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.