Unsurprisingly, we tend to become a little weary when we notice cracks in basement walls because foundation issues are arguably the most significant structural concern for any homeowner or prospective buyer.
Cracks, however, appear for various reasons and need different fixes ranging from extensive reconstruction to easy do-it-yourself fixes. Which cracks warrant concern is the question.
You should use a caulking gun with an epoxy-based resin to seal cracks in basement walls. You can also use a liquid or paste elastomeric compound to patch up cracks in concrete walls. You force the chemical into the crack using a putty knife or squirt gun (or bottle).
Signs of cracks in basement walls
You need to examine the fracture itself as well as the crack’s characteristics to assess the severity of the crack. What location is it in? Is that horizontal? Is it stair-stepped, diagonal, or vertical? What is its width, and is it offset?
In addition to inspecting the fractures directly, you will also search the remainder of the house for indicators of potential structural problems. This makes it easier to understand how severe the cracks are. Ants, for example, are a sign that there is a crack through which they’re entering your basement.
Below are some warning signs that the crack in your wall is severe and needs immediate attention:
1. Unusual humidity
Drywall and paint seals are used to keep wet outside air out of the house in modern homes. However, if the alignment of your home’s structure is compromised, humidity from the outside or from below can enter your living spaces.
If a room is unusually muggy and you can’t get rid of it, the walls may let humidity in from behind or through them.
2. Separating molding and baseboards
If you notice your walls shifting out of place or starting to break, it is indisputable evidence that your foundation is weak or cracked, especially if your baseboards begin to rip away from the corners.
3. Strange smells
Although it’s unlikely that your foundation will come to mind when you notice a strange or musty odor in the house, this can be a sign of an unstable foundation.
There may be openings in the structure that didn’t previously exist, which could allow air to enter the living spaces from below the home or from the distance between the walls if the house is no more extended level or is perhaps slowly coming apart.
You might have a problem with the foundation if you notice a weird scent.
4. Crooked doorway
Your house was constructed with the idea that perfect angles can be relied upon in many ways. However, due to a foundation crack, your floor tilts, your walls move, and your doorways change from rectangles to parallelograms, and the rectangular doors no longer fit into the parallelograms.
The most obvious sign of foundation issues is door troubles, which should prompt you to contact an expert for assistance quickly.
5. Cracked/bowing walls
Even though a house wasn’t designed to move, it does when a foundation settles badly. Depending on how the foundation has settled, walls may crack due to turning, pressing, or stretching.
Some walls may bow (bend), turn, or even lean if the house has begun to lean inward. A severe issue arises when your walls start acting strangely, necessitating foundation repair.
6. Uneven floors
Although there are several potential reasons for uneven floors, including poor installation, there is unquestionably an issue if a marble cannot be placed on your floor without rolling.
One of the most apparent signs of a cracked foundation is an uneven floor, especially if it’s not because of warped floorboards and the flat floor.
Most of these signs result from too much water around the basement wall. This can be prevented with a footing drain which collects and redirects the water away from the basement.
What causes cracks in basement walls?
The two most common causes of basement wall cracking are settlement and hydrostatic pressure. Both of these have been caused by natural forces that define our environment; you cannot prevent or control either. The same issues cause cracks in basement floors.
1. Hydrostatic force
The phenomenon that occurs when the ground around your property is saturated with water is known as hydrostatic pressure. When the soil begins to absorb water, it expands in all directions, including in the direction of your home.
This puts your basement walls under pressure, which causes them to break. Because the ground is so wet, these fractures frequently allow water to enter.
2. The foundation settling
If the ground had to be dug up for the basement construction, the builder might have gone down to virgin earth, depending on the age and location. This suggests that it hasn’t been disturbed or relocated for long.
Add the weight of the house and seasonal variation of freezing, thawing, droughts, and floods to that. It stands to reason that the earth would move a little.
What causes a home to settle are these minute changes and movements. Over time, a few hairline cracks are to be expected. As the homeowner, you shouldn’t be concerned about these; they should be filled and repaired.
How to fix cracks in basement walls
A liquid or paste elastomeric compound can patch up cracks in concrete walls. You force the chemical into the crack using a putty knife or squirt it with a bottle.
For this procedure, you need a putty knife, waterproof gloves, a brush, a heat gun (optional), a nylon or wire brush, a scraping device, a concrete crack filler, and a TSP cleaning solution.
You then follow these steps:
1. Dry and clean the concrete
Clean the area around the crack and for a few inches beyond it. Use a metal wire or nylon brush along with the TSP cleaning solution. Rinse and then, using a heat gun, dry the crack and the surrounding area.
2. Scrape out the crack
Scrap the crack using a scraping tool like an old screwdriver or nail. Clean up any loose debris, paying specific attention to the edges.
3. Add the crack filler
Stir or shake the crack filler. Fill the crack with it. Try squeezing as much filler as possible into the crack using the filler bottle. In general, though, the filler will sit on the top. Try to work in manageable chunks.
4. Press in the crack filler
Put on a glove made of latex or a latex alternative. Press the concrete filler into the crack with your finger as you would caulk. Use a cloth or your finger to remove any extra.
5. Smooth the crack filler
Use the putty knife to work the crack filler into the crack further. Additionally, spread the crack filler out over the crack. Before painting, allow the crack filler to cure for at least 24 hours.
With these steps, you should fill up the crack in your basement wall and restore its original look. Paint it or add wallpaper to hide further the work done on it. Even then, always have an expert check your crack since it could be a sign of a bigger issue with your basement.