When Foundation Cracks Indicate a Problem

One of the most noticeable signs of foundation settlement is visible cracks in your foundation walls. However, not all foundation wall cracks are bad - some are even normal. How can you tell the difference? The crack's location, direction, and size are all factors to consider.

Poured concrete foundations are often subject to shrinkage cracks. These cracks occur while the concrete cures. They typically happen within the first year of construction, and usually do not change or get worse. However, if you notice cracks that grow longer or wider over time, it’s likely that your foundation is settling. If you see any of the following, it’s time to call a foundation expert for further inspection:

  • Cracks with “stair-step” patterns
  • Diagonal foundation wall cracks
  • Horizontal foundation wall cracks
  • Excessively large cracks that change or get worse

    Why Foundation Cracks Happen

    It all comes down to the dirt. Soil settles over time, and as it does, it becomes unable to bear the weight of your home, causing your foundation to settle as well. The signs of foundation settlement are unmistakable. If left unchecked, these problems will only get worse over time. Taking action before the damage increases is key.

    If you have noticed cracks in your foundation, it’s important to understand which symptoms require professional attention. Of all the foundation cracks that we see, there are three that require professional attention: stair-step, horizontal and diagonal wall cracks.

    exterior stair step crack

    Stair-Step Cracks

    Stair-step pattern cracks appear exactly how they sound. They run in a diagonal line, tapering down or climbing upward in the shape of a staircase. These are especially noticeable in brick foundations, running along the seams between each brick. Stair-step cracks will worsen over time and are often accompanied by bowing walls.

    Horizontal Cracks

    Foundation cracks that run horizontally across basement walls indicate a serious structural issue. These are usually a sign of bowing walls caused by excessive pressure or shifting soils due to frost heave or oversaturation. Bowing walls may eventually fail if they are not corrected, leading to more damage and costly repairs.

    Diagonal Cracks

    Diagonal foundation wall cracks are one of the most common signs of settlement. However, they shouldn’t go unchecked. These types of cracks occur when some sections of your home settle more quickly than others. Some foundation wall cracks may be wider at the top than at the bottom, indicating that part of the foundation is sinking away from the rest.

    Schedule a Free Inspection in Montana or Wyoming

    If you notice foundation cracks in your home, don’t wait to have them inspected. Damage from foundation problems will just get worse over time. At Yellowstone Structural Systems, our team is specially trained to identify specific foundation issues and solve them with the best possible techniques and products on the market.