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When Should You Worry About Cracks In Your Foundation?

cracked brick exterior

The health of your home begins at the foundation.  Everything else literally rests on it, and is depending on it for support. So you may be alarmed when you find a crack in this essential component. 

Your foundation should have a regular check-up, just like you do.  Even if you’re not having any symptoms, it’s smart to do a little preventative maintenance.  Your home is the same way.  We recommend that you review your home’s foundation twice a year, using our DIY Home Inspection Checklist.   Seasonal changes can have a significant impact, and catching a problem early is always best for you and your wallet.

Acculevel has been repairing foundations since 1996, and our customers often ask us to evaluate issues they have found.  In this article, we’ll review the most common cracks that occur, and how to gauge the potential seriousness of the issues they represent. 


A Word Of Caution

Please do not repair the cracks you find yourself.  I understand the desire to do your own repairs and save yourself some money.  But your foundation is not the place for DIY experimentation.  Repairing a crack in your foundation isn’t like caulking the edge of a bathtub.  These cracks take different materials and methods, and most of these are not widely available to consumers. 

You shouldn’t repair the cracks you find- but you can do some of your own diagnosis.  I’ve scored each section for urgency, to help you determine how rapidly you need to act. The scale I’ve used is 1-5, with 1 being the least urgent and 5 being the most.  


Hairline Cracks In Your Foundation 

An isolated crack visible only from the inside of your foundation is not unusual.   Seasonal changes can cause expansion and contraction in a foundation, and this sometimes leads to hairline cracks.  These cracks may (or may not) be permitting water seepage.

This photo was taken by an Acculevel project manager during a routine free estimate appointment.Thin crack in a poured concrete wall.Once the wet drywall was removed, a hairline crack became visible.

A hairline crack will be super thin, consistent in width, and may not let in water.  How thin?  Less than a penny.  While holding the penny between your finger and thumb, press the edge of it against the crack.  If the crack is thinner than the penny, you have a hairline crack.

You should get these repaired before they begin to widen and (if they’re not already) allowing water seepage.  This goes back to my message about preventative maintenance.  Fixing these now will be relatively inexpensive and save you money, frustration, and more headaches later.  These cracks should be repaired with an epoxy fill.  This epoxy material is only semi-rigid, which means it can flex with the wall and still maintain its seal.    Urgency Score 1: should be repaired within 3-6 months.


Multiple or Wider Cracks In Your Foundation

If you see multiple cracks, cracks wider than hairline, or the cracks are widespread throughout the home, this can indicate your foundation is settling.   We have a detailed article about signs of settling, if you want more specific information.

Additional signs to look for if you think the foundation is settling: 

  • Inside the house: check for cracks in the drywall.  Settling cracks will be in both the wall and ceiling, and are most commonly found around door frames and windows.  If you find any, test the nearest door or window.  
    • Does it open and close easily?  
    • Will it stay open without you holding it?  
    • Does it stay closed without being locked?  
    • If any of those answers are “no,” then this is more evidence of settling.
    • Please note: if you have drywall cracks and a gap between the baseboard and floor, that may be a sagging floor instead.  We have details about those symptoms in this blog.
  • Outside the house: watch for visible cracks in the foundation.  If your home has a block foundation (or a brick overlay), examine it for gaps or uneven spacing between those bricks/blocks. 

This photo was taken by an Acculevel project manager during a routine free estimate appointment.cracked brick exteriorThe gaps and stair-step crack are signs of settling.

Settling is of significant concern.  This is something that will get worse over time, and will be more difficult and expensive to repair the longer you ignore it.  For repair solutions, please check out our blog on how to repair a sinking or settling foundationUrgency Score 3: should be repaired within 3 months.


Horizontal or Stair-Step Cracks

While you’re under your house in a basement or crawlspace, you’re looking for any cracks or signs of damage.  If you find long horizontal cracks, leaning, or bowing walls, you are in dangerous territory.  If the foundation walls are made of concrete block, the cracks may look like stair-steps.  

This photo was taken by an Acculevel project manager during a routine free estimate appointment.concrete block wall, with multiple cracksBoth horizontal and stair-step cracks are visible here.

Horizontal and stair-step cracks are both signs that your foundation wall is “giving” way.  When the soil outside your home is saturated with water, it applies pressure to the wall (this is known as hydrostatic pressure).  This is a serious threat to your home’s stability, and at this point, you should be alarmedUrgency Score 5: should be repaired within the next 8 weeks.


Do You Have Cracks that Need Repair?

Please consider the urgency score associated with the cracks you have found, and take timely action.  While we are a foundation repair company, we are not overstating the urgency needed.  Everyone deserves a safe and healthy home, and we want everyone to be well-informed customers.  If you have additional questions, we have a comprehensive guide to foundation repairs here

You will need an experienced local foundation company.  Before you sign a contract for any service, you should always verify the company is reputable, insured, and accredited by the Better Business Bureau.   

If you live in Indiana or the surrounding states, contact Acculevel.  Established in 1996, we specialize in foundation repairs and will treat your house as if it were our own.  

Not sure how to hire a contractor, or what to ask?  We have additional resources available to you:

Click here for a free estimate


Kelly Kater

Over her twenty year career, Kelly has worked in a wide variety of fields: secondary education, nursing, biology, elder care, the postal service, multicultural development, and academia. She has developed a skill for translating industry-specific jargon into everyday language. Her goal is to share the knowledge and experience of the Acculevel team with homeowners, in a way that is both engaging and informative.

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