At Home: When are cracks in basement walls troublesome?

First step: Monitor crack to see if it stabilizes

Q: We moved into a new walkout basement home two years ago, and I’m noticing a crack in the front basement wall. The crack is in the center of the wall from top to bottom. I then found a small crack on the outside brick on the opposite wall. Is this something I need to have inspected?

 

A: A basement wall is made of poured concrete or concrete blocks. Either type of wall rests on a poured concrete footing. It’s not uncommon for the footing to shrink as it dries, creating strains on the basement wall.

Settlement usually occurs within the first few years after construction. If settlement continues over several years, you need to have the walls inspected by a professional.

The crack in the middle of the wall is common, and as long as it doesn’t expand beyond a simple vertical crack, there is no need to worry.

The crack should be monitored to make sure it has stabilized. Make a mark with a pencil or magic marker at the widest point of the crack. Measure the width at the widest opening, and write that measurement on the wall where you made the mark. Also, indicate the date when the mark was made. In the future, you will be able to determine if the crack has expanded or not.

A crack in the brick is usually near a window or door opening. Once the crack reaches the window or door opening, the stress is relieved and the cracking should stop. Again, measure and mark the crack. Take pictures of the cracks for future reference.

If the cracks continue to expand, there are companies that specialize in foundation stabilization, but the repairs are expensive. You should contact a qualified building inspector or structural engineer to make recommendations before calling a foundation contractor.


C. Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, Ind. 47702 or e-mail d.Barnett@insightbb.com.


 

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