How Are Horizontal Cracks Different From Vertical Cracks?
What Causes Horizontal Cracks In A Foundation Wall?
- Hydrostatic pressure – Poor drainage around the foundation will eventually lead to excess soil moisture and hydrostatic pressure build-up. Hydrostatic pressure can push water through even the smallest cracks in the foundation wall. The wall may even bow inward and crack if the pressure isn’t relieved via a good drainage system.
- Expansive soil – Soil with a lot of clay is called “expansive” because it swells as it soaks up moisture and then shrinks as it dries out. This swelling-shrinking cycle creates movement under the foundation, eventually leading to horizontal cracks in the foundation wall.
- The freeze-thaw cycle – When the water in the soil freezes, the soil expands. When the water in the soil melts, the soil shrinks. Over time, this seasonal freeze-thaw cycle can cause horizontal cracks. If you live in a cold climate and the horizontal crack is within the frost line, it might have been caused by the freeze-thaw cycle.
- Something heavy next to the foundation – Even something heavy parked next to your home – like a big dumpster or a large truck – can cause cracks in the foundation wall.
How Can Homeowners Prevent Horizontal Foundation Cracks?
- Regrade your yard so it slopes away from your home – Your yard should slope away from the foundation. If it doesn’t, regrade your yard so that it does. A landscaper can help with this, or you could DIY.
- Clean your gutters regularly – If your gutters are full of leaves and other debris, water could spill over the side of your house and soak into the ground around the foundation.
- Use downspout extensions – Your downspouts should release water at least 4 feet from the foundation. If they’re short, install extensions.
- Install an underground downspout with a pop-up emitter – An underground downspout is connected to a small basin located in your yard around 10 feet from the foundation. Water flows into the underground downspout and flows into the basin. When the basin is full, an emitter pops up and releases the water away from the foundation.
- Keep vegetation away from the foundation – Shrubs, flowers, and trees might look nice next to the foundation. Still, you don’t want any reason to add more water to the soil around the foundation.
- Install a drain tile system – A drain tile system is a great way to prevent excess moisture from building up in the soil around the foundation. For more information on how they work, see What Is Drain Tile?
What Causes Foundation Walls to Bow Inward?
A foundation wall can start to bow inward for the same reason that horizontal cracks form in a foundation wall: hydrostatic pressure, expansive soil, the freeze-thaw cycle, and something heavy parked next to the foundation.
What Is The Best Method For Repairing A Bowed Wall?
A structural bracing system will stabilize a wall that’s bowing inward and over time can even straighten a block or poured concrete wall. When wall plates can’t be used, a structural bracing system is recommended. No excavation is necessary.