How to Diagnose Foundation Settlement Cracks and Problems

Diagnosing Foundation Settling

If you suspect a foundation settlement problem at your home – or even if you don’t suspect one – early warning signs can alert you to an impending problem.

Regular DIY inspections of your home’s foundation and exterior walls can help ensure that repairs are made before significant damage occurs. Once you establish a routine for inspecting your home, you will be better able to identify the development of potential problems.

Inspect Your Foundation Regularly for Settlement Cracks

No matter how old (or new) your home may be, foundation settlement can develop.

To ensure that you notice any early warning signs, inspect your foundation once each month. Many of our clients do this when they mow their lawn or change the HVAC, because these regular activities remind them to check.

When you first start inspecting for foundation settlement, you’re likely to see some slight cracking. Don’t panic, as this is a common occurrence when concrete cures. As long as the cracks are tiny and vertical, you have little to worry about.

Should those cracks grow larger or more expansive, however, it’s time to reach out to a foundation repair contractor for an inspection.

Until you become more familiar with the cracks that are already there, it may help to take a few photos with your cell phone, so that you can compare the cracks to the photos next month.

Poke It with a Screwdriver

If you do notice a new crack, or if the concrete appears to be chipping or flaking way, grab a heavy-duty screwdriver.

Poke the screwdriver into the concrete all around the cracking or chipping. Don’t be shy. Really give it a good poke. If the concrete is sound, you won’t be able to damage it at all.

If your screwdriver does work to chip away any portion of the foundation, this is a strong indication of a potential problem.

Be On the Lookout for These Significant Warning Signs

To better track the status of tiny cracks, paint over them with elastomeric paint made for concrete. If the cracks aren’t worsening, the elastomeric paint won’t crack through. If it does, you may be experiencing foundation settlement.

If your home is made of block or brick, we wary of Z-shaped cracks (sometimes called stair step cracks) running diagonally down an exterior wall, especially if the crack is more than a quarter-inch wide or if it seems to worsen over time. If the wall is bowed, this definitely indicates a problem.

The most worrisome problems – and those that should alert you to the likelihood of foundation settlement, are horizontal cracks in the foundation.

Concrete foundations carry the vertical weight of your home’s structure. Consequently, any shrinkage cracks will run vertically as well. Horizontal cracking can only be caused by failing concrete or some type of inordinate exterior pressure.

Atlas Piers serving residential and commercial customers in Utah, Wyoming and Nevada, specializes in foundation restoration and support systems. If settling problems are detected and repaired early, significant structural damage can be minimized or prevented.

If you suspect you may have a problem at your home or business, contact us today. We can provide a comprehensive evaluation and suggest any potential repairs that may be necessary to prevent further damage or foundation settlement.

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