What to do when your foundation has cracks

2:42 PM, Jun 26, 2020
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What to do when your foundation has cracks

Checking your home’s foundation for cracks might be one of the last things on your to-do list, but it can be one of the most important home improvement steps you regularly take.

Some cracks are just a product of the cement shrinking or settling over time, while others signal a severe structural problem. Some cracks can be ignored, while others indicate it’s time to replace your entire foundation.

But how do you know the difference?

Shape matters

You can tell a lot about how damaging a foundation crack is by analyzing its angle, width, and depth.

A short, hairline crack doesn’t mean much unless it grows over time. Meandering cracks that taper to a hairline may be shrinkage cracks, according to HouseLogic, which means they aren’t structurally dangerous, but they could allow moisture to leak into your crawlspace or basement. Stairstep cracks and horizontal cracks are signs of serious problems that should be evaluated by a professional.

One source of foundation damage in Arizona is the expansive soils found throughout the Phoenix and Tucson areas.

“According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, about half of the houses built in the United States each year are situated on unstable soil, and about half of these will eventually suffer some soil-related damage,” the Arizona Geological Survey explains.

The clay minerals found in local soil absorb water and increase in volume, then dry out and shrink. The AGS says that “structures may be damaged when a soil expands by as little as five percent.”

Rust means damage

Cracks with rust-colored stains or leakage indicate rebar damage within the cement.

Rebar is reinforcement placed in the stem wall of a concrete foundation to provide structural support to the vertical walls of your home. A stem wall is especially important if your home is in an area prone to flooding and earthquakes.

Cracking and flaking also indicate rebar damage. When moisture infiltrates cement, the rebar starts to rust and swell. As it swells, it exerts tremendous force on the cement wall, eventually causing spalling, which is when chunks of concrete fall off the wall.

Rebar can also sustain damage if it was placed incorrectly and is too close to the surface of the concrete, or if the concrete wasn’t mixed and vibrated correctly, according to BuyersAsk. This exposes rebar to the elements, which leads to cracking and flaking problems that can compromise your foundation’s integrity.

Do-it-yourself fixes are temporary

Suggestions for DIY repair for foundation cracks include using vinyl concrete patching compound for hairline cracks and masonry silicone or hydraulic cement for wider cracks.

While these may seem quick and inexpensive, it’s likely that, in the long run, the crack will need another repair, especially if rebar is involved and rust continues to impact the rebar’s strength.

Stop rust to stop damage

The only way to halt all further structural damage to your foundation when you have the horizontal cracks that denote rebar degradation is to call a professional.

“Most stem wall repairs will rust and oxidize, eventually nullifying their benefits,” according to Arizona Foundation Solutions.

Fortunately, there is a patented repair solution in the company’s reliable and cost-effective stem wall repair system. With the NeveRust system, a non-corroding composite material is applied over and around the rebar. The result is an environmentally-friendly solution that prevents rust from leaching into nearby water sources. It comes with a lifetime warranty against rust that can be transferred to future homeowners.

Visit Arizona Foundation Solutions for more information and to schedule your free foundation inspection.

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