When Property Managers Discover Cracks In A Brick Wall

Published On: February 21, 2022

Cracks in a brick wall might be a sign of foundation trouble for the property you manage. Problems arise when some parts of the foundation shift and others don’t.  This shifting, which can be a sinking or lateral movement, is called differential settlement.  In this article, we will cover the types of brick wall cracks in a building or home, their causes, repair methods, cost of repair, and even how to prevent cracks in a brick wall.

Causes of cracks in a brick wall

There are various causes of cracks in a brick wall of a property including:

Differential settlement – All structures settle into the ground to some extent after they’re constructed. This is expected. If the entire structure settles into the soil at the same rate, there should not be a problem. Problems arise when settlement isn’t uniform. This is called differential settlement, and it can cause serious structural damage.

Causes of differential settlement include soil that was not adequately compacted before construction, weather changes, seismic activity, flooding, heavy excavation next to the foundation, and expansive soil. Expansive soil expands as it soaks up moisture and shrinks when it dries out. Over time this swelling-shrinking cycle—which is usually seasonal but can also be caused by things like rainfall and leaky plumbing—creates movement under the foundation that can lead to differential settlement and structural damage, including cracks.

Subsidence – Changes in soil volume cause subsidence. Subsidence differs from settlement in that settlement is about the building’s weight pressing down on the soil. Subsidence can happen even if there isn’t a heavy building sitting on top of the soil.

Poor design and/or construction – These things happen.  We see it not only in aging homes, but also in newer properties and commercial buildings.

Natural disasters – Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes are culprits of foundational damage.

Interaction with other structural elements – Cracks in a brick wall can also be caused by the wall interacting with other structural elements, like roofs and concrete slabs.

Deterioration from poor maintenance – An example of this would be gutter downspouts that aren’t being diverted away from a property.

Vibration – This might be caused by nearby construction or heavy excavation, especially in urban areas.

How to fix cracks in a brick wall

Some cracks in a brick wall are structurally significant, while others are just worrisome and unattractive. Thus, the nature of the crack determines the repair method. Cracks that don’t threaten the building’s structural integrity are easier to fix.

If the crack is structurally significant, it isn’t enough to simply repair it cosmetically. The building needs to be stabilized first so the crack won’t return after the repair. Stabilization methods in both residential and commercial settings include underpinning using steel push piers, helical piers, or concrete piers. Once the building has been stabilized via underpinning, we can handle the aesthetic aspects of the crack.

If the crack is not structurally significant—for example, a vertical crack caused by concrete shrinkage during the curing process—tuckpointing with mortar, grout, or like materials may be the chosen repair solution by a property manager or repair contractor.

How Property Managers can prevent cracks in a brick wall

Since some foundation problems are caused by water, controlling the groundwater around the foundation of the property you manage is essential. You can do this by:

  • Cleaning the gutters regularly – Clogged gutters can cause water to spill over the side of the property and into the soil next to the foundation.
  • Installing downspout extensions, if necessary – Many downspouts are too short and release water next to the foundation. Extensions are easy to install and will channel that water away from the foundation before releasing it.
  • Regrading the exterior areas, if necessary – The yard or exterior area of the property should slope away from the foundation. If it doesn’t, have it regraded by a landscaper.
  • Installing a drain tile system – Drain tile systems (interior and exterior) ensure good drainage by preventing excess water from building up in the soil under and around the foundation.
  • Not planting water-hungry vegetation next to the foundation – Consider cutting back on the landscaping if additional results are needed. After watering, the water soaks into the soil around the foundation.

Of course, you’ll also want to make sure the soil around the foundation doesn’t get too dry. This is especially important if you have expansive soil. In this case, keep the soil hydrated during a drought so it doesn’t dry up and shrink.

Cost to repair cracks in a brick wall

The cost to repair cracks in a brick wall depends on various factors, including your geographical region, the type and severity of the crack, and the chosen repair method. In order to provide an accurate estimate for the property you manage, a foundation repair contractor must first conduct an onsite inspection. Once the inspection of the property is complete, a foundation repair contractor will provide an estimate for repairs.

The only way to know the cost of repairing cracks in a brick wall is to contact an experienced foundation repair contractor like USS to schedule an appointment for a free estimate. Following the free inspection, USS will create a personalized repair plan for the property at no cost to you.

If you have suspicious cracks in a brick wall and the property you maintain 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 happy to help!

Let’s get started!

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