Basements play an important role in modern construction, offering versatile spaces for storage, utilities, and even expanded living areas. However, the very nature of being below ground makes basements susceptible to a range of structural issues that demand careful attention and practical solutions. Cracks, settlement & bowing walls are among the most common challenges faced by house owners and property managers. In this way, we will study their root causes, and explore the essential roles of waterproofing in foundation maintenance. We will also study various types of cracks, understand when foundation cracks become a cause for concern, and discuss the cause of foundation crack repair including crack injection.
- Cracks – Cracks in basement walls and floors are often a sign of structural distress. These openings may appear in various types i.e. vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and hairline. Each type of crack holds a story revealing the forces that impact our foundation.
Various types of cracks
- Vertical wall cracks: These cracks often indicate the normal settling of a house. They usually occur due to minor shifts in the foundation as the soil beneath consolidates. While vertical cracks are common, they must be monitored, especially if they become wide or jagged.
- Horizontal Foundation Cracks: It can signal a more significant role. This type of crack can happen due to unbalanced soil and hydrostatic water pressure pressing against your foundation wall. You may notice the foundation bowing inwards and water leaking into your basement. Both block and poured foundations can develop horizontal cracks.
- Hairline Normal Foundation Cracks: Not all cracks are catastrophic. Hairline cracks are typically the result of the natural curing process of concrete. They are generally harmless, but if they grow or appear in clusters, further investigation is warranted.
Settlement often characterized by uneven floors and misaligned doors & windows occurs when a foundation gets sinks or shifts. Factors contributing to settlement include soil type, water movement, and poor compaction during construction. While minor settlement is expected, significant sinking can lead to severe structural problems.
Bowing walls where basement walls are curved or lean inward can result from hydrostatic pressure exerted by water-saturated soil outside the foundation. This pressure causes walls to bow or crack, eventually compromising the structural integrity of the basement.
Before delving into repair techniques, it’s essential to recognize the role of waterproofing in foundation for preventing and mitigating structural issues in basements. Waterproofing is the process of sealing a structure to prevent water infiltration and damage. Waterproofing in foundation maintenance plays a crucial role in avoiding problems like cracks, settlement, and bowing walls. An effective waterproofing strategy includes:
- Exterior Drainage: Properly channeling water away from the foundation through the installation of gutters, downspout extensions, and grading can prevent hydrostatic pressure and soil erosion.
2. WaterpRoofing Membranes: Applying waterproofing membranes or coatings to the exterior foundation walls forms a barrier against moisture infiltration.
3. Interior Drainage Systems: Interior drainage systems including sump pumps and French drains, collect and divert water that enters the basement, preventing water accumulation.
4. Proper Ventilation: Adequate ventilation reduces humidity levels in the basement minimizing the potential for mold growth and deterioration.
Addressing Cracks, Settlement, and Bowing Walls
Crack Repair: Understanding the nature of crack repair is vital for determining whether they are superficial or indicative of a more severe structural problem.
Hairline Cracks: If hairline cracks are limited and show no signs of growing they are often considered harmless and can be sealed with epoxy injection.
Vertical Cracks: Minor vertical cracks can be addressed with epoxy injection to prevent water penetration and stabilize the area.
Horizontal Cracks: Horizontal cracks require immediate attention. Wall anchors or carbon fiber reinforcement may be employed to counteract the pressure causing the wall to bow.
Wide or Diagonal Cracks: Cracks wider than ¼ inch or showing signs of movement necessitate consultation with a structural engineer to assess the underlying issues and recommend appropriate repairs.
To address settlement issues, the following methods are commonly employed.
Mudjacking: For minor settlements, mud jacking can be used to raise the sinking portion of the foundation. This process involves injecting a mixture of grout beneath the foundation to lift it back into place.
Underpinning: In case of significant settlement, underpinning techniques such as helical piers or slab piers, are employed to stabilize and elevate the foundation.
Bowing Wall Repair: Bowing walls demand immediate intervention to prevent further structural damage. Here are 3 ways commonly used to repair walls:
Wall Anchors: Wall anchors provide lateral support to the bowing walls. Effectively, counteracting the pressure exerted by the soil. These consist of metal plates connected by steel rods.
Carbon Fiber Straps: These are applied to the bowing walls to reinforce and stabilize them. This method is used for minor bowing.
Helical Tiebacks: When exterior access is limited, helical tiebacks are drilled through the wall and anchored into the soil to provide lateral support.
When to worry about Foundation Cracks
Understanding when foundation cracks warrant concern is crucial. While hairline cracks and minor vertical cracks are often normal, the following scenarios indicate a need for immediate attention.
Horizontal Cracks: These can indicate significant soil pressure against the foundation. These should be practiced thoroughly.
Widening Cracks: If cracks widen over time, it suggests ongoing movements and potential structural issues.
Displacement: Cracks that make displacement of material such as bricks or blocks result in severe structural distress.
Foundation Crack Repair Cost
The cost of foundation cracks is very low. However, addressing significant structural problems such as horizontal cracks or bowing walls can be more costly.
Crack Injection is a fluid resin that is forced into a void, crack, or spall in a concrete structure. The fluid resin can be epoxy, polyurethane, or another liquid that provides the elements to fill the cracks like support.
In this, we have learned about how to fix basement structural repairs. Structural issues like bowing walls, cracks, and settlement, demand careful attention and timely intervention to maintain the integrity and safety of the entire structure. We have learned to understand of different types of cracks recognize when to be concerned and choose the right repair methods. By implementing waterproofing in foundation maintenance, you can probably accept the risk of a structural basement.
Q. Waterproofing in foundation, What is the best waterproofing for foundations?
- The best way to waterproof a foundation is by using a combination of materials and methods. Typically, this involves applying a waterproof coating or membrane to the outside of the foundation walls and making sure there’s proper drainage around your home.
Q. Waterproofing in foundation, How can I waterproof my existing foundation?
- If you have a foundation that’s already built, you can still waterproof it. One common method is to dig around the foundation, apply a waterproofing substance or membrane, and then improve the drainage to keep water away from the foundation.
Q. Does my foundation need waterproofing?
- Not all foundations need waterproofing, but it’s a good idea for many homes, especially in areas prone to heavy rain or flooding. Waterproofing can help prevent water from seeping into your basement or causing damage to the foundation over time.
Q. Do concrete foundations need waterproofing?
- Yes, concrete foundations can benefit from waterproofing. While concrete is strong, it can still be affected by water over time, leading to cracks and other problems. Waterproofing helps protect concrete foundations from moisture-related damage.