Cracks in Foundation: When to worry

So, you found the house of your dreams and are ready to put in an offer, but noticed some cracks in the foundation. While some cracks are entirely normal, there are a few types of cracks to be noted depending on the foundation type.

Understanding the type of foundation crack you're dealing with can help you determine the condition of your foundation and whether or not you'll need to repair or patch it soon.

Cracks in Foundation Wall vs. Horizontal Slabs

Before we dive into each type of foundation crack, it's important to distinguish between two types of foundations in NEPA. Most homes in freezing climates, like Pennsylvania, are built with foundation walls and typically have a crawl space of attic. Slab foundations are rare to the area since rapid freeze-thaw cycles would greatly reduce their longevity.

The problem with foundation wall cracks is that they are typically more concerning. Unlike slab cracks, foundation wall cracks usually indicate a much more serious structural issue--at least in some circumstances.

We'll discuss what foundation wall cracks you should be worried about in NEPA so that you are prepared as a homeowner, buyer, or seller.

Types of Foundation Cracks and Should I Worry

There are many types of foundation wall cracks that can be easily observed by the layman.

1.) Vertical Cracks: No Concern

These cracks are commonly a result of the foundation and home settling. These cracks are mostly natural and may not give cause for concern especially in an aging house. If the crack gets larger from the point of origin or is wider than a pinky finger, this may be cause for concern and warranty further inspection.

2.) Horizontal Cracks: Be Concerned

These cracks are not as innocuous and are usually caused by soil and hydrostatic water pressure. Horizontal cracks can be costly to fix as they typically indicate deeper problems with the foundation.

3.) Stair StepCracks: Be Concerned

These cracks are easily visible along mortar joints surrounding your basement and the side of your home. While some stairstep cracks and separation can be due to natural settling, they usually indicate a buildup of moisture and warrant concern. By the rule of thumb, if you can fit anything thicker than a quarter through the crack, reach out to a professional for prompt repair.

4.) Diagonal Cracks: No Concern

Sometimes referred to as hairline cracks, diagonal cracks typically form as the foundation naturally settles and cures in new homes. The good news is that these cracks are typically cosmetic and don't warrant repair--though they can be patched.

Common Causes of Foundation Cracks

No foundation is free of cracks, and there are as many natural reasons for cracks due to aging as there are cracks that result from poor practice. The most common causes of cracks in both new and aging foundations are:

Settlement: When the soil underneath a foundation compresses or shifts, it can cause the foundation to settle unevenly, leading to cracks as the structure adjusts to the new position.

Poor Construction: Inadequate reinforcement, improper concrete mixing, or insufficient curing time during construction can result in weak spots in the foundation, which may eventually crack under stress.

Hydrostatic Pressure: Excessive moisture in the soil surrounding the foundation can exert pressure on the walls, causing them to crack as the foundation attempts to resist the force. This is an important reason to winterize your gutters so that water drains properly away from the home!

Tree Roots: Large tree roots growing near the foundation can exert pressure on the walls as they expand, potentially leading to cracks over time as the roots seek water and nutrients.

Signs You Should Be Worried About Cracks in Your Foundation

As we stated, foundation cracks are a natural result of an aging foundation and can even indicate that the foundation has settled properly. However, there are a few worrying signs throughout your home that indicate a foundation is in worse shape than you may have anticipated.

  • Moisture is seeping through cracks. If you are noticing excess moisture buildup in your basement, foundation, or crawl space, this could be a cause for concern. If you are witnessing moisture penetrate cracks in your foundation, this is an even greater cause for concern as it will only compound the issue even greater over time.
  • Cracks continue to grow in width. If you notice cracks in your foundation growing wider with time, this will indicate a serious foundation issue.
  • You're noticing cracks in your ceilings and walls. One of the first signs homeowners notice that there is a problem with their foundation is cracks that form on their interior walls and ceilings. While some cracks are normal, cracks that are wide or form from your ceiling to your floors will indicate a structural issue.
  • Your chimney is separating from your home: If your pre-listing inspection report finds that your chimney is forming gaps between your home, then you can bet there is a foundation issue.
  • Floors are slanting. Slanting or uneven floors not due to a cracked joist or subfloor will certainly indicate a foundation issue.

How Often Should I Inspect My Foundation?

Homeowners should perform a visual inspection of their foundation every year to monitor growing cracks. We recommend going further and performing one every season, especially during the winter and summer.

If you are purchasing a home or selling one, then a foundation inspection will be a must to ensure that your investment is protected.

When it comes to purchasing a home, we here at Mountain to Valley Home Inspections understand that it is an important decision. This is why we are always here to help put your mind at ease! It is important to have an inspection done at any stage in this process to give you the information needed to ensure your family is safe, and that they're no dangerous issues hiding within the home. As always if you have any questions give us a call, we are happy to help!

Eww Mold! What to Do When You Find Mold

Finding mold in your home can be an uncomfortable discovery for any homeowner. If you've recently been dealing with difficulty breathing, allergy-like symptoms, or consistent headaches, it could be a sign of mold.

Unfortunately, many older homes with poor ventilation in Northeast PA are harbingers of mold. The only way to eliminate mold is to identify the extent of the problem and the areas where it lies in your home with a proper indoor air quality inspection. Ideally, a home inspection report would catch many of the culprits of indoor mold in houses, including roof leaks, plumbing issues, and even high humidity, but often, an indoor air quality inspection is required to spot mold that often lies beneath the surface.

Here at Mountain to Valley Home Inspections, we are certified indoor air consultants. This means that we follow the standards for mold testing put in place by the certified body for residential and commercial indoor air quality consultants in North America to ensure that we are providing superior service.

Learn more about how mold inspections work and why they are the first step in eliminating mold if you spot it in your home.

Step 1: Identifying Mold

Depending on where you spot mold in your home, you may be able to identify some of what lies underneath with a simple visual examination. However, hiring a mold inspector to dig beneath the surface is always recommended to uncover the true extent of your mold exposure and where it lies in your home.

What will a Mold Inspector Look For?

A mold inspector will look for some common signs of mold exposure throughout your home, which will help them locate the source of mold.

  • Moisture intrusion
  • Water damage
  • Musty odors
  • Apparent mold growth
  • Results of a laboratory analysis of all mold samples taken at the home or building.

Digging Deep: Following IAC2 Standards of Practice

Mountain to Valley Home Inspections follows strict standards put forth by the International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants (IAC2) to provide customers with a more robust inspection. Some areas of your home we will search for signs of mold or causes of mold growth include:

1.) Roofs

  • Roof coverings
  • Roof drainage systems such as gutters and downspouts
  • Vents, flashings, skylights, chimneys, and any other roof penetrations.

2.) Exterior and Grounds

  • Cladding, flashing, and trim
  • Exterior doors, windows, decks, stoops, steps, stairs, porches, railings, etc.

3.) Basement, Foundation, Crawlspace

  • Moisture intrusion
  • Inspection of ventilation for each.

4.) Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation

  • Air handlers, circulating fans, and air filters
  • Central humidifier
  • Central air conditioning unit

5.) Plumbing

  • Visible main water line
  • Visible water supply lines
  • Visible drain, waste, and vent pipes
  • Hot water source
  • Toilets, faucets, showers, and tubs

6.) Attic

  • Insulation
  • Ventilation of Attic Spaces
  • Framing and Sheeting

7.) Interior

  • Walls, ceilings, floors, doors, and windows

  • Ventilation in kitchen, bathroom, and laundry

  • Whole-house ventilation fans

8.) Moisture, Humidity, and Temp.

  • Will measure the moisture of any room or area of the building that has moisture intrusion, water damage, moldy odors, apparent mold growth, or conditions conducive to mold growth.
  • If warranted, the inspector may measure the humidity as well as temperature in any room or area of the building.

Step 2: Eliminating Mold

Treating mold requires careful procedure, as incidental exposure can lead to skin irritation and respiratory illness. Some proper precautions homeowners must take before cleaning and wiping mold off of surfaces include:

  • Wearing a mask with a HEPA cartridge
  • Wearing gloves and safety glasses
  • Covering door and window openings with a plastic sheet to prevent spores from spreading

Once properly equipped, you'll want to apply a general household cleaner solution or one cup of bleach to every gallon of water to wipe away mold from dirty surfaces. Bleach is recommended for black mold.

Then, using a shop vac or a vacuum with a HEPA filter, you'll want to vacuum up any leftover residue or water.

Finally, use a dehumidifer to dry out the area.

Step 3: Protecting Against Mold

Based on the findings of your indoor air quality inspection, you will need to solve any issues contributing to mold growth.

In many cases, fixing leaks, installing vents, or installing a dehumidifier in areas with high moisture content, especially during the summer, will resolve any issues.

However, for deeper issues, such as roof leaks or aging insulation, more serious repairs may be necessary to guard against mold.

Fight Back Against Mold

The only way to eliminate mold is to identify its source and remove all traces of it from your house.

At Mountain to Valley Home Inspections, our indoor air quality tests follow the best standards of practice laid out by industry experts and veterans. Whether you're buying, selling, or living in a home with mold right now, don't hesitate to reach out to us for a mold consultation.

Summer Maintenance Tips For Northeastern PA Homes

As the weather finally warms up and school lets out, we know summer is on its way. 

While most families have a spring cleaning routine, many do not have an established summer maintenance care routine. However, the warm weather is the perfect time to start thinking about home repair projects and getting that home inspection you've been putting off.

If you plan to sell your home in the next year, then a pre-listing inspection and some routine maintenance will pay dividends.

Regardless if you plan to buy or sell a home, here are nine summer maintenance tips that will benefit your home.

  1. Inspect your deck and/or Patio

Wood decks typically require painting or staining every few years to prolong their life. Likewise, if your patio is concrete, it is important to look for any areas that may need to be sealed. If your patio happens to be brick, look for missing pieces or damaged ones so that they may be replaced.

Summer is the perfect time to tidy up that deck and fix any exterior defects that raise alarm bells on that inspection report.

  1. Check your fence

Your fence may not be an area you check often, but it requires some upkeep. If your fence is chain-linked, it is important to look for any broken parts, especially if you have pets. This can also help keep your furry friends out of harm's way.

If your fence is made of wood, it is important to stain or paint it as often as you would a wood deck.

Vinyl fencing may require periodic tightening of the panels, especially if the ground around the posts has shifted. 

  1. Inspect the grading around your home

When doing this you want to ensure that the pitch of the ground around your home's foundation is sloping away from your home. This allows for water to be directed away from your home to lessen water damage. If you happen to notice any low areas, these can be fixed by adding top soil.

Ignoring your grading can lead to structural issues, including foundation cracks that invite moisture in.

  1. Check your gutters

If your gutters are clogged or damaged, this may lead to water issues inside your home.

First, you want to ensure that your gutters are not damaged and that they are all connected. Also, it is important to check your downspouts and make sure that they are taking water away from your home as far away as possible. To help with this, you can purchase inexpensive extensions.

Install leaf guards to prevent your gutters from clogging and winterize them to simplify cleanup, especially during the fall. 

  1. Perform some landscaping

Mowing the lawn is probably already part of your summer chores, but taking care of all of your landscaping needs is essential. Trim back hedges, eliminate standing water, and get rid of any rotting wood or garbage in your yard that can serve as a shelter for pests. 

  1. Inspect and clean siding

Power washing your siding is a great way to eliminate dirt and debris that can lead to mold and cosmetic defects. It will also help prevent ants and other pests from entering your walls.

As a final task, inspect your siding for any damage. Rust, splitting wood, or loose vinyl can be signs of a deeper problem that may require immediate repair. 

  1. Inspect indoor hoses and pipes

Water is the enemy of any homeowner. Be sure to inspect all pipes and hoses, including washer hookups, for any leaks that could lead to mold and foundation damage. 

  1. Eliminate pests wherever possible

Pest protection is a major concern for NEPA homeowners in the summer, especially as wood-destroying organisms like termites can wreak havoc on their homes. Keeping a clean home, landscaping, and cleaning up trash and debris will help limit the amount of 

  1. Monitor humidity

Likewise, you’ll need to monitor humidity in the summer, especially in attics and basements where warm air struggles to circulate. Look for ways to increase ventilation with fans and dehumidifiers. Unchecked humidity will lead to mold and damage to different areas of your home. 

We hope you found these four tips helpful as you prepare your home for summer. If you need help drafting a summer maintenance list, be sure to get an inspection performed to identify any serious issues that require immediate repair. 

Winterizing Your Gutters

As the winter months approach, it is important to remember to clean your gutters properly. When your gutters are full of leaves and other debris, they can cause water buildup, which can go under your roof and end up leaving cracks in your foundation.

In fact, poor water drainage is often one of the most common issues we find on home inspection reports in NEPA.

Avoid the ill effects of water damage from clogged or cracked gutters by winterizing them with this 5-step guide.

The Importance of Winterizing Your Gutters

Winterizing your gutters is important for the safety of your gutters as well as your home.

  • Maintaining Structural Integrity: Ensuring your gutters are securely fastened and free of clogs helps maintain their structural integrity under the weight of snow and ice. This prevents potential damage to the gutter system itself and to your roofline.
  • Preventing Water Damage: Clearing out gutters before winter prevents water from backing up and seeping into your home's foundation or basement, which can cause costly water damage and mold growth.
  • Preserving Landscape: Properly winterized gutters direct melting snow away from your home's foundation and landscaping, protecting them from excessive moisture that can lead to erosion and plant damage.
  • Extending Gutter Lifespan: Regular maintenance and winterization can extend the lifespan of your gutters by preventing rust, corrosion, and structural damage caused by freezing and thawing cycles.
  • Avoiding Safety Hazards: Clean gutters prevent dangerous icicles and ice buildup around your home, reducing the risk of injury to yourself and others from falling ice or slippery pathways.

Do Gutters Cause Ice Dams?

One reason people winterize their gutters is to avoid costly ice dams. However, ice dams are not formed or influenced by gutters and are often the result of poor insulation in the roofing area that leads to moisture buildup.

Considerations for Different Types of Gutters

While most gutters are made of seamless aluminum, it's not unheard of to find steel, vinyl, or even zinc gutters lying around NEPA.

Depending on the type of material your gutter is made of, it may be vulnerable to the harsh effects of winter. Lighter materials like vinyl may crack under the added weight and pressure of ice and snow buildup.

Steel gutters are often vulnerable to rust, as are copper and zinc gutters.

Aluminum gutters provide a good middle ground, though they are doubly susceptible to dents and rust, so winterizing them is crucial for their longevity.

5 Ways to Winterize Your Gutter

Looking to maintain the health of your home and your gutters? Here are five tips to winterize your gutters and ensure they work properly.

1. Clean Your Gutter

First, you need to clean out all debris from your gutters that may be impacting its ability to divert water from your house. Even just a few leaves, acorns, or sticks can cause water to buildup, which then freezes and expands to break your gutters.

Cleaning your gutters can be done on your own or with the help of a professional.

The best tool to use when cleaning your gutter is an old plastic spatula. This will not scratch your gutter, and you can even cut it to fit! The plastic also allows for easy clean-up afterward. A plumber's snake is also a great tool for cleaning out downspouts. You should try to clean your gutters at least once a year, and more if you have a lot of overhanging trees or after a bad storm.

2. Perform an Inspection

A gutter inspection can tell you whether or not it is properly diverting water. You can do this yourself by checking to see that rain is properly exiting each of your gutters or you can have a home inspector perform an inspection for assurance.

3. Add Extra Protection

Leaf guards will prevent large debris from ever entering your gutters, giving you the luxury of avoiding cleanup duty. For many homeowners, it comes down to a question of whether or not they want to invest the money to have them installed upfront or to get their gutters cleaned during the later part of the year.

4. Ensure Gutters Are Aligned

Another important to do is to ensure that your gutters are properly flush with your building and are not sagging or falling off. Misaligned gutters can allow water to penetrate between gaps and buildup around your foundation.

5. Improve Your Attic's Insulation

If you want to avoid ice dams that crack and bend your gutters, then you need to improve your attic or roof's insulation. Talk to an insulation specialist about the best way to insulate your attic and avoid costly ice dams. New insulation will confer several benefits, from preventing your pipes from freezing to lowering your energy bills.

Don't Overlook Your Gutters

Of all the big to-dos a homeowner has to deal with, gutters may not be your biggest priority. But making the effort to clean and inspect your gutters periodically--especially during the fall--can save you thousands in costly repairs and extend the life of your gutters.

For more advice on how to winterize your gutters, reach out to a gutter specialist or a full-service home inspector like Mountain to Valley Home Inspections.

What We Believe In: Mike

On December 23, 2013 my nephew Eric Speicer Jr. gained his wings as the result of brain cancer at the young age of 13. As a result Little Eric's foundation was formed to help children and parents not only emotionally, and physically, but also financially deal with this terrible disease and the impacts it has on families. Little Eric's foundation has several fundraisers such as a casino nights, wiffle ball tournaments, gold bow sales, and so much more throughout the year. With the help of these fundraisers we are able to successfully contribute to Cancer research and studies in hopes to one day find a cure.

If you are interested in helping with fundraisers or donations please visit Little Eric's Foundation website: