Should You Worry About Cracks in a Basement Wall?

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Should You Worry About Cracks in a Basement Wall?

If you notice a crack in your basement wall, you’ll probably assume you need to fix it right away. But did you know there are several different types of basement wall cracks–each of which can indicate a distinct issue and require a specific kind of intervention? In fact, some basement wall cracks may be something you don’t need to worry about at all.

If you have just found a crack in your basement wall, then you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn about the most common types of basement wall cracks and the degree to which you should worry about each one.

In the sections below, we’ll introduce you to the most common types of cracks you’ll find in your basement wall. For each one, we’ll detail its appearance, most likely cause, the damage it can lead to, and the action you should take (if any).

Vertical Basement Wall Cracks

The first type of basement wall crack we’d like to discuss is the vertical wall crack. These kinds of cracks are incredibly common in basements and are not often something you should be concerned about right away.

Thin vertical cracks in the concrete of your basement walls are typically a sign of foundation settling. Following construction, a mild amount of uniform settling is normal. As this normal settling occurs, vertical cracks can appear in your basement walls. Similarly, the concrete curing process can also cause hairline vertical cracks that typically appear shortly after construction.

When minor vertical cracks appear after construction–either due to settling or curing–they usually don’t require immediate attention. But with that said, if a crack starts to widen or allow water to seep in, you should have it repaired as soon as possible, whether it is vertical or not.

Vertical Basement Wall Cracks

Horizontal Basement Wall Cracks

As is true of vertical wall cracks, horizontal wall cracks are quite common in many basements. However, the difference here is that while a vertical wall crack should not cause immediate concern, most horizontal cracks require repairs right away.

Whether your basement wall consists of concrete or another material, the presence of a horizontal line likely indicates that your foundation is failing to hold back a significant amount of hydrostatic pressure.

Basement walls that experience extreme amounts of hydrostatic pressure not only develop horizontal cracks, but can also begin to bow inward, crumble, and allow water to seep in. As such, if your basement wall has a horizontal crack, you should seek to fix it as soon as you can.

Diagonal Basement Wall Cracks

Another common type of crack you’ll find in a basement wall is a diagonal crack. However, much like vertical cracks, diagonal cracks are often nothing to worry about.

Most diagonal basement wall cracks are also a sign of normal foundation settling or the concrete curing process. With that said, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a diagonal crack and a horizontal crack. In those instances, it’s always best to seek professional advice since horizontal cracks are often a sign of structural decline.

Stairstep Basement Wall Cracks

If you have a foundation made of mortar and bricks or some other masonry unit, you may notice wall cracks that form a stair step pattern. Some stair step cracks are the result of normal foundation settling. However, it is most often the case that stair step cracks appear due to uneven foundation settling or an excessive buildup of hydrostatic pressure.

In these scenarios, a stair step wall crack can quickly worsen and compromise the structural integrity of your foundation. When in doubt, it’s always best to consult a professional about a stair step wall crack to understand the extent of the problem. Stair Step wall cracks that worsen quickly are an issue you should always seek to remedy immediately.

Cracks in a Basement Wall

Shrinkage Basement Wall Cracks

Shrinkage wall cracks tend to be relatively harmless and are most prevalent in newly constructed foundations. As water evaporates out of the concrete during the curing process, it is common for hairline shrinkage cracks to form.

As mentioned earlier, benign hairline cracks can also arise due to normal foundation settling after construction. Since settling and curing are both normal processes for new homes, thin vertical basement wall cracks that appear in the first year after construction are usually nothing to worry about.

While shrinkage cracks usually pose no structural threat to your basement walls, it is best to keep an eye on them. In rare cases, a shrinkage wall crack can worsen and develop into a significant structural concern. Again, if that occurs, the best approach is to hire a foundation repair team to evaluate the issue.

Underlying Causes of Basement Wall Cracks

Learning the appearance of various types of basement wall cracks should give you a good idea of whether or not the cracks in your basement walls are something to worry about. However, it is also important to be aware of the following common underlying causes of basement wall cracks:

  • Uniform foundation settling
  • Concrete curing
  • Differential/uneven foundation settling
  • Hydrostatic pressure
  • Improper construction techniques
  • Expansive soils

Some of the causes in the list above result in relatively harmless hairline cracks that don’t need immediate attention. Others cause cracks that are either horizontal or considerably wide and require repair as soon as possible.

Taking Action to Fix Your Basement Wall Cracks

As noted in the article above, the action you take to repair your basement wall cracks depends entirely on the type of wall crack you have. Fortunately, there are several types of wall cracks that are not a concern and require no intervention on your part.

However, if you discover that you have one of the more worrisome basement wall cracks, it is time to take action to fix it. For those living in Eastern North Carolina, Regional Foundation & Crawl Space Repair is the perfect team for evaluating and repairing basement wall cracks. If you’ve just found a concerning crack in your basement wall, reach out today for a free estimate.