Learn how to fix a crack in your foundation. Find out when you should hire a structural engineer about a crack in your foundation.
Things are cracking up for Eddie in Virginia by way of the foundation. What’s going on? Tell us about it.
EDDIE: Basically, I have a crack in my foundation ; especially from the top to the base of the – base of the foundation.
EDDIE: And probably about – oh, I’d say about an inch at the top and then it kind of comes together toward the bottom.
TOM: Wow. That’s a pretty big crack. Is it – is this new – do you think it’s been – always been this way? Any sense that it’s moving, Ed?
EDDIE: No, it’s not. Actually, my mom and I, we fixed it when – 15 years ago when we first moved into the house. We patched it up with a cement; you know, from like Home Depot and stuff like that …
EDDIE: … and it pretty much held up pretty well. There’s no movement or anything. But last month, when – out in Virginia we got …
LESLIE: A lot of rain.
EDDIE: … a lot of rain, actually. And pretty much – I had a sump pump  out there, too, which broke down that I didn’t know about. So I’m not sure if it’s from the water that came in from the rain; if it’s from the saturation or if it’s from the crack in the foundation.
TOM: Well, generally what happens when you have a lot of rain is the soil’s getting wet around the foundation perimeter; and especially in the area of the footing. And so, you – think about this. When the yard is wet, you sink in it because it’s muddy, right? Well, your house does the same thing. It doesn’t have the same strength; in terms of the surface strength. It’s not going to hold the foundation wall the same way when it’s soaking, sopping wet. So you can get movement when the soil is that way.
The question is whether or not this is an active crack to the point where it needs some further reinforcement. You say you fixed it but it sounds like you just patched it. You didn’t structurally repair. You just patched the crack so you didn’t have to look at the hole in the wall. But you may need to do some structural repair to this if the thing continues to move.
I would keep an eye on it and if – and if you’re not comfortable with it and feel like it is continuing to move, I would get a professional home inspector to check it out for you and give an opinion as to whether or not you should have an engineer design a repair for it.
EDDIE: Well, that’s the thing, too. I’ve had a lot of estimators come out and they’ve given me all these different ideas about how to fix it.
TOM: That’s because you’re probably talking to people that are in the repair business and I’m telling you to talk to people that are in the design repair business. In other words, somebody that’s going to be paid just to design the repair, like an architect or an engineer.  If you call a contractor …
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Not somebody who’s actually going to do the work themselves; who’ll say, “Well hey, this is what you should do to fix it and I happen to be that person.”
TOM: Right. There’s two questions: number one – does it need to be fixed?; and number two – how should it be fixed? So, if you hire an engineer and they come out and they say, “Yeah, it has to be fixed and here’s the way you need to do it,” they’ll prepare a specification for that, Ed, and that’s very important because that becomes the pedigree that shows a future buyer that this job was done right. Once the job is completed in accordance with the engineer’s specifications, you would also want the engineer to come back and certify that it’s now complete and safe and done correctly. And this way, if anybody wants to buy your house in the future and they question the crack, you can say, “Hey, yeah I had a concern about it, too, so I hired a pro; they designed a repair. Then I hired a contractor; they installed the repair. Then I hired the pro to come back and certify that it was done correctly. Here’s the paperwork.” You know, no questions asked, that was the right way to do it.
EDDIE: Great. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Eddie. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.