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Identifying Different Types Of Foundation Cracks And What To Do About Them

Published on March 9, 2023

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Identifying Different Types Of Foundation Cracks And What To Do About Them

Identifying Foundation Types And Materials

Foundation cracks are a common problem in many homes and can be caused by a variety of factors, including soil conditions, poor construction practices, age, or even natural disasters. To properly identify and repair the issue, it is important to determine the type of foundation material used in the home.

Typical material types include poured concrete, masonry block, brick or stone veneer, and slab-on-grade foundations. Each type requires different repair methods that range from simple crack sealing to full replacement.

Poured concrete is the most popular choice for residential foundations due to its durability and ease of installation. It is constructed with steel reinforcing rods and concrete which can be reinforced with fiberglass mesh or other materials for added stability.

Masonry block foundations are built using hollow blocks of concrete filled with structural grout while bricks or stone veneers are more often used as decorative exterior finishes over a wood frame foundation. Slab-on-grade foundations involve pouring a thick layer of concrete directly onto the ground and using metal rebar to reinforce the slab.

Knowing the type of foundation material used in your home will help you make an informed decision when repairing any cracks you may find.

Understanding Concrete Slab Cracks

vertical crack in foundation

Concrete slab cracks can be seen in many different shapes and sizes. Identifying the type of crack can help to determine the cause and what needs to be done about it.

Hairline cracks are usually caused by shrinkage from curing, while large, vertical cracks are usually indicative of settlement or ground movement. Shifting foundations may cause diagonal or stair-step cracks.

Wall shifts or poor construction can result in horizontal foundation cracking. No matter the type of crack, it is important to address it as soon as possible in order to prevent further damage and costly repairs.

In some cases, foundation cracks can be filled with epoxy or other patching material that will adhere to the surface and fill the crack. When dealing with more severe structural issues, professional help should be sought out in order to properly assess the situation and repair any underlying problems that may exist.

Examining Foundation Wall Cracks

Inspecting your foundation walls for signs of cracking is an essential part of maintaining the structural integrity of your home. Foundation cracks can be a sign of major problems that need to be addressed immediately or minor issues that may not require immediate attention.

It's important to understand the different types of foundation cracks and how to identify them in order to determine what action needs to be taken. Horizontal cracks are usually caused by poor construction, settlement, or excess weight placed on the wall.

They can range from hairline or spiderweb-like fractures to wide breaks several inches wide. Vertical foundation wall cracks typically indicate settling or erosion, while stair-step cracks occur when there is movement in the foundation wall at different levels.

Diagonal cracks tend to be more serious and are often caused by hydrostatic pressure which pushes against the walls from water seeping through the ground. Some foundation wall cracks are harmless and only need monitoring over time, while others require more immediate repairs such as waterproofing, parging, underpinning, and even total replacement.

Identifying and addressing foundation wall cracks early on can save homeowners time, money, and energy in the long run.

Differentiating Foundation Cracks

vertical foundation crack repair

Differentiating foundation cracks is an important part of identifying the problem and knowing what to do about it. Knowing the type of crack can help determine the severity of the issue and whether or not immediate action is necessary.

There are several different types of foundation cracks which can be identified based on shape, size, location, and direction. Horizontal cracks indicate a shifting or settling foundation, vertical cracks may be a sign of soil pressure pushing against the walls, stair-step cracks appear when one side of the wall has shifted more than the other, and diagonal cracks can be caused by soil erosion.

Each type of crack presents a different set of issues that must be addressed in order to restore structural integrity. In some cases, filling the crack with an epoxy injection will suffice; in others, it might require more substantial repairs such as replacing piers or reinforcing existing beams.

Understanding which type of foundation crack you have is essential to finding an effective solution.

Causes Of Foundation Cracks

Foundation cracks can be caused by a variety of factors. Temperature fluctuations, excessive moisture and poor drainage, soil composition, and foundation settling can all contribute to cracks in foundations.

Temperature changes cause expansion and contraction in the materials that make up a foundation, resulting in hairline fractures or larger gaps. Excess moisture leading to hydrostatic pressure can push against the foundation from outside forces, while inadequate drainage around the perimeter of the house can cause water to build up beneath the foundation and weaken its structure.

The soil composition around a home can also play an important role in promoting or preventing cracking; certain types of soils have a higher shrink/swell ratio than others and may place additional stress on foundations if not properly accounted for during construction. Lastly, even when constructed correctly, some foundations will settle over time due to changing weather conditions or shifting ground levels; this settlement is normal but should be monitored closely as it can lead to large cracks if left unchecked.

Warning Signs Of Foundation Issues

vertical cracks in foundation

Identifying warning signs of foundation issues is an important part of home ownership. As a homeowner, you should be aware of the different types of foundation cracks and what to do about them.

Horizontal cracks can indicate problems with moisture or water buildup in the basement, while vertical cracks may signal settling issues due to soil erosion. Stair step cracking is often caused by expansive soils that are pushing against the foundation walls; it’s important to make sure your home has proper drainage systems installed to avoid this type of problem.

Bowing walls may be caused by soil pressure, poor construction or even poor drainage systems that aren’t working properly. If you see any of these signs, it's essential to address the issue right away before more significant damage occurs.

A qualified professional should be consulted to assess the condition of your foundation and provide you with appropriate advice on repairs or solutions.

Categories Of Foundation Damage

When examining a foundation for damage, it is important to identify the type of crack. There are three main categories of foundation damage: structural damage, settlement damage, and shrinkage cracks.

Structural damage occurs when there is an issue with the foundation itself that causes fractures in walls or floor joists. Settlement damage is associated with soil movement and can cause vertical or horizontal displacement of the foundation walls.

Shrinkage cracks are caused by interior or exterior moisture changes that can lead to surface cracking in drywall and other materials. Each type of foundation crack requires a different approach to repair, so it is important to accurately identify the source of the damage before attempting any repairs.

Recognizing Uneven Settling In Foundations

types of foundation cracks

Uneven settling in foundations is a common problem that can be identified by several distinct types of cracks. Horizontal and stair-step cracks are indicative of foundation settling, as both typically form when part of the foundation wall has moved downward and the other parts remain in place.

Another type of crack to look for is a diagonal or V-shaped crack, which occurs when one side of the foundation settles lower than the other side. If doors and windows become difficult to open or close due to settling, it is likely that the foundation is suffering from uneven settlement.

To address these issues, an experienced contractor should be consulted who can accurately diagnose any underlying problems and recommend solutions such as underpinning, wall stabilization methods, or installing additional support posts.

Identifying Voids Underneath Foundations

Identifying voids underneath foundations is an important part of foundation crack repair. Voids are a common issue, often caused by incorrect soil compaction, erosion, or improper backfilling.

While sometimes difficult to detect, understanding the different types of cracks and how to identify them can help you determine if the foundation needs to be stabilized or replaced. Horizontal cracks indicate movement in the foundation and can point to more serious problems such as heaving or settling.

Uneven floors or walls can also suggest a void underneath the foundation. Stair-step cracks are another type of crack that typically form at wall corners and may indicate a void beneath your home’s foundation walls.

If your home has any of these signs, call a professional to inspect your foundation and determine the best course of action for repair.

Tips For Assessing Foundation Cracks

vertical foundation crack

Assessing foundation cracks is important for identifying the cause and deciding what to do about them. It is helpful to recognize the different types of cracks, as each one indicates a different problem.

Horizontal cracks are often caused by pressure from soil or water on the outside walls; vertical cracks may be due to settling or shrinking of the foundation itself and stepped cracks could indicate issues with settling of footings and posts. Hairline or pinhead-size cracks can be caused by temperature fluctuations or even shrinkage of concrete blocks, while wide gap or displacement fractures are usually caused by major shifting in soil beneath or around the foundation.

To determine which type of crack you have and what to do about it, consult a professional who can assess your home’s structure and provide advice on repair options.

Horizontal Crack Characteristics

Foundation cracks can be a major concern for homeowners, and identifying the type of crack is essential to understanding the underlying cause and necessary repair. Horizontal foundation cracks are typically the result of expansive soil or poor construction practices.

These cracks are wider at the top and generally have a stepped appearance. In some cases, water may seep through these cracks, but in others they may appear dry.

Horizontal foundation cracks can also be caused by structural issues where there is too much weight or load on one section of the wall or floor slab. Regardless of their origin, horizontal foundation cracks should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your home’s foundation.

Repairing Vertical Or Diagonal Cracks

foundation vertical crack

Repairing vertical or diagonal cracks in your foundation can be an intimidating task, but it is important to identify the type of crack in order to determine the best course of action. Vertical cracks typically occur when there is a settling issue and are usually wide at the bottom and narrower at the top.

Diagonal cracks on the other hand are usually caused by external pressure such as soil pressure or water pressure pushing against the foundation walls. In either case, if left unchecked these types of cracks can lead to serious structural problems down the road.

The most effective way to fix vertical or diagonal cracks is with epoxy injection. This method involves injecting an epoxy resin into the crack which will help seal it and prevent further damage.

If the crack is particularly large then you may need to use a combination of epoxy injection and wall anchors for extra support. It's also important to make sure that any existing drainage systems are functioning properly in order to avoid any further water damage.

Fixing Horizontal Cracks

Horizontal foundation cracks can indicate a variety of issues, such as water seepage or structural instability. To determine the exact cause and severity of the problem, it is important to identify what type of horizontal crack is present.

The most common types are shrinkage cracks due to drying concrete, settlement cracks caused by soil movement or shifting support posts, and wall heave due to expansive soils swelling with moisture. Depending on the type and size of the crack, there are a few different options for repair.

For minor shrinkage or settlement cracks, sealant may be all that’s necessary to prevent water infiltration. If the crack is more severe, however, additional measures must be taken such as installing additional support posts or repairing masonry affected by wall heave.

It is important to contact an experienced professional if you suspect your foundation has been compromised in order to ensure your home remains structurally sound for years to come.

Prevention Of Foundation Issues

vertical cracks in block foundation

Foundation cracks can be caused by many different factors and can lead to costly repairs if not addressed. The best way to prevent foundation issues is to identify them early on and make the necessary repairs.

It is important to understand the different types of cracks that can occur in a foundation, as certain types may require more urgent attention than others. Structural cracks are often the most serious, as they indicate a structural issue that needs to be addressed right away in order to ensure the safety of your home or building; these typically result from settling or shifting soil beneath the foundation.

Shrinkage cracks, while not necessarily severe, should still be observed and monitored over time; they are caused by the drying out of concrete during curing. Hairline cracks are much less concerning but should still be inspected regularly; these small, thin lines form naturally due to stress on the concrete itself and are usually harmless unless they become larger over time.

Knowing how to identify these types of cracks will help you determine which ones need immediate attention and which ones you can monitor without taking further action.

Strategies For Addressing Bowing Walls

The most common cause of bowing walls is an excessive amount of hydrostatic pressure in the soil surrounding the foundation. This can lead to cracks and displacement of the wall, which can be identified by examining for horizontal or stair-step cracking in the mortar joints.

In order to address this issue, it is important to identify where the water is coming from and take steps to reduce or eliminate any exterior sources of moisture. This may include landscaping changes such as installing rain gutter extensions or downspout extenders, or even repairing broken pipes that could be leaking water onto the foundation.

Once these steps have been taken, interior waterproofing strategies should be used to help prevent further damage from occurring. These may include sump pump installation and crack injections that will help protect your foundation from future deterioration due to excessive hydrostatic pressure.

Causes Of Heaving Foundations

vertical crack foundation

Foundations can experience heaving due to a variety of causes. In some cases, the cause of foundation heave is related to hydrostatic pressure, which occurs when soil becomes saturated with water and exerts pressure on the foundation walls.

Expansion of clay soils due to moisture also causes foundations to heave, as does changes in soil composition caused by building near trees or shrubs that have deep roots. Improper backfilling after the foundation has been poured can lead to heaving, as can construction on a slope where the settling of one side of the house affects the other side.

Heave can also be caused by nearby underground sources of water, such as aquifers or streams, or from improperly compacted fill near the foundation wall. Poor drainage around the house can also contribute to heaving foundations, as well as poor soil compaction during original construction.

Identifying which type of heaving is causing your foundation issues is key for effectively addressing it and preventing further damage.

Solutions To Shifting Soil Problems

The best solution to shifting soil problems that cause foundation cracks is to ensure proper soil compaction. When building a home, the soil should be compacted in 8-inch layers until it reaches the desired level and then tamped down with a mechanical tamper.

This creates a stable base for the foundation of your home and will help prevent any future foundation cracks due to shifting soil. If you already have an existing home and are noticing foundation cracks, you may need to have the soil around your home professionally compacted to prevent further damage.

Additionally, waterproofing can help protect your home from water seepage which can weaken the foundation and cause further cracking. Lastly, adding drainage systems like French drains or surface drains can help divert water away from the home's foundation and reduce pressure on it, thus reducing any risk of cracking.

Solutions To Sinking Foundations

Foundation (engineering)

Sinking foundations can be a major issue for any homeowner, and identifying the cause is the first step to solving the problem. Foundation cracks are one of the most common signs of foundation settlement and can be caused by many different factors.

Identifying which type of foundation crack you have is important in determining what needs to be done to repair it. Horizontal cracks indicate problems with soil shrinkage or expansion, while diagonal cracks signal a structural problem and require professional attention.

Step or stair-shaped cracks may indicate that there is an underlying void under the foundation, which requires prompt attention from a professional contractor. Vertical cracks usually only require minor repairs such as sealing with epoxy or polyurethane caulk.

Knowing how to identify different types of foundation cracks and understanding which ones need immediate attention can help you determine the best course of action for your sinking foundation issues.

How Do You Know If Foundation Cracks Are Serious?

Foundation cracks can be serious, but how do you know whether they're a cause for concern or not? Identifying different types of foundation cracks and understanding their severity is important to determine the best course of action. Vertical cracks are usually the most common type found in foundations and generally result from shrinkage caused by drying concrete.

These vertical cracks typically don't pose a structural risk, but should still be monitored over time. Horizontal foundation cracks are more concerning, as they can indicate movement in the foundation wall due to pressure, settling or other issues with the soil below.

If a horizontal crack is wide enough to insert a dime, it may need immediate attention from a professional. Stair-step foundation cracks are also an indication of possible underlying issues such as differential settlement of soils underneath the slab or wall; they often require more extensive repair work than other foundation crack types.

While some small cracks may not pose an immediate threat to your home’s structure, it's important to stay vigilant and monitor them for changes over time. Knowing how to identify different types of foundation cracks and when to seek professional help will help ensure your home's structural integrity for years to come.

How Can You Tell If A Crack Is Structural?


Cracks in foundations can cause major damage to a home and its occupants, so it is important to identify the type of crack in order to determine the best course of action. Structural cracks require immediate attention, as they indicate that there is an underlying issue with the foundation that needs to be addressed.

Knowing how to identify a structural crack is key in determining whether or not you need professional help. Structural cracks typically appear in stair-step patterns, which means they start small and widen as they move up or down a wall.

They may also appear in horizontal lines or have a zig-zag shape. If you notice any of these patterns on your foundation walls, it's likely that the crack is structural and you should contact a professional for advice.

What Are Normal Foundation Cracks?

Foundation cracks can be found in nearly all homes. While some cracks are normal, others may signify a more serious problem.

Knowing what is normal, and what is not, can help you identify potential issues with your foundation. Normal foundation cracks are typically small and thin, less than 1/16 of an inch wide.

These surface-level cracks may appear along mortar joints or in concrete blocks, usually in a step-like pattern. These types of surface-level cracks typically do not indicate structural damage or require any corrective action.

If the crack is wider than 1/8th of an inch and appears to be widening over time, it could be indicative of a more serious issue such as settlement or soil movement. It is recommended that homeowners contact a professional for an evaluation if they notice wider foundation cracks or changes in the pattern of their home’s foundation cracks.

What's Worse Vertical Or Horizontal Cracks?

When it comes to foundation cracks, many homeowners are wondering what type of crack is worse: vertical or horizontal? The answer depends on the size and location of the crack, as well as its potential cause. Generally speaking, horizontal cracks indicate more serious issues than vertical ones.

This is because horizontal cracks tend to be wider and may indicate foundational settling or shifting. Vertical cracks usually indicate minor foundation movement, but if they're left unaddressed they can worsen over time.

It's important to identify different types of foundation cracks and understand which ones are more serious so you can take action accordingly.

Q: What type of foundation crack can occur due to moisture in the soil and frost damage in residential construction?

A: Common types of foundation cracks caused by moisture in the soil and frost damage include horizontal, stair-step, and diagonal cracks.

Q: What type of foundation cracks often occur in crawl spaces?

A: Foundation cracks that often occur in crawl spaces include horizontal, vertical, stair-step, and diagonal cracks.

Q: What type of foundation cracks are usually seen in CMU and cinderblock porches?


A: Horizontal cracks along the mortar joints in cinderblock or concrete masonry unit (CMU) porches are common.

Q: What type of foundation cracks are common in brickwork?

A: Horizontal cracks in brickwork foundations are the most common type of crack. These can be caused by a variety of issues, such as uneven settling, excessive loading, or thermal movement.

Q: How can heating, garage and climates affect the formation of foundation cracks, and how can flooding contribute?

A: Heating, garage and climate conditions can cause the soil to expand and contract which can lead to foundation cracks forming. Flooding can also contribute to foundation cracks by introducing water into the soil which may cause it to become oversaturated and shift leading to cracking.

Q: What type of foundation crack in California is caused by internal stresses and exacerbated by space between the foundation and gutters?


A: A horizontal crack.

Q: How can load-bearing foundation cracks be prevented using carbon fiber and controlling volume around the frost line?

A: To prevent load-bearing foundation cracks, carbon fiber mesh can be used to reinforce the structure and increase its strength. Additionally, the volume of soil around the frost line should be controlled through proper drainage and waterproofing to reduce pressure on the foundation walls.

Q: How can an expert determine if a foundation crack was caused by a failure or an earthquake?

A: An expert can evaluate the type and orientation of the crack to determine whether it is indicative of a structural failure or a result of an earthquake.

Q: What type of foundation crack is indicative of a structural failure?

Concrete slab

A: Uneven vertical cracks are typically an indication of a more serious structural failure.

Q: What type of foundation crack can be caused by freezing temperatures and frost heave?

A: Polyurethane foam can be used to fill cracks caused by freezing temperatures and frost heave, however it is important to note that it may represent a hazard if not done properly.


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