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Horizontal Crack Lines: Horizontal cracks are a sign that the basement wall is being "pressed" in toward the home. Many times, the horizontal crack line will correspond with the depth of the winter frost; usually about three feet below the yard surface. This situation suggests that there may be a high water content in the outside soil, surface water problems or grading issues outside. It can also be caused by rain gutters over-spilling or not extending properly away from the home.
Vertical Cracks in Poured Walls: When vertical cracks in poured concrete walls are found, they are usually located at the corner of a window opening. Inside corners for a window opening are a natural weak spot in the walls. Sometimes a vertical crack will appear in an open area of a poured concrete wall. Many times, these are just a normal occurrences from settling.
A vertical crack that is buckling or bowing in toward the basement can be a more serious problem. This may indicate that the wall was fractured or cracked during backfilling operations or that there is inward pressure against the wall.
Vertical Cracks in Block Walls: Vertical cracks in block basement walls can be a sign of trauma. The outside wall may have been struck by a large rock or boulder during the original backfilling when the home was built. They can also be cause by tree roots pressing in toward the foundation.
Step Cracks: When basement wall cracks appear in a "step" pattern, this is a sign of settling. These usually mean that part of the block foundation settled lower than the rest, causing step cracks to appear.
Remedies: If the basement walls are badly damaged, they may require replacement. This can be a very expensive option. If the walls are generally stable, they can be supported with soldier piers, steel I-Beams or other means.
If the problem is cause by excessive settling, foundation piers can be installed to stabilize the foundation. You should contact an engineer or other professional that has experience in solving these types of problems. Bowing basement wall repair can be addressed in different ways:
Steel I-Beams: Interior soldier piers or steel I-beams can be installed to add support to cracked, buckling or bowed basement walls. While they do not actually repair the wall, they stop it from getting worse and will allow for a waterproof and cosmetic repair. These are generally anchored in concrete below the floor level and anchored above into the home's floor joist system. A sub-floor drainage system can be installed to help relieve water pressure. The wall cracks should be sealed with a waterproof sealer to prevent water leakage.
Foundation Piers: If excessive settling is causing your problem, foundation piers can be installed to stabilize your footers. These will require a specialized contractor for installation. A hole or trench is dug alongside the footer. Piers are either hydraulically "screwed" or "pushed" into the soil underneath your home until they rest on load-bearing soil or bedrock. They are anchored to your home's footer to provide support.
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