bowing foundation walls are a good indication of foundation damage, and they often predict the formation of horizontal wall cracks. This issue should be addressed immediately before the damage worsens.
Moist or Wet Basement
Water intrusion is a widespread problem in Cincinnati basements and crawlspaces because the slow drainage in the area and the expansive soils contribute to water being held against the concrete for more extended periods than usual. Water can seep through cracks in your foundation or wick through the pores of undamaged concrete.
The area under a house is naturally prone to moisture build-up, and humidity problems are made worse by the geological factors discussed above. Some signs of water problems include water pooling on the floor of your crawlspace or basement, heavy or moist air, and efflorescence, which is a deposit of minerals on your concrete walls left behind after water seeps in and evaporates.
Additionally, moisture attracts pests and creates a beneficial environment for mold growth. Termites, ants, spiders, rodents, or other pests under your home can signify that you have a water intrusion problem. Mold growth on your concrete walls or other building material often suggests an issue with water vapor and associated humidity.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
Lastly, poor indoor air quality can indicate moisture problems under your home and potentially foundation cracks. Air from your crawlspace or basement regularly moves up into your living space. This process is called the stack effect, and it can bring moisture and airborne mold spores to the upper levels of your house.
You may not feel an increase in humidity, but moisture typically makes air temperatures feel more extreme. If you find that your home is unusually cold in the winter or hot in the summer, or if your heating and cooling bills unexpectedly increase, you may have a water intrusion problem in your foundation.
Mold spores seeping up into your living space can cause allergy-like reactions for you or your family members. Symptoms of airborne mold in your home include sneezing, itchy eyes, and difficulty breathing. If you notice these symptoms and cannot explain them, check your foundation for signs of water damage or elevated moisture.