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What Are House Settling Cracks?

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What Are House Settling Cracks?
What Are House Settling Cracks?

Looking for information about house settling cracks? If so, you’ve landed on the right page. The good news is that not all house settling cracks indicate a foundation issue. Some settlement cracks are merely unsightly. However, there is a chance that the cracks are being caused by a different kind of settlement problem with your home’s foundation. If so, you’ll need to take action promptly to avoid serious structural damage.

In this article, we’re going to talk about why houses settle, the difference between uniform settlement and differential settlement, and repair options for house settling cracks. We’ll also give you some tips on how you can help prevent foundation trouble.

What Is House Settling? 

House settling is a natural process that occurs over time as the soil beneath the foundation shifts or compacts due to various factors.

While uniform settling is expected to some degree after a structure is built, differential settlement (more on this below) can lead to cracks in the walls or foundation, uneven floors, and other serious problems.

Fortunately, there are steps that homeowners can take to prevent or mitigate settling, such as regrading the yard and installing a drain tile system. With some care and attention, you can keep your house strong and sturdy for many years.

Uniform Vs. Differential Settlement 

Uniform settlement happens when the entire home settles into the soil at the same rate. A certain amount of uniform settlement is expected after a house is built. So, while small cracks might form because of uniform settlement, they’re usually nothing to worry about.

Differential settlement happens when different parts of a structure settle at different rates. Differential settlement puts a lot of stress on a foundation and is the leading cause of structural damage. If your home is experiencing differential settlement, you’ll notice things like wall, floor, and ceiling cracks (these will be larger than those caused by uniform settlement) and uneven floors.

While both uniform and differential settlement can occur due to various factors such as soil type and construction techniques, differential settlement poses a greater risk to the stability of a structure. Any signs of differential settlement mean you need to contact a foundation repair contractor right away.

All foundations will settle into the ground slightly after they're built.

So, What Causes Differential Settlement? 

  • Expansive soil – When soil has a lot of clay in it, we say that it’s “expansive” in that it swells as it soaks up moisture and shrinks when it dries out. This swelling and shrinking creates movement in the ground under the house and will, over time, lead to differential settlement.
  • Erosion-prone soil – Some types of soil are prone to erosion. In this case, poor drainage can lead to the formation of voids under the foundation. If the foundation then sinks into the voids, differential settlement will result.
  • Inadequately prepared soil – Before anything gets built on top of it, soil needs to be tamped down. If this isn’t done correctly, the structure will settle into the ground after it’s built, usually unevenly.
  • Excavation next to the foundation – If your neighbor digs a big hole too close to your home, it could destabilize the foundation and cause differential settlement.
  • Weather changes – Imagine building a house on expansive soil during the dry season. When it starts raining, the soil will swell, causing movement in the ground under the foundation. This could cause differential settlement.
  • Natural disasters – Earthquakes, floods, sinkholes, etc., all have the potential to cause differential settlement.

What Are House Settling Cracks? 

When it comes to cracks in buildings or structures, it’s essential to understand the difference between structural and non-structural cracks. Non-structural cracks are merely unsightly, while structural cracks – usually caused by differential settlement – are a sign your home already has structural damage.

Structural Cracks  

Structural cracks are primarily caused by differential settlement, and their presence means the structural integrity of the building is at risk.

Non-Structural Cracks 

Non-structural cracks are generally cosmetic and do not pose a threat to the integrity of the structure. These cracks are often caused by temperature fluctuations, moisture, or normal wear and tear.

Understanding the difference between these two types of cracks is essential for keeping your home safe and structurally sound.

Check out our blog – Understanding Foundation Cracks

Repair Options For House Settling Cracks 

The correct repair solution for house settling cracks depends on whether the crack is structural. Non-structural cracks can usually be fixed using epoxy or polyurethane foam injection. However, structural cracks caused by differential settlement may indicate the house needs underpinning. Carbon fiber straps are another possible repair solution for structural foundation cracks.

It’s essential to address structural foundation cracks sooner rather than later, as they will worsen over time and lead to a more costly repair. So, don’t delay. If you see a suspicious crack, contact an experienced foundation repair contractor right away.

How To Help Prevent Differential Settlement  

Because differential settlement is often caused by excess moisture in the soil around the foundation, you can go a long way toward preventing problems by simply controlling groundwater around the foundation. Here are some ways to do that:

  • If necessary, regrade the yard around your home so that it slopes away from the foundation. This will prevent water from draining toward the foundation and soaking into the soil.
  • Use downspout extensions to carry runoff away from the foundation before being released.
  • Consider relocating any water-hungry vegetation planted next to the house.
  • Install a drain tile system, either exterior or interior. This will help prevent excess moisture from building up in the ground around the foundation. For more information, see The Importance of Proper Foundation Drainage

By taking a proactive approach, you can help to safeguard your property against differential settlement.

Contact Epp Foundation Repair Today 

If you think you might have house settling cracks in your home, contact us today to schedule an evaluation. If we find a problem, we’ll also give you a repair estimate. Since 1994, we’ve helped clients in Lincoln, Omaha, Kearney, Nebraska, Missouri, and parts of Northeastern Kansas with foundation repair, basement waterproofing, crawl space encapsulation, and concrete leveling for their homes.

WRITTEN BY

Dave Epp

Dave is the President at Epp Foundation Repair with over 27 years of experience in the industry. Dave has worked on thousands of foundation, basement, concrete, and crawl space repair projects since 1993. Dave is involved in several civic and church organizations and enjoys coaching youth sports, mainly football, golfing, and elk hunting.

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