There are several different symptoms of foundation damage you may notice in your Chesapeake home. We’ll break these down below and discuss the most likely underlying cause of each.
Foundation cracks come in several varieties, each with a varying degree of damage and cost of repair.
Hairline Cracks in Basement Floor
Hairline cracks commonly form in the floor in your crawlspace or basement in response to natural concrete settling, so they’re prevalent in new construction and older homes alike. Unless they continue to grow, widen to more than ⅛”, or the two sides of the gap become unlevel, they should simply be sealed to prevent water from getting through.
Vertical Cracks in Foundation Wall
Vertical cracks on your foundation wall form during settling as well. A foundation contractor should seal them to prevent water problems, but they don’t indicate structural damage.
Horizontal Cracks in Foundation Wall
Horizontal cracks in your foundation wall form in response to hydrostatic pressure. This is a common type of foundation damage in Chesapeake homes because of the expansive soil, low elevation, and flooding risk. These gaps suggest structural problems and should be addressed by a foundation repair company immediately.
Stair-Step Cracks in Foundation Wall
Stair-step cracks form in a step pattern on concrete block walls, and they often indicate you have a problem with differential settling. Homes in Chesapeake are at high risk for this type of damage due to expansive soils shrinking away from the concrete and leaving them without support from underneath. Frost heave can contribute to the formation of stair-step cracks as well.
These gaps usually require structural repairs that should be carried out by a foundation repair contractor as soon as possible.
Bowing Foundation Wall
The hydrostatic pressure of the expansive soil in Virginia regularly puts undue stress on your foundation walls during rainfall or flooding. While concrete is rigid, it can flex to a certain degree before cracking under the ground’s pressure.
A precursor to a horizontal foundation crack is often inward bulging of your crawlspace or basement walls. This type of foundation movement may not signify a loss of structural integrity, but severe damage can occur if the issue is left to worsen.
Unlevel flooring is another sign of foundation damage commonly seen in Chesapeake homes. It can occur under your home or in your living space.
Unlevel floors below your home are caused by frost heave and expansive soil in the area, which can create dangerous upward soil movement followed by differential settling. The result is sometimes cracking of the slab in your basement or crawlspace, where one side of the gap is no longer level with the other.
These same issues, as well as hydrostatic pressure on your foundation walls, can warp or shift floor joists beneath your home’s first and second floors. You may notice buckling, wavy, or unlevel flooring throughout your home as a result of foundation damage.
Damp or Wet Basement
Given the regional factors we discussed above, Chesapeake basements and crawlspaces are at high risk for water intrusion. Not only does the expansive soil increase the chance of water problems, but the frequent tropical storms, hurricanes, flooding, and high water table all contribute to water issues.
As such, a prevalent sign of foundation problems in the city is a damp or wet basement. You may find pooling water below your home, damp air, musty odors, mold growth, or efflorescence, which is an accumulation of minerals left on your foundation walls after intruding water evaporates.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
Lastly, the widespread basement water problems in eastern Virginia can have an effect on your upper floors, so poor indoor air quality can indicate you have a water intrusion issue in your basement or crawlspace.
Moisture and mold spores below your home can move up into your living space in a process called the stack effect. This leads to uncomfortably hot or cold air in the summer or winter, respectively, and can cause allergic reactions, such as congestion, coughing, and itchy eyes.