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Should I Worry About Cracks In My Basement Walls?

Crack in a cinder block building foundation

Should I Worry About Cracks In My Basement Walls?

You've heard that “homes are supposed to settle” and that cracks aren't a big issue. But is this a fact, or just an old wives’ tale?

“Homes are supposed to settle,” “all foundations have cracks,” and “don't worry about wall cracks” are some of the phrases that I often hear from people say when I am looking at their home for an estimate. As one of the largest foundation repair companies in all of Western NY, we cover a very large service area. So we tend to hear this more often than not.

We see a lot of homes that are fairly new, and people have been speaking with the builder about the cracks they've been seeing appear. It seems that this has become commonplace amongst average consumers and homeowners.

There are a lot of these misconceptions that originate from sources that do not have the best of intentions for those that they are telling them to.

Of course, the builder is going to tell you “don't worry about wall cracks” and/or “every foundation gets cracks”. From a financial standpoint, the builder potentially stands to lose a great deal of money to remedy the problem correctly. What if the word around the neighborhood was that there were more neighbors with similar problems that need to be repaired?

Even if enough time had passed where they are not legally liable to pay for the repair anymore, no builder wants a bad reputation or problems selling future homes they may build. The result of this is typically the builder telling the homeowner to not worry about wall cracks.

“Homes Are Supposed To Settle”
The next phrase that we most commonly hear from people is “homes are supposed to settle”. The very basic truth to this is no, your home is NOT supposed to settle.

Foundation wall cracks are always a sign of damage to your home either from:

  • Hydrostatic pressure pushing horizontally on the wall from the exterior
  • Hydrostatic pressure pushing possibly from vertical settlement

This old wives tale originates from when homes were all hand built from the foundation to the rafters. Older homes used to have handmade rafters making up the roof section of the home. Because these timbers were simply toenailed together, it was not uncommon for the timbers to shift around requiring bracing or collar ties to be installed to secure from further movement. When these timbers would shift, you would commonly see movement in the wall material of the superstructure in the main living level of the home. In more modern homes, factory made trusses are used instead of handmade rafters and, if installed properly, you won't get this type of movement anymore. When most people these days see shifting or cracking in the finished materials of their home, or have windows or doors that are pinching, it is normally as a result of the foundation shifting beneath the home. This is a problem that needs to be fixed.

Most common reasons for foundation walls to shift:

  • Hydrostatic pressure on the outside of the walls
  • Downspout not being extended far enough away from the house
  • Gutters spilling over
  • Grading issues that allow excessive moisture to be absorbed into the soil around the home: this will expand the soil & cause excessive pressure that can damage your walls.

In some cases if the walls are repaired properly than the walls will collapse from the amount of movement that has occurred. These same maintenance problems can also cause vertical settling of the foundation walls.

Settling is also sometimes caused by the home simply being built on top of unsuitable soil. We have entire areas that we do repeat foundation jobs for neighbors not because of lack of maintenance, but because their home was built on soil that was not capable of supporting the load that their home is placing on it. We have seen homes be condemned because the customer simply did not invest in corrective measures and the increasing damaged soon became too costly.

Please keep in mind, that we all have friends that work in the construction industry, however, if they don't work directly with the problem that you find in your home, you should always contact a reputable specialized contractor to investigate the problem for you and let you know whether you have something to be concerned with or not. Please call us to set up an appointment with Basement Technologies of Western NY Inc today!

Don't be fooled by these quotes! “All foundations have cracks.” “Don't worry about cracks.” “Cracks won't get any worse.” “Homes are supposed to settle.”

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