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!