How to Repair a Cracked Foundation Due to Settling
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sonya from Illinois on the line with a foundation question. What’s going on?
SONYA: Well, I have a – I live in a two-story house with a basement underneath. And attached to that house is a garage and behind the garage is a family room.
SONYA: And the family room is on a crawlspace. Now, the foundation between the garage and the family room has shifted and cracked due to settling of the house.
TOM: Alright. Sonya, let me stop you right there. What’s the crack look like? Is it vertical or horizontal?
SONYA: Vertical, actually.
SONYA: But it goes down for quite a few of the cinder blocks.
TOM: Blocks, blocks. OK. Is it hairline or is it opened up?
SONYA: Part of it is opened up.
TOM: Oh. And the rest of it’s hairline?
TOM: I wouldn’t worry too much about it. That’s a very typical kind of crack and it probably is from settlement.
So I would do two things: first of all, I would seal the crack with a silicone caulk; secondly, I would reassess the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. Because if the soil around the outside of the house and the outside of the foundation is allowed to get overly wet – how would that happen? Well, if it’s flat, if the soil is sloped back to the house, if the gutters or the downspouts are overflowing or the downspouts are dropping a lot of water there, that tends to make the soil wet, which makes it weak, which makes the house settle. So I would just take a look and make sure that the soil is as stable and dry as possible. I would fix the crack and then I think that that probably will solve it.
Now, if the crack continues to move after all of that and you have some pretty good evidence that it continues to move, then at that point – and only at that point – would I suggest bringing in a home inspector or a structural engineer to take another look. But if it’s a hairline to 1/8-inch or so crack, it’s not displaced, that’s probably pretty typical. That may have happened a long time ago, too. I don’t know if this is something that you’re recently noticing.
SONYA: This is recent, because the door frame of the door between the garage and the family room actually shifted, also, to the point where we could not close the door.
TOM: Listen, if you want to be absolutely sure that you don’t have an ongoing problem here with movement, you could have it looked at by a structural expert. But I would encourage you to make that expert not a contractor and here’s why: contractors are going to sell you a repair, whether you need it or not. You want to have it looked at by an independent professional that’s an engineer or a home inspector and then make a decision based on that advice.
Sonya, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.