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A cracked wall may feel like a homeowner’s nightmare, but let us assure you that your cracked wall can be fixed. But before you run to your home improvement store for a quick patch, read on to find out what may have caused the crack, how to tell if it is serious, and how to pick the appropriate repair method.

What Causes a Wall to Crack?

There are several reasons why a wall can crack. Some are obvious, while others might require investigation. However, each crack tells a story if you know how to read it. Here are some potential causes of wall cracks:

  • Uniform Settlement – Foundation settlement is when the foundation sinks into the soil as the soil adjusts to the structure’s weight. Settlement is a regular occurrence that occurs within the first 2 to 3 years of construction. However, the movement may still stress your home and cause hairline cracks on your walls.
  • Differential Settlement – This is when your home’s foundation settles unevenly, often due to soil and moisture-related problems. Uneven settlement places excessive stress on your home, leading to cracking, amongst other issues.
  • Shrinkage – Construction materials such as concrete, masonry, or plaster can shrink as they cure or dry, leading to cracking.
  • Excessive Loads or Impact – Excessive loads, often from ill-planned home additions or impacts from heavy objects, machinery, or vehicles, can cause walls to crack by exerting pressure or causing damage to the structure.
  • Moisture DamageMoisture infiltration from water leaks, plumbing issues, or inadequate waterproofing can weaken the materials and structure of the wall, leading to cracking.
  • Temperature Changes – Fluctuations in temperature can cause materials to expand and contract, leading to stress on the walls and the formation of cracks. This is particularly common in regions with extreme temperature variations between seasons or homes that are often unoccupied and left without sufficient temperature and humidity control.
  • Poor Construction Practices – Inadequate reinforcement, improper mixing or placement of materials, insufficient curing, or lack of expansion joints can create weaknesses in the walls, making them prone to cracking.
  • Natural Factors – Soil erosion, tree roots, or natural disasters can contribute to wall cracking. These external forces can exert pressure on the walls and cause them to crack over time.

Some of these problems may only result in minor cracks that can be patched yourself. Still, others are signs of issues that compromise the structural integrity of your home and require prompt, professional attention. Hence, it is essential to determine what story your crack is telling before attempting any repairs.

Knowing the cause and severity of your cracked wall is key to fixing it. Learn what causes wall cracks, how to tell if the crack is serious, and standard repair methods.

What Are the Different Types of Wall Cracks?

Wall cracks can vary in type, size, and severity, and they may indicate different underlying issues. Here are some common types of wall cracks and what they may mean:

  • Vertical Cracks – Vertical cracks run straight up and down the wall. They may occur due to settlement, structural movement, shrinkage, or stress concentration. Vertical cracks can range in width and severity. Although they are usually not overly concerning, wider cracks indicate more significant issues.
  • Horizontal Cracks – Horizontal cracks run parallel to the ground and are typically more concerning than vertical cracks. They may indicate serious structural problems, such as foundation issues, soil pressure, or water pressure against the wall. Horizontal cracks can compromise the wall’s integrity and should be addressed promptly.
  • Diagonal Cracks – Diagonal cracks run at an angle across the wall and may indicate differential settlement, soil movement, or structural instability. The angle and direction of diagonal cracks can provide clues about the underlying cause of the problem. A professional should evaluate diagonal cracks to determine their significance and appropriate repair.
  • Stair-Step Cracks – Stair-step cracks follow a zigzag pattern, resembling a set of stairs. They are commonly associated with masonry walls, mainly brick or block construction. Stair-step cracks may occur due to settlement, structural movement, or deterioration of mortar joints. They can vary in width and severity, with wider or displaced cracks indicating more severe issues.
  • Hairline Cracks – Hairline cracks are very thin, shallow cracks that may appear on the surface of walls. They are typically less than 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) wide and may be barely visible. Hairline cracks are often caused by minor settling, shrinkage, or temperature fluctuations and are generally not considered structurally significant.
  • Cracks Around Openings – Cracks around doorways, windows, or other openings in the wall may indicate settlement, structural movement, or inadequate support. These cracks can compromise the wall’s integrity and require reinforcement or repair.
  • Cracks with Moisture Staining – Cracks that show signs of moisture staining or discoloration indicate water infiltration or moisture-related problems. Moisture can also exacerbate existing cracks and compromise the wall’s integrity, leading to further damage over time.

How Do You Know If a Wall Crack Is Serious?

Now that you know about the different types of wall cracks, narrowing down the potential cause and severity is crucial to picking the correct repair method. Determining if a wall crack is serious depends on various factors, including the crack’s type, size, location, and behavior. Here are some signs that a wall crack may be serious and warrant professional attention:

  • Width – Generally, cracks wider than 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) are considered significant and may indicate foundation issues.
  • Length – The length of the wall crack, particularly if it extends across multiple sections of the wall, across part of the ceiling or floor, or through multiple rooms, can indicate the extent of the problem. Longer cracks may suggest more widespread structural movement or settlement.
  • Location – Cracks near corners, openings (such as doors and windows), or intersections with other walls may indicate stress concentration points or structural issues. Cracks that appear in patterns, such as stair-step or diagonal cracks, may also indicate foundation problems.
  • Direction – Vertical cracks are often less concerning than horizontal or diagonal cracks, which may indicate differential settlement, soil pressure, or structural instability. Horizontal cracks, in particular, can suggest serious foundation problems.
  • Behavior – Monitor the crack over time to see if it worsens, expands, or exhibits other changes. Rapid or progressive changes in the crack’s size, shape, or direction may indicate ongoing structural movement or instability.
  • Associated Symptoms – Look for other signs of foundation issues, such as uneven floors, doors, or windows that no longer close correctly, sagging ceilings, or cracks in adjacent walls or ceilings. These symptoms may suggest underlying foundation problems or structural instability.

If you are unsure about the cause or severity of the crack, or if you notice any of the above warning signs, contact a reputable foundation repair company for an assessment. They can evaluate the crack, identify any underlying issues, and recommend appropriate repair solutions tailored to your situation. It’s essential to promptly address serious wall cracks to prevent further damage and ensure your home’s structural integrity and safety. Ignoring or neglecting them can lead to more extensive problems and costly repairs.

How Do You Fix a Cracked Wall?

Once you have determined the cause and severity of the crack in your wall, it is time to repair it. Please note that before you attempt any repairs, it is vital to resolve any underlying issues to prevent the reappearance of the crack. Here are a few standard crack repair options:

  • Patch and Fill – For small, non-structural cracks, patching and filling with a suitable filler or patching compound is a straightforward and cost-effective repair option. This method involves cleaning the crack, applying the filler or compound, and smoothing the surface to achieve a seamless finish.
  • Injection Grouting – Injection grouting is used to repair cracks in concrete or masonry walls by injecting grout or epoxy into the crack to fill and seal it. This technique can effectively repair structural cracks or cracks that are difficult to access. Injection grouting helps restore the wall’s integrity and prevent further water infiltration or structural damage. This repair method is best left to experienced professionals.

Injection grouting is used to repair cracks in concrete or masonry walls by injecting grout or epoxy into the crack to fill and seal it.

  • Wall Anchors or Braces – For walls affected by significant structural movement or bowing, installing wall anchors or braces can help stabilize the wall and prevent further deformation or cracking. Wall anchors or braces are installed horizontally or vertically to provide lateral support and redistribute structural loads. This method is commonly used to repair cracked foundation walls.
  • Foundation Underpinning – If your foundation has experienced differential settlement, underpinning it using helical, push, or slab piers will restore its structural integrity. Piers are steel shafts that connect your home’s foundation to stable strata and raise your foundation to the maximum practical level, relieving the stress on your home and potentially minimizing cracks. Once your home is stable, cracks can be professionally patched.

Contact Regional Foundation & Crawl Space Repair for a free inspection and repair estimate if you have a cracked wall. With decades of experience, our experts will determine the cause of your wall crack and provide the best repair solution.