Foundation Repair 101

Vertical vs. Horizontal Foundation Cracks: Your Complete Guide

Written By :

Dayton Foundation Repair Experts

Published on July 27, 2023

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Are horizontal foundation cracks serious? Homeowners especially might ask this question, as it’s not unusual for concrete to crack over the years. However, not all cracks are serious! Also, there’s a difference between horizontal and vertical cracks in any material.

Horizontal cracks often form due to hydrostatic pressure and water damage. Extra weight on a foundation might risk vertical cracks. Their size and depth and if they get larger over time determines if they need patching.

Understanding more about the differences between horizontal and vertical cracks can help a property owner determine their causes and needed fixes. Also, it’s vital to call a foundation repair contractor near you when needed. Their expertise ensures your home is always in good condition from the foundation up!

horizontal foundation cracks

Vertical and Horizontal Foundation Crack Causes

Note some common causes of both vertical and horizontal foundation cracks. Also, remember that only a professional foundation contractor can determine your property’s overall condition. A full inspection can tell them why cracks are forming around that foundation and provide an assessment of your need for foundation crack repair!

Horizontal Cracks

Horizontal cracks run parallel to the ground and are typically perpendicular to the vertical load-bearing direction of the foundation wall. Potential causes for these cracks include:

  • Lateral Pressure: Horizontal cracks often result from external lateral pressure on the foundation wall. This pressure can be caused by expansive soils, hydrostatic pressure from water accumulation, or poor drainage around the foundation.
  • Foundation Movement: Significant horizontal cracks can indicate foundation movement or settling. This is often due to improper soil compaction during construction or changes in the soil's moisture content.
  • Frost Heave: In colder climates, horizontal cracks might result from frost heave. This occurs when water in the soil freezes and expands, exerting pressure on the foundation wall.
  • Severity: Horizontal cracks are generally more concerning than vertical cracks. They can indicate significant stress on the foundation, potentially leading to structural instability and water infiltration.

Vertical Cracks

Vertical cracks run up and down, parallel to the direction of gravity. Their direction often helps indicate causes of those cracks and if they’re serious. Common causes for vertical cracks include:

  • Shrinkage: Most common in newly poured concrete, vertical cracks may result from the natural shrinkage of the concrete as it cures. These small, hairline cracks are often superficial and not a major concern.
  • Settling: Minor settling of the foundation can cause vertical cracks, especially in older structures. These cracks might not be problematic if they remain hairline and do not widen or shift significantly.
  • Load-Related: Vertical cracks can occur due to excessive vertical loads on the foundation. This includes heavy equipment or structures placed too close to the foundation walls.
  • Severity: Vertical cracks are generally less worrisome than horizontal cracks, especially if they are small and stable. However, larger or widening vertical cracks may require monitoring and professional assessment.

What Does a Horizontal or Vertical Crack in a Foundation Mean?

Not all foundation cracks are serious, as said. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore them either! Horizontal cracks are typically concerning as they might indicate significant structural problems. Pressure on the foundation is one of the most common causes of horizontal cracks. Expanding soil or water pressure from soil are common reasons for this added pressure.

Additionally, these cracks can indicate foundation movement or settling. If a contractor doesn’t compact soil during construction or if its moisture content changes over the years, this risks issues with the foundation. Lastly, when water in the soil freezes and expands, this puts pressure on the foundation wall, risking cracks.

Many vertical cracks are also not serious, depending on their size and depth. In fact, vertical cracks often appear as new concrete cures and shrinks. These hairline cracks are generally superficial and not a major concern. Minor settling can also cause vertical cracks, particularly in older structures.

On the other hand, larger or widening vertical cracks require monitoring and professional evaluation. Too much weight on the foundation such as from an added story or sunroom can risk vertical cracks. A foundation repair contractor can determine if any crack needs professional fixes.

horizontal foundation cracks in a basement - waterproofing

How to Fix Horizontal and Vertical Foundation Cracks

Foundation repair contractors can utilize several different methods when it comes to addressing cracks. Their choice depends on its depth and cause, and the foundation design and material. Check out some added information about how a repair professional might fix foundation cracks on your property.

Fixing Horizontal Foundation Cracks

Before attempting any repairs, a contractor must determine the underlying cause of the horizontal crack. They need to check external factors like soil pressure, drainage issues, or hydrostatic pressure. In some cases, consulting a structural engineer can help identify the cause accurately.

Next, note that horizontal cracks can weaken the structural integrity of the foundation. In turn, depending on the severity and cause of the crack, the foundation might require reinforcement. A contractor might then install steel I-beams, carbon fiber straps, or helical anchors. These all work to stabilize the foundation and prevent further movement.

  • Epoxy injection is a common method to fill and seal horizontal cracks. The process involves injecting epoxy resin into the crack, which then hardens and creates a strong bond, effectively sealing the crack.
  • As horizontal cracks can be pathways for water infiltration, it's essential to apply a waterproofing membrane or coating on the exterior of the foundation wall. This prevents moisture from entering.
  • A contractor then needs to address drainage issues around the foundation to reduce the potential for hydrostatic pressure and soil saturation.

Fixing Vertical Foundation Cracks

If the vertical crack is small and stable, it may not require immediate repair. Consequently, a contractor might suggest that you monitor its size and movement over time. Epoxy or polyurethane sealers designed for crack repair can address hairline vertical cracks. These prevent water infiltration and prevent the crack from widening.

For larger or widening vertical cracks, a contractor might use epoxy or polyurethane injection. These effectively fill and bond the crack, restoring the integrity of the concrete. Also, it's essential to address underlying settling issues. A contractor might need to stabilize the soil, reinforce the foundation, or correct drainage around the structure.

exterior foundation cracks needing repair

When Should I Worry About Horizontal Foundation Cracks?

A property owner should call a foundation repair contractor to assess anything larger than hairline cracks. However, there are some signs that it’s time to schedule professional foundation fixes, including:

Width and Length

If the horizontal crack is wider than about 1/8 inch (3 mm) or extends for a considerable distance along the foundation wall, it should be taken seriously. Wide or extensive cracks suggest that the foundation is experiencing substantial stress or movement. Also, consider if the crack seems to be getting wider over time.

Location

Horizontal cracks that occur near the middle or upper part of the foundation wall, particularly if they are parallel to the ground, are especially concerning. These often indicate too much weight on the foundation and weak materials.

Movement

If the crack appears to be actively widening or growing, it indicates ongoing stress on the foundation. Fresh or recently widened cracks should raise immediate concern. In turn, you might make marks on the crack’s edges and check them over time. If the crack grows past those marks, it’s time to schedule a foundation inspection!

Water Leakage

Horizontal cracks can be pathways for water to enter the foundation. This risks water damage, mold growth, and extensive structural deterioration. Consequently, check the crack for water leakage. If you notice dampness in or near the crack, it’s time for expert fixes.

Structural Damage

Horizontal cracks may be accompanied by other signs of structural damage, such as sagging floors, sticking doors or windows, or visible gaps between walls and ceilings. Also, you might notice popped drywall nails and trim pulling away from the wall. These all indicate structural damage from a weak foundation and the need for immediate repairs.

Cracks in Multiple Walls

If you notice horizontal cracks in multiple walls or different areas of the foundation, it may suggest a widespread problem. As a result, check all the walls inside and outside your home if you notice a crack in just one! If you notice additional cracks, call a foundation repair contractor.

Age of the Building

Older buildings with horizontal cracks may be more susceptible to foundation settlement or lateral pressure issues. Also, foundation materials tend to break down and degrade over time.

With this in mind, consider cracks in older foundations serious! Schedule an inspection so your repair contractor can alert you to needed fixes as well as preventative maintenance, such as waterproofing or improved drainage.

A Word From Our Foundation Repair Team

Dayton Foundation Repair Experts is happy to discuss vertical and horizontal foundation cracks in more detail. Hopefully we’ve explained some vital information for your property. Also, if you’re in the area, you can call our Dayton foundation repair contractors for guaranteed services. We offer full-scale patching and leak repair, basement wall fixes, and waterproofing. For your FREE foundation inspection and repair price quote, contact our team today.

 

Written By :

Dayton Foundation Repair Experts

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