Property Managers: How To Repair Cracked Foundation

Published On: February 21, 2022

Does the property you manage have a cracked foundation? If so, you’re not alone. Foundation cracks appear in both newly built and existing buildings. The good news is that a cracked foundation doesn’t necessarily mean a property has structural problems. But because it could, this article will make you aware of the signs to look for and the steps to take to ensure you are managing each property responsibly.

To start, foundation cracks come in two varieties: structural and non-structural. Structural cracks threaten your property’s structural integrity, while non-structural cracks are usually just unattractive. It is important to note though that vertical non-structural cracks in a basement wall could allow water to enter. So, non-structural cracks aren’t entirely harmless.

Repairs for a cracked foundation with non-structural cracks could be as easy as a DIY project for select property maintenance staff. A cracked foundation with structural cracks, on the other hand, always requires a professional.

Let’s take a closer look at the difference between structural and non-structural cracks.

Cracked Brick Repair

Causes of a cracked foundation: structural vs. non-structural cracks

Structural cracks are caused by foundation movement, while non-structural cracks are generated during the concrete curing process.

Non-structural cracks

Non-structural cracks – usually vertical – are caused by shrinkage during the concrete curing process. While they won’t affect a property’s structural integrity, they aren’t entirely harmless. For example, vertical non-structural cracks can allow water to seep into your basement.

Non-structural cracks are generally less than 1/10 inch in width and should not grow in size. If you notice the crack getting bigger, it might be a structural crack. It is imperative that Property Managers monitor any visible cracks for changes.

If you see a hairline crack in just one concrete block, it’s probably not structural. The crack might have been caused when the blocks were brought to the construction site. However, you should monitor the crack for growth. If it gets bigger, it’s a structural crack, and you should contact an experienced foundation repair contractor right away.

Structural cracks

Structural cracks are a sign the foundation has moved, and they affect the property’s structural integrity.

Structural cracks are caused by:

  • Expansive soil – This is soil that expands when it gets wet and then shrinks by that same amount when it dries out. This swelling-shrinking cycle puts stress on the foundation and can lead to structural damage.
  • Soil that wasn’t adequately compacted before construction began – If soil isn’t compacted adequately before construction, it can lead to foundation settlement and the appearance of cracks.
  • Weak soil – Some types of soil aren’t strong enough to support a heavy foundation.
  • Improper yard grading – The yard, or exterior areas of a property, should slope away from the foundation. If the yard slopes toward a home or building, water will pool around the foundation. You don’t want this because most foundation problems are caused by excess moisture in the soil.
  • Soil erosion – Soil erosion can, over time, lead to voids into which the foundation will sink.
  • Weather changes – An example of this is a house built on expansive soil during the dry season. When the wet season comes around again, the soil expands, and this causes foundation damage.
  • Excavation next to the foundation – Heavy excavation near a property can destabilize the foundation. Picture a chair on a sandy beach. If you dig a hole next to the chair, the chair will eventually fall into the hole. Even though you’re not digging directly under the chair, you’re digging too close to it.
  • Natural disasters like earthquakes and floods – Damage can result in structural cracks.

Structural cracks are cracks that you find over 1/10 inch in width, and they are often wider at one end. Structural cracks also get bigger over time. Signs a crack is a structural include:

  • Horizontal cracks, with or without bowing
  • Stairstep cracks in masonry
  • Many vertical cracks next to each other
  • Large diagonal cracks
  • Cracks that go across the ceiling and down a wall
  • Cracks that go across the floor, wall to wall

If you see any of the above cracks, contact a foundation repair professional right away for an inspection.

How to repair a cracked foundation

Non-structural cracks

Non-structural hairline cracks caused by shrinkage during the concrete curing process can usually be repaired via epoxy injection. The flexible, epoxy resin seals the crack and prevents water from seeping through the foundation wall. Tuckpointing is a term for another method that uses mortar, grout, or like materials as a chosen repair solution for non-structural cracks.

Structural cracks

Structural cracks caused by lateral or horizontal foundation movement can be repaired using:

Steel beam wall braces – Expansive soil, frozen soil, and hydrostatic pressure caused by excess water that can’t drain off can cause foundation walls to bow inward and even crack. Steel beam wall braces stop bowing and stabilize the foundation against future lateral movement.

Carbon fiber straps – Carbon fiber straps are another way to stabilize a failing foundation wall. Carbon fiber is strong, and the straps can be installed on both poured concrete and concrete block foundation walls.

Structural cracks caused by vertical foundation movement can be repaired using:

Resistance Push Piers – This foundation repair technique is called underpinning and involves anchoring the foundation to load-bearing refusal. Refusal happens when the pier encounters very hard soil or rock and cannot be driven any deeper.

Cost of repairing a cracked foundation

The cost of repairing a non-structural crack will be less than fixing a severe structural crack. The cost of repairing a cracked foundation will also depend on your geographical location, the type and severity of the crack, and the chosen repair solution.

Unless a foundation repair professional inspects the cracked foundation, it is impossible to obtain an accurate repair estimate. The only way to know how much it will cost to fix the cracked foundation of the property you manage is to contact a foundation repair professional to schedule an inspection. At USS, there is no charge for an onsite visit and the personalized repair plan is free.

Will my insurance cover repairing a cracked foundation?

Most policies only cover repairing a cracked foundation if the crack was caused by something the policy covers, like a sinkhole. The only way to know for sure is to check your policy or call your insurance agent.

What about DIY repairs for a cracked foundation?

If the cracks are minor and non-structural, you might be able to get away with a DIY repair by one of your property maintenance staff. Unfortunately, a structural crack can sometimes appear to be non-structural. To protect yourself and your tenants, have suspicious cracks checked out by an experienced foundation repair contractor.

Structural cracks should be repaired by foundation repair professionals only. Structural cracks are not DIY projects.

How to prevent a cracked foundation

Since water causes a lot of foundation problems, getting groundwater under control is one way to prevent trouble. You can do this by ensuring there’s good drainage around each structure you manage.

  • Make sure the exterior areas slope away from the property’s foundation. If the yard or exterior areas slope toward the building, water will pool around the foundation and eventually cause structural issues.
  • Clean the gutters regularly. Clogged gutters will cause water to spill over the side of the house and into the soil around the foundation.
  • Install downspout extensions, if necessary. Many downspouts release water too close to the foundation. Make sure your downspouts channel water away from the foundation before releasing it.

Since a cracked foundation of a managed property can cost a lot to repair, it’s best to catch problems early or prevent them entirely. Monitor small cracks for growth and contact a foundation repair professional if you see anything suspicious.

If the property you manage is in our service area in Middle Tennessee, Southern Kentucky, or Northern Alabama, contact us today for a free inspection and repair estimate. We’re here to help!

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