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The Complete Guide to Repairing Foundation Cracks

So you’ve noticed some cracks appearing in your home’s foundation – now what? Cracks can be alarming to see, but don’t panic. Foundations are designed to last, but even the strongest structures will show signs of wear over time. In this complete guide, we’ll explain the different types of cracks, what they may indicate, and how to properly evaluate and repair them. By the end, you’ll feel confident determining if your foundation cracks need attention or not. Let’s get started!

What are Foundation Cracks?

The first step is to take a close look at the cracks and try to determine what may be causing them. Are they hairline and uniform, or larger and uneven? Their location and pattern can provide clues. You’ll also want to monitor them periodically – are they getting bigger? Note any other issues like uneven floors, moisture intrusion or settling. Understanding the “why” behind the cracks will help you address the problem properly. 

Some small, uniform cracks appearing soon after construction are typically nothing to fret over. Called drying cracks, these form as concrete shrinks while curing. Keep an eye on these though – if they lengthen or widen over time, the cause may be more severe. The location of cracks can also provide hints. Vertical cracks are common and often mean minor soil movement occurred. Horizontal cracks crossing foundation walls are more problematic as they point to substantial soil or water pressure issues requiring attention.

Types of Foundation Cracks and How to Repair Them 

With a pro’s assessment in hand, you’ll better understand the specific crack type and best repair approach. Here’s a rundown of common cracks and solutions:

Hairline Cracks: Minor, isolated hairline cracks under 1/4″ wide can often be left as-is if not accompanied by other issues. If you want to fill them for aesthetics, use a concrete crack filler. 

Vertical Cracks: Vertical cracks indicate minor soil movement and are common. Monitor cracks under 1/4″ – larger should be repaired. Grind out and refill with concrete crack sealing products. 

Horizontal Cracks: Indicate significant soil/water pressure issues.These cracks have deepened and reinforced depending on severity. They may require soil drainage/retaining walls too.

Stair-Step Cracks: Mortar cracks between blocks. Monitor closely for worsening – large cracks need replacing segments or underpinned.

Multiple or Complex Cracks: Could signify more extensive settling requiring secure piers or grade beams beneath footing. In addition, consider soil reinforcement too.

 Foundation cracks admitting moisture: Must be sealed on interior/exterior to prevent further damage or water intrusion. You have to maintain a good water drainage system to avoid these.

With simple crack types, sealing products from a home store may suffice. But complex repairs usually demand hiring a structural company experienced in techniques like underpinning, hydrostatic pressure relief systems, or mudjacking to stabilize and support load-bearing walls as needed. Knowing your options guides you to choose the right path.

Do You Need Professional Help?

Once you’ve examined the cracks carefully, the next step is determining if you need an expert’s evaluation. Minor, isolated cracks under 1/4 inch wide can often be monitored without intervention. But if any cracks are letting in moisture, get significantly wider overtime or wall sections are bowing, it’s best to consult a structural engineer. They can carefully inspect your foundation and soil conditions, identify potential underlying issues and recommend the right fixes. 

An expert eye is also helpful if multiple cracks are present or they form complex patterns that could signal more extensive settling. Don’t attempt DIY fixes for these warning signs without guidance. Left alone, even small cracks can worsen and lead to costly structural damage down the road. Knowing when professional help is required is important to protect your home’s integrity long term.

Choosing a Foundation Repair Expert

When serious crack repairs are in order, hiring the right contractor is important. You need to get multiple estimates and check references thoroughly. Make sure any company you consider:

-Has extensive experience fixing foundations, not just carpentry projects. 

-Can provide examples of similar repairs they’ve successfully performed. 

-Carries proper licensing and insurance in your state. 

-Thoroughly explains repair methods using construction terminology. 

-Provides a clear, itemized quote upfront with no surprises. 

-Offers a warranty on materials and workmanship.  

-Answers all your questions patiently and makes you comfortable.

Opt for a reputable, established local business. Avoid “handymen” lacking pro construction experience for such a structural fix. Your foundation requires expert techniques and materials to support your home long-term so avoid cutting cut corners here.

What Should You Expect From Repairs?

Once you’ve selected a qualified company and repairs begin, be prepared for the following:

– Excavation around exposed foundation sections needing work. 

– Reinforced concrete piers or grade beams installed below footing level using hydraulic pressure. 

– Mudjacking or concrete pumping below footing areas to stabilize.

– Crack filling and sealed with reinforcement products like carbon fiber or steel mesh. 

– Retaining walls erected for soil stabilization in severe settling cases. 

– Full waterproofing barrier installation on weeps and exterior if moisture was present.

– Minor flooring, wall or trim adjustments post-repair may be required.

 A good company will clean-up thoroughly and restore landscaping disturbed. New parging or sealant applied externally and will also request a final walkthrough to ensure your satisfaction before release of final payment. 

With soap settlement naturally occurring or caused by drainage issues, monitoring is important post-repair. If cracks extremely small persist, filling cosmetically maintains watertight integrity. Periodic external inspections for issues prevent costly damage down the road. Proper foundation maintenance pays off protecting your home’s structure for years to come.

While sealing minor cracks may seem DIY-able, foundation work demands the expertise of experienced specialists. Reasons to avoid going it alone include:

– Foundations require comprehensive inspections few untrained people can provide.

– Inadequate repairs may worsen issues or further damage your structure down the line. 

– Underground installations like piers demand precision for safety and effectiveness. 

– Permits, engineering assessments, and site-specific designs fall under contractor licensing.

– Warranties make use of professional accountability for workmanship quality.

Financing Foundation Repairs

Major repairs often require budgeting, so explore financing assistance:

  • Home equity loans draw on your home’s value and offer low interest over 5+ years. Flexible repayment offered by these loans relieves short-term strain.
  • Personal loans, whether from banks or online lenders, consolidate higher-interest credit card debt for foundation fixes. One benefit is that varying terms suit borrowers.
  • Remodeling loans target home renovations through local credit unions or installment plans from contractors. 
  • State/local programs like revolving loan funds assist qualifying homeowners with necessary foundation repairs at little to no interest. However it is important to research your options.
  • If major structural issues require relocation during work, short-term rentals or extended-stay hotels distribute repair costs month-to-month. Planning finances your project without ongoing damage risks. 

Signs to Look Out For Between Repairs

While foundation repairs address current damage, ongoing monitoring helps catch potential issues early. Pay attention to these signs:

  • New cracks or cracking in areas nearby repaired zones
  • Moisture intrusion through cracks post-repair
  • Doors/windows sticking where they previously opened smoothly
  • Floors/walls noticeably sloping more than before
  • Mold or musty smells returning after drying out
  • Promptly reporting concerns allows contractors to further inspect and touch up work under warranty. Small problems caught quickly save much larger repair bills down the road.

Regular maintenance also protects your foundation investment. You can maintain positive drainage away from the house through:

  • Clear, sloped gutters and downspouts
  • Intact exterior caulking and sealed cracks
  • Well-draining soil with no low spots where water pools
  • Plants placed at least a foot away from exterior walls
  • Intact vapor barrier and ventilation in crawl spaces

Foundations endure seasonal soil changes, so staying vigilant prevents new issues. With simple care, your previous repairs last much longer than ignoring signs of trouble.

How Much Do Crack Repairs Cost?

Expect a range depending on the severity and scope of work involved:

Minor crack sealing or mudjacking: $500-$2,000

Extensive crack sealing with epoxy injection: $1,000-$5,000

Perimeter drainage system installation: $3,000-$8,000

Underpinning settlement issues: $5,000-$25,000

Retaining walls for grade problems: $10,000-$50,000

Foundation contractors should provide free estimates to stakeholders before work begins. You may even qualify for repair loans. While not cheap, factor in foundations’ importance to structural integrity – would you regret skimping now when problems could compound? So, it is necessary to prioritize your home’s protection over costs. 

Is Repairing Worth It In The Long Run? 

Finally, considering foundation repair’s upfront investment is natural. But ignoring even small cracks courts expensive trouble ahead as problems amplify over time. Settling hastens wear of other home components like floors and walls too. Quality repairs now using engineered solutions like helical piers or grade beams stabilize your home’s sensitive underpinning for decades. 

With the right information, you now understand types of cracks, when repairs are necessary versus monitoring, and options for fixing foundations issues. No need to panic – seek out reputable local contractors for assessments. With their expertise, you can resolve cracks and prevent further complications. Feel confident taking this proactive step for your home’s long-term protection!