We as homeowners can take a lot of things for granted. A strong roof, a dry basement, and sturdy, even floors are all part and parcel of a healthy home. So, when issues suddenly begin to arise in these areas, it can be very daunting. Cracks in your property’s floor can mean a lot of things, but they are rarely a good sign. Spreading, deep, or wet cracks in particular should ring alarm bells in your head and act as a call to action.
There are many things that you can do, as a homeowner, to protect your home, but once there is structural damage at work, you should step back and call a professional. After all, floor cracks can be a problem sign of many different issues that you should not ignore. Here’s what you need to know about floor cracks and the way that they can affect your home in Cincinnati or Columbus, OH.
Why You Should Worry About Floor Cracks
Of all the signs of structural damage that can start to show themselves in a home, cracks in the walls and flooring are some of the most common. Floor cracks, especially deep ones, are a particular early warning sign for foundation damage and movement in a property. As such, homeowners who ignore cracks in their homes run the very real risk of having an unseen structural problem escalate suddenly, unexpectedly, and, perhaps most importantly, expensively.
Of course, not all cracks are a serious warning sign. There is a very real difference between hairline cracks and spreading cracks, both in terms of how they are presented and how they affect a property.
Hairline vs. Spreading Cracks
To put it simply, hairline cracks are those that are too small to fit a credit card into. They are visible, but not large and signify no issue. They pose no threat unless they start to grow. In fact, a small number of hairline cracks is perfectly normal in most properties. They tend to be caused by the natural process of settling after construction. Not to be confused with settlement (which is a kind of damage), settling is essentially the relaxation of a newly built home.
Whereas hairline cracks are static, spreading cracks are those that are actively growing in size and depth. These cracks are a sign of ongoing issues and can lead to secondary damage in a home in a number of ways. If you see cracks large enough to fit a credit card or even a finger into within your home, you should call a professional as soon as possible
What Can Cause Floor Cracks?
Cracks in the floor of any property are essentially a warning sign that there is an immense amount of strain or pressure being exerted upon your property from somewhere. This strain and pressure is what causes concrete floors in particular to crack, but over time, it can start to affect slabs and even wooden floors (though wood flooring generally bends and does not crack until the issue is very severe).
There are a number of issues that can cause this level of intense pressure in a property, but the most common are:
Expansive soils are those that are heavily clay-based, and they are fairly common around Cincinnati and Columbus, OH. These soils are very reactive and will swell or shrink depending on their level of saturation or dehydration. When saturated, these soils swell and become soft and marshy. This can lead to a property’s foundation sinking into the soil and even cause cracks to form in basement walls and floors as a result of the excess pressure and weight.
When dehydrated, however, these soils shrink and can become very hard and brittle. When they recede, expansive soils often crack, forming large, gaping voids. This will leave many sections of a property’s foundation unsupported and cause it to sink into the ground in a process known as settlement. This will eventually cause cracks to form in the floor above and can even lead to the floor sinking or collapsing.
Soil Washout and Erosion
While expansive soils tend to cause damage through pressure and changeability, loose and light soils are more likely to be prone to washout and erosion. These are processes that see the topsoil (and sometimes layers of soil below the surface, if there are underground water sources) swept or washed away.
Over time, this can lead to certain parts of a property’s foundation, or even one whole side of a property, starting to lean and sink into the voids left behind. As the foundation starts to sink, cracks will often form on the floors and walls inside the property, especially along the breakpoint where the pressure of this shift is most heavily concentrated.
Even non-expansive soils can be damaging to a property when they are heavily saturated. Perimeter saturation can be incredibly damaging to your home, because of the pressure that it puts on your basement walls and foundation. In many cases, properties will see their basement walls lean and crack in a process known as bowing.
As well as bowing and leaning in a property’s walls, excessive perimeter saturation can lead to the foundation shifting from its intended placement. This will lead to spreading cracks in the floors and walls, but can also start to cut off a property’s sewage line and water supply if it goes far enough.
Design and Construction Flaws
Finally, there is always a chance, no matter how slim, that the floor cracks you see in your home are a result of defects in the concrete or the design of your home. The structure of a property must be designed to withstand its own weight, as well as the likely weight of its contents and the stress of daily use. If the architect who designed your home did not account for every factor that they should have, floor cracks are one of the least worrying things that could come about.
If the defect is in the concrete itself, then it is most likely a result of a mistake in the mixing or curing process. If there is too much water in the mix, if the concrete is hard troweled after it starts to set, or if it is not cured properly, it will be more prone to spalling, pitting, flaking, and even deep cracks. These issues can often be rectified by a professional.
These are just some of the things that floor cracks in your home can be a problem sign for. Of course, floor cracks are also a very general problem sign, so it can be hard to know just what is happening in your home when you see them. If you want to know what is going on, you can always call a professional. If you want to conduct your own preliminary investigations, however, there are a few things you can look out for.
It can be tempting to simply cover or fill floor cracks when you see them in your home, but we urge you not to do this. As well as covering up the progression of underlying issues, rather than dealing with them, filling in these cracks could cause more damage.
Covering Issues Won’t Fix Them
Covering up cracks by resurfacing concrete floors may make your home look better, but it is only a temporary fix and should not be viewed as an actual solution to floor cracks unless they are stable. If the cracks are still actively forming and spreading in your home, they will simply recur. They may open up in the same place, form adjacent to the filled-in cracks, or worst of all, simply deepen without being visible. This can have many consequences for you and your home.
When the cracks recur, they will need to be dealt with again. This will increase the real cost of your repairs every time that you address the same issue. More seriously, however, when they do recur, the cracks may be less stable, deeper, or cause fragmentation in your floor. This will create tripping hazards and could start to impact the stability of the rest of your home. As such, it is far better to deal with these issues fully as they present themselves.
The Wrong Kind of Filler Could Be Catastrophic
One thing that many homeowners do not realize is that trying to fill in floor cracks can also make them worse. There are certain kinds of filler and specialist concrete that are advertised as able to expand into cracks to fully seal them, but when they are used incorrectly or in the wrong situation, they can actually make the cracks spread and grow. This is caused by the pressure of the expansion and sometimes by the way in which water creeps between the filler and the original concrete.
A professional knows when these fillers are appropriate, of course, and will make quick work of the repairs themselves, even if the cracks are fairly advanced in nature. They will also be able to offer you a permanent solution because they will address the underlying causes of damage, as well as the visible signs. This is especially important if foundation damage is the root cause.
Seeing floor cracks in your home is not a guarantee that there is foundation damage in your home, but it is a strong sign that you should not ignore. If you suspect you have foundation issues, you should look for these additional signs.
One of the most subtle ways in which a damaged foundation can impact your home is by changing the environment and climate inside the structure. Homes that have foundation damage of any kind are more likely to experience dampness and a significant increase in humidity, for example. This can lead to condensation on cool surfaces as well as cosmetic damage like bubbling or peeling wallpaper.
More worrying, however, is the increased likelihood of mold and mildew formation, bacterial spread, and fungal growths around your home when you have foundation problems. These growths can damage the structure of your property, ruin your furnishings, textiles, and clothing, and even have a negative impact on your health. Those with underlying respiratory issues, skin conditions, and auto-immune conditions are particularly at risk.
Structural Instability and Damage
Foundation damage is one of the most serious issues that can take root in a home because of the way it destabilizes the whole structure of a property. When the foundation of a structure is damaged, the walls, flooring, and roof can start to shift and crack as a result of poor support. This is what causes the spreading floor cracks. Of course, when this issue is prolonged, you are also likely to see cracks in your walls, as well as other forms of damage.
Leaning or bowing walls, for example, are a common co-occurring issue in homes that are experiencing foundation settlement or subsidence. Likewise, you may start to notice issues like sticking windows and doors, uneven or sagging floors, or even stairways that seem to be uneven or separating from each other. These are issues of advanced foundation damage and should not be ignored.
If you suspect you have foundation issues in your home, you should not attempt to fix them alone. Instead, call a professional as quickly as possible.
DIY Foundation Repairs are Dangerous
The problem with DIY structural repairs of any kind (and foundation repairs in particular) is that they are very often dangerous to the people who undertake them, both in the long and short term. Firstly, the process of excavating your foundation, if this is needed, will require heavy machinery that is incredibly dangerous. It can cause serious injury or even death if you have an accident or use it incorrectly.
Secondly, there is a good chance you will cause more damage to your property during the excavation process, especially if you have no experience in foundation repair. If you are excavating near a wall that is damaged, you could even cause it to collapse, which will be incredibly dangerous to you and anyone helping you. As you can see, DIY repairs really should not be attempted where there is any kind of structural damage at work.
Professionals Get Results
As well as having the skills, training, and experience to deal with foundation damage as it arises, professionals have all the tools they need to hand. This means that the process of foundation repair is more efficient, as well as being safer for you and your home. From bracing weak walls while they work to preventing cosmetic damage during repairs, specialists offer the best results.
Finally, thanks to the cost of renting the heavy excavation equipment and foundation repair tools that you are unlikely to have to hand, professional services are often cheaper in the long run. Not only do they already have all these tools, but you will not have to redo their work in a few months as a result of poor planning or execution. This lowers the real cost of your repairs and will give you peace of mind that a DIY job simply cannot.
Other Problem Signs You Should Be Aware Of
If you want to get an idea of just what is going on in your property so you can provide all the information that any foundation repair specialist will need before they start assessing your home, these are the signs to look for:
Dampness and Humidity
A sudden spike in relative humidity, the presence of condensation, or visible dampness in the form of wet patches or pooling water is a problem sign you should not ignore. When dampness and humidity are paired with spreading floor cracks, it is very likely that the issue at the root of it all is some kind of foundation damage.
Of course, there is also a chance that it is a coincidence. There can be floor cracks and co-occurring, but unconnected, internal leaks in a property at any given time. You should point out the issues to any professional you call, however, so they can investigate.
Mold and Mildew
If you have seen no other signs of dampness, but you see formations of mold and mildew around your home, you can be sure that you have high relative humidity. Mold and mildew require a certain level of humidity to form and spread in the first place. As well as being a problem sign, mold can be actively harmful to your home and health.
Certain species of mold will eat away at organic materials like wood and textiles, while others can be actively harmful to your health and well-being. Black mold, in particular, can cause rashes, lightheadedness, migraines, and exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions. People who have auto-immune conditions could even face hospitalization as a result of long-term exposure.
Sticking Doors and Windows
If you have noticed that doors and windows tend to stick in the rooms that have floor cracks, it is likely that some form of settlement is affecting your home. Sticking doors and windows are signs of foundation damage because of how these issues can cause the walls of a property to shift and lean.
This will, over time, cause the deformation of the window and door frames, thereby changing the ways in which the windows and doors operate. You will be able to see this in doors very easily, as the door will seem to hang strangely within the frame and grind against the top or the floor.
Sagging, uneven, or otherwise damaged floors are a sign of foundation damage that you should not ignore, especially if there are also visible cracks in concrete surfaces or your basement floor. This is a sign that foundation damage, dampness, or both have started to affect the joists that hold up the floors.
You will be able to recognize damage to your flooring and floor joists by a certain level of springiness underfoot. Wooden floors should be firm, and while they will bend, they should not bounce. If you notice a visible dip to your floor, you should call a professional immediately.
These problem signs will help in the diagnosis of the overall cause of your floor cracks. Of course, once you know what is causing the cracks in your floor, it is time to think about how you can fix them. In this endeavor, you will need professional help and guidance.
Fix Your Floor Cracks with Ohio Basement Authority
Whether you have just noticed a small web of spreading cracks on your flooring, or you have been watching one particular crack get deeper over time, you must reach out to a professional as soon as you can. Foundation repair specialists will be able to help you find and address the underlying cause of these cracks and repair their physical appearance.
Here at Ohio Basement Authority, we have a skilled and experienced team of highly trained inspectors who are capable of restoring your home to full health. All you need to do to get the process started is contact us to arrange a free inspection of your property. We will attend your home at a time that suits you to identify the extent of the damage and its underlying causes. Once we know what your home needs, we will provide you with a written estimate for the work so you can take your time to think about your options and make an informed choice.