Seeing cracks in walls of your home can be unsettling. Why has the wall cracked? Is my home structurally safe? Can it be fixed before more cracks appear? Cracks in walls, whether cracks in plaster walls or cracks in sheetrock, can be fixed cosmetically. However, the root problem needs to be addressed so no further damage occurs.
Wall cracks may appear because of house settling or even poor structural design. Often the underlying problem is foundation-related. The soil under the foundation may shift because it was never properly prepared before the foundation was installed.
Water pressure causes soil shift and movement. When soil is overly saturated with water it expands, then as it eventually dies out, the soil contracts. This type of soil movement exerts a hydrostatic pressure on the foundation and can cause cracks in walls in the foundation and the basement walls as well as in walls of the upper level rooms. Soils with high clay concentrations are particularly susceptible to expansion and contraction. By reducing the amount of water that flows into the soil underneath the foundation, you can help mitigate damage caused by soil shift and movement.
Proper exterior water management can reduce foundation problems, which in turn will reduce interior issues such as cracks in walls, bowing walls, crooked doors, warped floors and even bugs in the basement. Another consideration for managing soil shift is to waterproofing foundation walls or upgrade your drainage system.
Inadequate drainage from rain gutters can cause water to over-saturate the soil near and underneath the foundation. To prevent over-saturation of the soil around the foundation, down spouts need to be connected to the gutters with the water flow directed away from the home’s foundation. Likewise, any landscaping near the home must be sloped away from the foundation to avoid standing water under the foundation. If your concrete patio hasn’t been graded to slope away from the house’s foundation, water can be an issue. In areas where the temperatures dip to freezing and below, the freezing and thawing of wet soil also can contribute to foundation movement that leads to cracks in walls.
To determine the underlying issues causing your cracks in walls, consult a qualified home repair specialist. You may need a foundation inspection, which can help determine the best course of action to fix the problems.