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Difference Between Structural Cracks & Non-Structural Foundation Cracks?

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Cracks in your foundation can trigger many questions. Is this a simple crack and nothing more? Will it worsen with time? Can it threaten the structural integrity of my home, especially the walls? Is there a lasting fix for this problem? All these are genuine and serious questions that need answers.  

vertical structural cracks

If these are the questions swirling in your head, read on and find out the types of foundation cracks and when you should be concerned as a homeowner.

Structural vs. Non-structural Foundation Cracks

Cracks in the foundation of a home can be classified broadly into two categories – structural cracks and non-structural cracks. Let’s delve deeper into them. Is there any difference? Yes, there’s a big difference between these two types of cracks, and as you’ll soon find out, their ramifications differ too. One is superficial in nature and less severe, while the other is deep-seated and potentially dangerous. Knowing the differences between these two will help you identify which type of crack you’re dealing with and take the appropriate measures.

If you’re not sure of what kind of crack has developed, ask your local contractor to come and inspect the foundation. They will tell you what sort of crack has appeared on your foundation and recommend a cost-effective solution. Feel free to ask for a breakdown of foundation repair costs before work starts.

Non-structural Cracks in the Foundation

Also known as cosmetic cracks, these don’t pose a threat to the structural integrity of your home. They can occur over time because of changes in weather conditions, thermal movement, hydrostatic pressure and exposure to moisture. Some cracks appear because of aging. Well, many of these factors are natural and universal. Some of the major signs of non-structural cracks in the foundation include:

  • Cracks on plaster
  • Vertical or diagonal cracks
  • Narrow cracks measuring 1-2 mm wide
  • Cracks near doors or the edge of the window

Unlike structural cracks, cosmetic ones are mostly thin and less aggressive. They don’t require elaborate repairs. Crack injection method is commonly used to repair them. When fixed, they tend to last long. The only thing you should worry about is when water starts seeping through them. When this happens, it can lead to mold growth.

Structural Cracks in the Foundation

As the name suggests, structural cracks occur because of poor construction sites, overloading or poor soil bearing. These cracks may not introduce water right away, but over time, you can rest assured they will. Telltale signs of structural cracks in your foundation are:

  • Stair-step cracks
  • Cracks on foundation slabs or beams
  • Vertical cracks that are wide at the bottom or top
  • Cracks measuring 1/8″ in width

Structural cracks in concrete walls and the foundation signify a considerable shift in the home’s foundation. Any delay in fixing the problem will only lead to further problems. Repairs will get more expensive and complicated. Only a qualified basement and foundation repair contractor should handle the problem.

Because of the risks they pose to your home and loved ones, structural cracks should be fixed by a competent foundation repair contractor as soon as possible. The most common method of repairing them is installing carbon fiber strips or reinforcing steel beams to the damaged walls.

When Should I Worry About Foundation Cracks?

A number of things should alert you to the possibility that you’re not just dealing with a simple problem. The first is a crack that’s more than a quarter of an inch wide. If you have such a crack, contact your foundation repair contractor immediately. The other sign is the number of cracks in the foundation. It’s normal to have a few cracks. But if you have many cracks that cut across the length or breadth of your foundation, that’s a bad sign.

Cracks in the foundation will also affect your frames, beams and roofing. Doors and windows can refuse to shut properly. Walls may leak, especially if you have a basement. All these should ring bells that there could be a structural problem with the foundation. The severity of a crack depends on the size, location and number of cracks in the foundation.

Whether harmless or severe, never ignore the signs of a crack on your foundation. Pay attention to other areas of the home too. Monitor changes to cracks and identify new ones. Seek the opinion of a basement and foundation repair contractor. By inspecting your home, they will be able to determine the kind of crack and recommend a corrective solution.

Caution: Never attempt to fix a structural crack using DIY crack injection kits. The safety of your home and loved ones is too great to take such a risk.

Not sure whether a foundation crack is cosmetic or structural? We’ll help you determine whether or not your foundation needs repair.

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